Essentially, a denture is just a type of replacement for natural teeth. It is different from other kinds of replacement or repair, because it is not permanently attached to the natural teeth or jawbone. This is because dentures are primarily designed to replace lots of teeth, all at one time. As the only way to replace a lost tooth is to use some form of anchor (usually the natural teeth), if multiple teeth on the same row are missing, dentures are the only viable solution.
This is why they are fitted in mouths that are missing all or most of the natural teeth. The two basic options for dentures then are complete and partial. A complete set of dentures is worn for most of the day, as a replacement for natural teeth, but taken out for cleaning at night. The partial denture works in the same way, but it is clipped on to the remaining natural teeth. Both options are very common and come with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Why Might I Need Dentures?
The precursors to the need for dentures are easily spotted. If you’re experiencing one or more of these right now, dentists encourage you to head to your dentist for a consultation right away.
The first and most obvious sign is a substantial toothache that won’t go away. This toothache could signal decay that has made it’s way to your nerve and is causing severe discomfort. While a root canal may be a viable option to save the tooth, sometimes the tooth has decayed beyond the point of salvage, which will then require a dental implant or dentures.
RED AND SWOLLEN GUMS
Sensitive gums that are red and swollen are usually the first warning sign of something worse – periodontal disease. While early signs of gum disease or gingivitis can be easily treated with a thorough cleaning and preventatives like prescription toothpaste and mouthwash, the further gum disease progresses, the worse it gets. If left untreated, bone loss begins to occur which results in both tooth loss and the need for dentures. The best protection against periodontal disease is prevention, which is a great reason to visit your dentist right now if you’re experiencing these symptoms. If gum disease advances too far, you’ll have no choice but to resort to dentures.
LOOSE OR MOVING TEETH
If your teeth are loose or shifting noticeably, this could be a sign that dentures are in your future. Loose teeth usually signal decay and may be a consequence of periodontal disease. Because you can’t see below the gums, there may be significant damage occurring without you noticing it. The same goes with gaps growing wider between your teeth. If there are gaps growing steadily between your teeth, you need to ask your dentist about it.
DIFFICULTY CHEWING OR DIGESTING FOODS
One symptom that may be a less-obvious indicator of the need for dentures is painful chewing, especially when you eat hard or chewy foods. This is a sign that your teeth may have significant damage. Another sign of decay most people aren’t aware of is chronic indigestion. Because your teeth aren’t functioning properly and it is harder to chew, you’re more likely to take larger bites which lead to stomach pains. If you’re experiencing either or both of these symptoms, it’s time to visit your dentist for a consultation.
YOU’RE ALREADY MISSING TEETH
If you’ve already lost a tooth or several teeth, the need for dentures is immediate. The more time you go without dentures, the more risk you run of losing additional teeth. Without the support of all your teeth, the remaining healthy teeth shift faster and become weaker. If you’re missing teeth but haven’t addressed the need for dentures yet, now is the time to investigate treatment options with your dentist.
There are a few different options you can resort to should your dentist determine you need dentures.
The traditional complete denture is mostly availed of those with advanced age. It is designed to replace all of the natural teeth of the patient who’ve lost them. They are placed on top of gums instead of bridges that are anchored to existing teeth or via dental implants. They’re typically placed within 2-4 months after tooth removal, extraction, or loss.
Complete dentures are usually of the removable variety because once you, for example, put in dental implants over them to affix them unto your mouth they then become partial dentures using implants as anchors by default. If you’re looking into getting permanent dentures installed on a toothless mouth, you might need to look into dental implantation to help you out.
You can avail of complete dentures as either immediate or conventional types.
- Conventional: A conventional denture is usually made after teeth removal and the gum has begun to heal. It’s typically ready for placement within your mouth in 8-12 weeks after teeth extraction.
- Immediate: Immediate dentures are manufactured in advance and can be put into your mouth as soon as teeth extraction has taken place. You won’t have to end up toothless during the gum healing period.
Do keep note that after extraction, gums and bones shrink over time, particularly during the period of healing that follows after a tooth has or teeth have been removed. There’s therefore a disadvantage with immediate dentures compared to conventional ones in terms of adjustments. Because conventional dentures take weeks to get manufactured, your future checkups in the clinic allow the dentist and the dental lab to make adjustments to your gum and bone shrinkage that they can’t do on short notice.
Because of the healing process, you should use immediate dentures as temporary solutions and conventional dentures as the more permanent ones that can actually adjust to the final shrinkage of your bone and gums. However, immediate dentures have the advantage on terms of giving you new teeth on the same day that your remaining teeth have been extracted, removed, or lost. Alas, the dentist needs to check first if you’re the proper candidate for this denture type.
A bridge or removable partial denture is typically called for if the patient still has some of his natural teeth left instead of having all of them gone. It could be one or more of them. The two pieces that hold the denture in the mouth are the metal piece and the pink-colored base. These come with the following functions and benefits:
- Metal Framework: A bridge typically consists of replacement teeth that you’re supposed to attach to a gum-colored or pink plastic base that is at times linked by a metal framework to hold the false teeth in place in your mouth.
- Natural Teeth Anchors: Bridges are used when one or several natural teeth remain in your mouth’s upper and lower jaws. These teeth are shaved down to serve as abutment for the crown that anchors the rest of the dentures into the mouth.
- Usage of Dental Cement: The dental bridge used on your natural teeth to fill in the gaps between teeth is cemented into place with dental cement so that they won’t easily be removed or pop off from the biting forces of your mouth.
- Removable Partials: Some partials can be conveniently removed, like they’re the dental equivalent of a toupee. Whether they’re permanent or not, both partial types assist in the prevention of teeth shifting or moving. They’re also made of partially acrylic or all-acrylic material.
- Replaces Multiple Teeth with a Bridge: The beauty of partial dentures is that they replace one or several teeth by crown placement on the teeth on either side of the space by attaching artificial teeth with a crown cap over the natural teeth, resulting in a bridge of sorts.
- Prevents Teeth Shifting: Whenever you lose a tooth or two, the rest of the teeth will over time gradually shift to fill in that missing space, leading to bigger and wider tooth gaps. A partial denture can be used to fill in those spaces and prevent the changes in teeth position.
The more expensive alternative to complete and partial dentures are custom dentures. The extra cost comes from them being made of more expensive material and being even more custom-fitted to your mouth than even conventional complete dentures. You’re essentially paying for them to ensure that your smile in the end looks more natural-looking.
It’s a type of denture you can check out before its completion virtually or as a preview of what you’ll end up with when push comes to shove. This is because it’s customized for your smile through digital oral scans or traditional molding techniques. Customization makes your dentures not only look more natural but feel more natural too when you put the in your mouth.
As discussed above, you can get partial bridge dentures even if you’ve lost all your teeth by putting in a dental implant that serves as an artificial tooth root unto the tooth socket. You can then place a crown or an entire dental bridge over the anchor to securely support them. Implants ensure that the denture looks natural and feels sturdy within your mouth.
It’s a solid foundation if you have enough bone and jaw mass left to allow for the dental surgery. If not, bone and gum grafting might be called for in order to make up the difference and ensure that there’s more material that your implant can use to stay attached to your jaw. It ensures that your bridge will last you a long time as well.
In terms of stability despite removability, snap-in or precision partial dentures are highly effective. They’re securely held in place with the assistance of anchors on existing teeth or dental implants. They’re different from partial permanent dentures that are cemented into place due to their locator attachments that are embedded within the denture’s tissue side. The following are characteristic of snap-in dentures:
- Attachments: A precision partial denture stays in place within your mouth with internal attachments instead of clasps that allow it to attach to adjacent crowns. This results in dentures that look more natural in your mouth. Its attachments snap into place of the locator receptors or implants, which means they’re removable and convenient yet pretty solid.
- Convenient and Removable: Despite the lack of permanency and dental cement, these dentures and their locator attachments snap solidly unto the receptors or implants. They feel like permanent natural teeth despite their removability, which also makes them easier to clean compared with their cemented counterparts.
- Used for Toothless Patients: These dentures are usually used for patients without any teeth even though it can also be used as a partial denture. They’re actually best used as implant-supported dentures, so if you lack bone to support an implant it’s usually better to go for complete conventional dentures.
How Are Dentures Created?
The exact method of manufacturing will depend on your requirements, since each patient presents a unique set of challenges. However, the process always involves building up a comprehensive picture of your mouth. The dentist will take a number of different measurements, so that the dentures can be designed to fit your precise specifications. It is very important for dentures to fit well, because they are worn for long periods.
It may take some time for a final set of dentures to be made. It could be necessary for your dentist to try two or three different casts, in order to find the best fit. You will need to be patient throughout this process, because your specialist is only trying to provide you with the finest quality dentures. It will also take some time to get used to the feel of new dentures in your mouth, so patience is really key to success.
What Materials Are Partial Dentures Made From?
Depending on your needs and budget, your denturist can suggest three different materials for your partial dentures. These include:
ACRYLIC PARTIAL DENTURES
Acrylic is a rigid resin material. For dentures, it is pink for the base and gums, and enamel-colored for the replacement teeth.
An acrylic partial denture is held in the mouth by metal clasps, which grip onto surrounding natural teeth. When in place, this metal is partially or fully covered by your mouth.
METAL PARTIAL DENTURES
This denture has a metal base, usually made from an alloy containing cobalt and chrome. Like an acrylic partial, the material used for the gums is a pink acrylic and the replacement teeth are enamel-colored resin.
Two major benefits of this type of denture are:
- They can be designed to be thin and strong
- They provide greater supporter for your remaining teeth
FLEXIBLE PARTIAL DENTURES
Instead of acrylic or metal, this partial denture is made from a flexible and versatile plastic which fits neatly into your mouth and is virtually invisible.
In addition, they DO NOT need metal clasps to keep them in place. Instead, these clasps are made from the same pink flexible material for more comfort and a better aesthetic appearance.
Caring for your dentures is a lot like caring for your real teeth, and diligent care will prolong their life and reduce unwanted bacteria. The best method is to first brush to remove any food particles or debris, and then soak them in an effervescent denture cleaner. Finally, brush the dentures again to make sure all plaque and build-up is removed.
It’s best to use a small or medium toothbrush and toothpaste, making sure to clean all surfaces of the dentures — including the part that sits on your gums, which should be cleaned thoroughly to avoid build-up. If you find there are stubborn stains or scale build up that you can’t remove yourself, you may need to have your dentures professionally cleaned by your dentist.
How Long Will My Dentures Last?
As dentures are made out of artificial materials and are not usually built on top of existing enamel, they do not really deteriorate with time. In fact, the main reason why dentures need to be changed or replaced is because the mouth has changed. This is a natural part of getting older and dentures do require tweaking if they are to remain comfortable and secure.
If you attend regular check-ups, your dentist will be able to spot the need for a replacement very early on, usually before any kind of tenderness or irritation occurs. Aside from this, dentures are very sturdy and long lasting if they are of a high quality. Listen carefully to all of the advice that your dental specialist gives you and care for your dentures in the right way. If you do this, they will never cause you problems and will allow you to get on with your life.
How Much Are Dentures Likely to Cost?
The cost of your dentures will depend entirely on your needs and the material that they are made from. So, a partial denture usually costs less than a complete set. Then again, the cost of both partial and complete dentures can increase if the number of fitting appointments starts to climb. Ultimately, the more specialist attention that you require, the pricier the dentures will turn out to be.
Unfortunately, this cannot always be controlled. There are some people who require a very brief amount of fitting time and there are others who require several different casts and a number of appointments. Again, it will all depend on your unique needs.
If you are keen to opt for the highest quality cross linked polymer dentures the costs will be greater. These are more expensive, but they wear slower than standard plastic dentures. Once again, it is best to discuss the options with your dental specialist, because they are the person who knows your teeth and mouth better than anybody. They will be able to advise you on whether or not a premium polymer is worth the extra investment.
If tooth extractions are needed, on top of denture fittings and designs, the cost will go up. Sometimes this is necessary and, other times, extractions are a practical choice, so talk with your dentist about whether you need teeth pulled.