What Are Dentures?
Tooth loss is very common and can happen at any age. Whether it is due to an accident, trauma, illness or improper oral care, you can lose one or many of your teeth at any time. There are different replacement options for when this occurs, and on this page we’ll discuss the option of using dentures to replace missing teeth. There are pros and cons with dentures as there are with just about any type of dental work, and we’ll discuss this in the details below.
Dentures are the fastest (quickest to fabricate and insert) and generally the least expensive method to replace missing teeth or gum tissue. They can be made to replace one tooth or whole rows of missing teeth.
All dentures are custom fitted and made to perfectly fit and simulate the look and feel of your teeth. You can use dentures as a temporary form of tooth replacement, or a permanent means of replacing lost teeth. Many people use dentures while they consider other options such as dental implant procedures.
Types Of Dentures
We can categorize dentures into two types: full or complete dentures and partial dentures.
Complete dentures replace all the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw. Partial dentures are for people who are only missing some of their teeth. They replace one to several teeth.
All dentures are removable. To avoid confusion, some people will say they have a fixed partial denture (in other words not removable) replacing some of their missing teeth. Technically these are not dentures but most likely what we call a permanent fixed bridge.
What Are Dentures Made Of?
Dentures have been around throughout history, as far back as the 7th century. In the past they were made out of ivory, wood, as well as real human teeth. Today dentures are made out of various types of acrylic resin, which is essentially a type of plastic.
In the recent past the teeth that were used were either acrylic or porcelain. Porcelain was used because they were more esthetic and natural looking, however there were problems with the porcelain teeth in that the porcelain does not fuse or bond to the acrylic of the denture base.
This can cause staining on the gum line and in some cases teeth falling off. Today’s acrylic teeth are much more natural and esthetic looking and the acrylic teeth will fuse with the acrylic denture base, therefore the use of porcelain teeth has dropped significantly.
The acrylics are usually made of a compound called a methyl or ethyl methacrylate and it’s used in the majority of dentures today. There is another type of plastic that is used that goes by the trade name of Valplast. This is a nylon type of material. It is very flexible compared to the other acrylics. There are advantages and disadvantages of both of these materials which we will discuss in a future blog post.
Some dentures are partially made of metal. This metal is usually an alloy called chromium cobalt. These are most commonly used for partial dentures, although they are sometimes used for full dentures. The main reason for using this material is for its strength. Another reason for using metal is the denture can be made much thinner than with acrylic and yet have the same or often greater strength properties.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Dentures?
Just about anyone who is missing one to several teeth is a potential candidate for dentures.
Whether a denture is the right choice for you will depend on several factors:
Your expectations of how well the teeth will work
How quickly you need/want the teeth
Your short and long term plans regarding your teeth
They are perfect for those seeking a fast and effective means of tooth replacement. Some people choose to have a denture for the long term as other options are either too cost prohibitive or health reasons prevent them from utilizing the other options available.
Sometimes people get dentures while they are waiting for a full set of dental implants. Dentures will quickly and effectively improve your smile. They give you a full set of new teeth so you can smile with confidence right away.
Advantages Of Dentures
The biggest advantage of dentures is that they can be made quickly and relatively inexpensively. If you need to have teeth removed, the dentures can be made in advance and inserted the day the teeth are removed.
This eliminates the need to go without teeth. The downside of this immediate process is that the gums will shrink quite a lot within the first 3-6 months and you may need a reline or possibly a get whole new denture made once the bone and gums have healed from extraction.
Dentures can give you the full use of your mouth and teeth again. Aesthetically, if done well, they can look very natural and potentially improve your smile if your natural teeth were less than ideal.
Dentures can help to fill out your cheeks and avoid a “hollow” appearance in your face. The teeth, bone and gum tissue provides soft tissue support to the lips and cheeks. Sometimes when tooth and bone loss has been extensive, your face can appear sunken where there are large gaps in your teeth.
Your bite may even be “collapsed” which describes the loss of vertical dimension of the lower half of the face. This can make you appear gaunt, or older than you really are. Dentures can fill this space and restore this vertical dimension so your cheeks appear more full and your face does not look so collapsed.
The most common reason to have a denture is to replace missing teeth. It lets you regain the full use of your mouth in all areas, as opposed to chewing only in the areas where teeth remain.
If we lose only one or a few teeth, we can still chew relatively well as we simply move the food to the areas in which we have teeth. However in the long term the other teeth will shift, tip or over erupt which throws your entire bite off even more.
If we are chewing in only one area, in particularly the front teeth, this can cause these teeth to either wear prematurely or splay forwards in the case where all the back teeth have been lost and there is no support from the back teeth. Wearing a partial denture will help to prevent this shifting and migration of teeth and will generally improve chewing function.
How Are Dentures Made?
When you come in for your appointment, we will take an impression of your mouth. That impression serves as the mold for your new set of dentures which are custom fitted to your existing gums and teeth. We measure out your jaw alignment and bite so your dentures feel comfortable and fit with how you use your mouth.
In some cases dentures can be inserted the second visit after taking the initial molds. In other cases it is best to try in the various stages of the teeth to ensure that the fit and esthetics is just right for you. This can take 3 to 5 visits over a one to three week period of time. Once we have seen you we can discuss and determine which is the best method for your situation.
Dentures should recreate the shape and feel of your mouth, with the added bonus of having a full set of teeth.
Will Dentures Feel Like Regular Teeth?
At first, if you are not used to wearing dentures, they may take some getting used to. Much like a new pair of shoes they may feel a little foreign, in particular for those who have never worn a denture. However if they are fitted correctly to your mouth you will quickly adapt to them and they will become normal within a matter of days.
You may need to have your dentures adjusted if they do not feel like they fit properly in your mouth. With a new set of dentures there can be areas they it rub or presses on the gums too much, creating a sore spot. These can be easily adjusted typically in one or two appointments.
They should feel comfortable in your mouth. If you notice anything painful, like dentures rubbing against your gums, or pressing against your lips, visit your dentist to have them adjusted. Dentures should never be painful or very uncomfortable.
What If I have A Strong Gag Reflex?
It is possible to be able to wear a denture comfortably even if you have a strong gag reflex. The denture can be modified to help eliminate or reduce the gag reflex, and in other cases the gag reflex will diminish over time.
When I was in dental school I had the difficult task of treating a middle aged patient who had such a strong gag reflex she could not brush her back teeth. Unfortunately she had very severe gum disease and literally every tooth had to be removed. In order to take impressions I had to give her relaxants such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
The day I removed her teeth and gave her her very first set of dentures she could not keep them in place for more than a few minutes without feeling the urge to gag. It was a horrible feeling as I did not know how she would do, but my instructor at the time reassured me that she would be OK. sure enough, one week later she came in for a post op and follow up visit and her gag reflex was essentially gone.
How Much Do Dentures Cost?
The cost of dentures ranges depending on the type of dentures you need. If you require a full mouth of dentures it will generally be more expensive than partial dentures. Dentures cost anywhere between $900 – $2300 per arch depending on the type of material and denture being made. Most dentures are around $1300-1500 per arch.
You will need ask your dentist or denturist about the exact cost of the dentures you are looking for and he/she will likely need to see the condition of your teeth and mouth to give you an accurate estimate of the work involved.
How Do Dentures Stay In Place?
Complete dentures have very little to hold them in place. In the case of upper dentures it is possible to create a small amount of suction against the gums. Lower dentures are a bigger problem in that it is rare to be able to create suction with a lower denture.
The floor of the mouth moves every time we swallow and as we talk so suction is next to impossible. The tongue actually works subconsciously to hold dentures in place…this is something that comes with time. Many people need to use some type of denture adhesive to keep dentures in place. This is one of the pitfalls of dentures and is listed below in the disadvantages section.
Partial dentures generally are much better at staying in place. They are often designed to have some type of retentive element that holds onto the remaining teeth. Most commonly these are flexible wires that fit around a few teeth and into the undercuts. In dentistry we call them clasps.
They can also be made out of a acrylic material like Velplast dentures, or there can be designs using a silicone material, and many others that are incorporated into crowns on the natural teeth. Some do not have any retentive elements other than a bit of friction, they are often called “flippers”and the name aptly describes one of their main characteristics.
What Are Single Tooth Dentures?
A single tooth denture is the fastest and most cost-effective way to quickly correct your smile when you are missing a tooth. These are essentially partial dentures for one tooth.
Often these are made of acrylic and may not have any retentive elements other than friction hence these would qualify as “flippers”.
Others are made of a Velplast material and in addition to friction they often have nylon type clasps that hug the adjacent teeth. There is some risk or concern with these very small Velplast dentures being aspirated, and they don’t provide the best function so these are not generally recommended.
How Do I Clean My Dentures?
Unlike dental implants and dental bridges, dentures aren’t permanently fixed in a patient’s mouth. They have to be removed and cleaned every night. Ideally they should not be worn during the night while sleeping in order to give the gum tissues a rest.
Ideally, you should also remove and clean your dentures after every meal. But at the minimum, you should brush and clean your dentures at least once a day. For the most part, any toothpaste will do a good job of cleaning your dentures. However if you find that they are developing some hard to remove stains you can buy specific denture cleaning solutions from your local drugstore or grocery store.
Lastly, your dentures should be placed in liquid when they are not in your mouth. Keep them in a glass of water at night when you remove them.
Disadvantages Of Dentures
Although we just finished describing the benefits of replacing teeth with dentures, there are some pitfalls, and this falls into several categories.
Firstly, compared to natural teeth, fixed bridges or implants, dentures are relatively poor in comparison with respect to function and comfort. We cannot chew as efficiently and many times people with dentures have to avoid eating foods that are particularly hard, tough or sticky. Studies have shown that people with dentures swallow larger pieces of food which puts a bigger strain on our digestive system.
Dentures don’t always stay in place. They tend to move around and food does get underneath when we eat, especially if the denture is poor or loose fitting. Often the only way to improve this is with the use of denture adhesives which are messy and apparently can affect the taste of foods.
Dentures should be removed after every meal. The reason for this is because food tends to collect underneath the denture. With partial dentures the food often collects around the remaining teeth and this can lead to decay or gum problems on those teeth.
Dentures do not preserve or maintain the jaw bone unlike natural teeth or implants. The bone in an area where a tooth has been removed will atrophy and shrink in size over time. This is the reason why dentures need to be relined. People often think their gums have shrunk and that is why they need a reline. However, more accurately it is the bone underneath that has disappeared and the gums have shrunk with it.
The above is just a brief list of some of the pitfalls of dentures. I would definitely say that if I could provide the best possible long term service to replace a missing tooth or teeth, placing a denture would be the least favourable solution.
However they still do serve a purpose, partly because the cost of the other types of services are prohibitive for so many people. In those cases, having a well fitted, comfortable and functional denture will still have enormous benefits over leaving spaces empty and risking further tooth loss or not having proper chewing that affects one’s nutrition.
Ask Your Dentist About Dentures
If you are thinking about getting dentures, feel free to contact us about any questions. You can book an appointment to see if dentures are a good option for you. VCCID has an in house denturist who can meet with patients in house and discuss their denture options. Give us a call today to learn more.