Dentures & Partial Dentures
What is a denture?
A denture is a removable dental prosthesis made to replace missing teeth. A denture may be complete or partial. Complete dentures are fabricated for patients that are missing all teeth while partial dentures are made to replace missing teeth in patients that still have some of their own natural teeth.
Partial dentures are worn to replace one or several (but not all) missing teeth. They are held in place with the help of the remaining teeth.
Partial dentures may be desired over bridges or implants for a number of reasons:
- Cost-effective – they are usually the least costly option compared to bridges or implants and most insurance plans provide some coverage for them.
- Non-invasive – there is no drilling down teeth as with bridges or drilling into bone as with dental implants.
- Time – some partial dentures may be fabricated fairly quickly depending on the type of material, location and number of teeth being replaced and close proximity of the dental lab.
Partial dentures can be designed in a number of materials, ensuring a custom choice for you:
- Metal-based partial dentures rely on a lab cast metal framework. Acrylic/plastic and teeth are built up on the frame. They may have metal, tooth-colored or clear clasps (hooks) that go around supporting teeth to hold it in place.
- Metal-free partial dentures are becoming more popular for esthetic reasons. There is no metal framework. Rather, the denture is made completely of a plastic material with teeth built into it.
Full dentures become necessary if all the teeth are missing or need to be extracted. Traditionally, they are held in place through support from the bone, gums and muscles of the mouth. Dentures may also be held in place by dental implants.
Full dentures consist of an acrylic base that covers the gums (and roof of mouth for an upper denture).
Teeth made of plastic or porcelain are embedded in the acrylic. If you have significant bone to support the denture, it can be very stable and function well for many years. However, it may change as you lose bone over time.
Wearing full dentures can lead to a number of problems. You may find yourself having one of these common complaints:
- Speech changes – Just as losing teeth can cause a change with the way you speak, dentures may also lead to a change.
- Loose – if you do not have enough bone to fully support the denture, they my move around when speaking and eating. Even if dentures seem tight at first, over time, they will loosen as you lose bone.
- Unable to eat – certain foods may be difficult or impossible to chew with dentures. Because the teeth are made of plastic or porcelain, they do not shred and bite like natural teeth do. Fibrous, chewy or sticky and tough foods are all hard to chew with dentures. If a denture is loose it makes it even more difficult to eat. Because upper dentures cover the roof of your mouth, you can also notice changes in your ability to taste foods.
- Sores – dentures can rub and pinch gums leading to sores. If food becomes stuck under the denture it can lead to sores as well.
How dentures are made
Dentures are made through several steps. You may have all or some steps to fabricate your dentures depending on your specific case:
- Impressions – moulds are made of the shape and size of your mouth. Impression material is placed inside a tray and pressed into your gums to get an imprint of the tissue. A model is made from this impression. The denture will be made on this model.
- Frame try in – if a metal-based partial denture is being made, the frame or base is tried in to ensure a fit. It may be accompanied by a bite registration.
- Bite registration – wax is placed inside the mouth to determine how the jaws it together. Teeth are also picked out and mouth landmarks are noted for the lab.
- Wax Try in – the teeth that were selected at your last visit are set up in place and held in with wax. These wax-based dentures are tried in so you can see what your finished smile will look like. It also allows us to see if any changes need to be made with the fit or position of the teeth.
- Final fitting – the finished denture is tried in. We adjust any immediate pressure points and fine-tune the bite and fit. We review instructions for wearing and caring for your new dentures.
- Adjustments – as you settle in using your new dentures, you may notice some irritations or sore spots appearing. You may come in for a visit immediately so that we can relieve the denture where it is bothering you.
What to expect with new dentures?
With anything new, there is a period of adjustment as you get used to speaking and eating with your new teeth.
- Start slowly with food – choose foods that are easy to bite and chew. Chew your food slowly so that your jaw becomes accustomed to moving around to eat. If you do not have a lot of bone and feel your dentures move a little bit, you may find placing some adhesive is helpful.
- Saliva - you may notice you have an excess of saliva in your mouth or you need to swallow more often. This is your body's natural reaction to your new dentures and should return to normal as you adjust.
- Speaking - just as your muscles had to be "retrained" to chew, they need to figure out how to speak with the dentures in place. You may notice you have to concentrate to form certain words. This should also change over time and speaking with your new dentures will be second nature in no time.
- Sore spots - as your dentures settle in, you may feel them rubbing or pinching you. You may return to our office to have them adjusted to alleviate the pressure points.
Try not to be discouraged with new dentures. Over time, you should adjust to speaking and eating with your new teeth. Practice makes perfect!
How to care for new dentures?
Dentures should be cared for like teeth, in that you need to ensure they are free of food and debris:
- After eating, make sure food is not lodged under your denture or around your natural teeth (with partial dentures). This can lead to soreness, odors or cavities on natural teeth. You may need to remove your denture and clean it and your mouth after eating.
- Dentures should be cleaned morning and night, just as you would do with your natural teeth. Remove the denture from your mouth and use a denture brush to clean any food or plaque off the denture. You may brush any natural teeth you have with the denture out of your mouth.
- If you have no teeth, you may clean your gums with a brush or washcloth.
- Dentures may be soaked in over-the-counter denture cleaner to deodorize daily or weekly as needed.
- Never use any toothpaste or toothbrush to clean your dentures, they are abrasive and may create deposits or microscopic scratches that allow bacteria to grow. Only use soft brushes made for dentures. We will give you one with your new denture!
- Never soak your denture in mouthwash or bleach. The denture may change colors or the ingredients may damage the denture material.
- Always take your dentures out to sleep to give your mouth a rest and allow it to "breathe". Leaving dentures in overnight or too long can lead to an overgrowth of yeast or fungus, called "denture stomatitis".
- Finally, be sure to have a denture checkup annually. Even if you do not feel there may be a problem, we can see if any potential for trouble exists.
If you have an overdenture, we may clean your implants at your visit and check that the parts in your denture are in working order.
Continuing your dental visits also allows us to continually screen for oral cancer and determine if a new denture is needed.
Dentures usually need to be remade every 7-10 years due to wear and tear and also because of the changes that occur in the mouth. A reline may be needed sooner if the denture loosens, such as with weight loss.
Dental implants to stabilize dentures
Fortunately, if your full denture is loose or you're just looking for a more durable denture, dental implants can help immensely. An overdenture is a denture that is secured or stabilized by implants.
If you have enough bone, implants may be placed in the jawbone to allow the denture to "snap" into place.
Two to four implants are usually needed to stabilize your denture, although many more may be placed if you have enough space. Small anchors, called abutments, attach to the implants and sit above the gums. Inside your denture sits small rings that fit over the abutments. The dentures snap or lock into place and are much more secure than with denture adhesive.
Depending on the number of implants your denture may be permanently secured to the implants as well. An overdenture is beneficial in a number of ways:
- Stability – because the denture securely attaches to the implants, there is no risk of it slipping when eating or speaking. There is also no need for adhesive.
- Comfort – since the denture is moving around less, there is less chance of irritations.
- Eating – when the denture is stable, less food becomes stuck under the denture and there is less irritation. You may also eat firmer foods without worrying about your denture slipping.
- Durable – because the implants are placed into bone, they stimulate the bone to stay stable. Bone loss, which was discussed as a problem with tooth loss, does not usually occur with healthy implants. The denture may last longer since it may not need to be refit.
About tooth loss
Tooth loss is a problem that affects many adults today. The loss of one or all teeth can be an event that has many repercussions for years. Losing your teeth can lead to any of the following changes:
- Esthetics – Obviously, losing a front tooth or a tooth that is visible when smiling changes the esthetics of your smile. Depending on which teeth are lost, it can lead to a change in the appearance of your facial features. Cheeks can look sunken in, corners of the mouth can sag or the lips may look less full.
- Confidence – When your face or smile is affected by losing teeth, self-confidence can be affected. You may find yourself smiling less, or avoiding social situations
- Function – Being able to chew food properly is essential for nourishment. Speech can also be affected. Certain sounds or words may be harder to say.
- Stress – Losing one or many teeth places stress on the remaining teeth to absorb the forces when speaking and eating. This can lead to accelerated wear, cracking, drifting or loosening teeth.
- Bite changes – when teeth shift from missing teeth, the remaining teeth can drift and move leading to a change in your bite. This again leads to the problems mentioned above.
- Bone loss – The force teeth place on jawbone is what stimulates the bone. When you are missing teeth, there is no stimulation of the bone. Over time, the bone is resorbed and gets lower and thinner.
More information about dentures?
If you are considering partial or full dentures or want more information about them, feel free to call us at 203-377-9300 to schedule an appointment.