What are Dentures?
Dentures can provide greatly improved function in chewing and appearance when missing part or all of the natural dentition. Many times dentures can support the soft tissue of the face decreasing the appearance of wrinkles around the mouth, giving a more youthful appearance to the face.
There are two types of dentures: partial or complete. Partial dentures use clasps that fit around natural teeth, which may or may not be visible. Complete dentures replace all the teeth and rest on the gum tissue. Both use a gum colored acrylic to anchor the denture teeth in place. Denture teeth exist in all shapes, sizes and shades. They will be set to match your natural teeth or the appearance you wish to acheive.
A partial can be used to replace a single tooth to most teeth in an arch in a variety of ways. This is often the least expensive way to replace teeth.
Dentures are made after the teeth have been taken out and the tissues have healed. Upper dentures rest against the gums and palate making a seal to hold the denture in place. The lower denture forms a U shape and rests on the gums with the borders extending over on both the outside and the inside to help stabilize it when chewing.
If you still have teeth and are transitioning to complete dentures, often we are able to fabricate a denture ahead of time and have it ready on the day the remaining teeth are removed. This is a nice option as you will never be without teeth in place. However, making the denture to fit your gums after surgery is basically an educated guess. More often than not, the denture will have to be relined or re-made in six months to a year once the bone and tissue is allowed to heal.
Implant Retained Dentures
Dentures that do not fit well because of bone loss and lack of tissue support in the mouth can be retained more securely by snapping onto dental implants. This is not a solution to old and ill-fitting dentures. You may need to have a new denture made before placing implants.
By having implants in the jaw, it not only stabilizes the denture, but can help to reduce bone loss (the reason for most ill-fitting dentures). Not everyone is a candidate for implants. If you are interested in implants, let us know and we will evaluate the amount of bone you have and let you know whether you are a candidate.
Wearing Your New Dentures
No matter what type of denture you get, or whether you have worn a previous set for years, the first few weeks can be uncomfortable. This process requires learning and patience. Give your tissues time to adjust. Lower dentures tend to feel more loose as they do not form a seal like uppers. The muscles in your cheeks and tongue will adapt to help hold it in place.
Eating will take practice. Try these tips:
- Start with soft foods
- Cut foods into small pieces
- Chew evenly on both sides of the mouth at the same time to keep pressure even
- Do not eat very sticky or hard foods and do not chew gum
Certain words and sounds will be difficult. Give it time and practice in a mirrror. If your dentures slip out of place when you laugh, cough or smile, bite down and swallow to reposition them.
Denture adhesive can help a new or loose fitting denture in the short term, but overuse should be avoided. Using too much can actually displace the denture and affect the bite. If you use adhesive and need help determining how much to use and how to apply it, let us know!
When sore spots arise (and they will), take your denture out and allow the tissues to rest and heal. If they do not resolve after several days, an adjustment may be needed. Several adjustment appointments may be necessary to get the fit just right. Don’t become discouraged! We are here for you throughout this process.
Taking Care of Your Dentures
Dentures should be cleaned everyday just like your natural teeth. Here are some tips to taking care of your dentures:
- Take your denture(s) out at night and carefully rinse off any debris or food particles.
- Using a denture brush and water or denture cleaner, brush all surfaces gently.
- It is best to use a brush special made for cleaning dentures, but a regular toothbrush with extra soft bristles will do. Hard bristles may damage the acrylic of your denture.
- Many over-the-counter denture cleaners exist to brush your denture with. Liquid soap does just as well. Avoid toothpaste because many have abrasive particles that may damage the denture.
- Always soak your denture when it is not in your mouth. Water is fine. If using a denture soaking solution, look for products with the ADA seal and always rinse thoroughly before putting it back in the mouth.
- Don’t neglect your mouth! Brushing your gums, tongue and palate once a day will remove plaque and improve circulation to the tissues. Come in for regular exams so that we can check the health of your tissues, screen for head/neck cancer and other pathology, and also check the fit of your dentures.
- Dentures are fragile and can break if dropped. Make sure you handle them over a counter, preferably with a soft towel under you.
- All types of dentures make very attractive chew toys for pets. Keep them in a safe place away from animals!