Dentures are removable prosthetic restorations used for replacing missing teeth. They provide a solution for edentulous patients who have lost all their teeth, and for patients who miss many or all teeth in one or both jaws.
Until some years ago, wearing dentures was almost a synonym of old age. In recent years, the advances in dentistry have helped us understand that tooth loss is not an inevitable part of aging. With proper oral hygiene and regular dental care you can keep most of your natural teeth for all your life. Other alternatives, such as dental implants, can provide a better and more efficient solution if some of your teeth are missing due to injury, tooth decay or periodontal disease.
What are dentures
A denture is a set of artificial teeth fixed on a plastic base resembling the appearance of your gums, that fits directly on the gums and the supporting bone of the upper or lower jaw. They are held in place by the combined action of suction, facial muscles and tongue.
Types of Dentures
There are two main types of dentures:
- Full or complete dentures replace all the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
- Partial dentures fill the gap created by several missing teeth, when the patient still retains some of the natural teeth.
Another categorization classifies dentures to either conventional or immediate dentures, based on whether it is prepared before or after teeth extractions and healing.
An overdenture is another type of denture that fits over two or more natural teeth or over dental implants. The advantages of overdentures versus traditional dentures have made them one of the most popular solutions for people with missing teeth.
The procedure of making a denture can be different depending on the type of denture. In general, it includes the following steps:
- teeth extractions (if some teeth are healthy they can be kept and used as a base for an overdenture)
- impressions of the mouth (before or after the extractions, depending on if an immediate denture or a conventional one will be used)
- preparation of the restoration by the dental lab
- trial fitting and final adjustments
Adjusting to dentures
Although dentures are used to perform the tasks of lost teeth, they certainly do not feel like natural teeth. Adjusting to dentures may prove to be difficult for some patients who may experience problems with eating, speaking, or holding the denture stable in their mouth until they get used to it.
Most of the denture problems and complications are related with poor oral hygiene or not following dentist’s instructions. Gum irritation and fungal infections (oral thrush) are usual problems when patients neglect proper cleaning of dentures. Dentures that do not fit properly can cause canker sores. In this case, not only wearing dentures may become very uncomfortable but the patient’s nutrition may be seriously affected.
Denture reline / repair
As the jaw bone shape and size changes with aging, after some years the dentures will start not to fit properly. A dentist can make the necessary adjustments to regain fit, either with denture relining or rebasing. Dentures that start to constantly slip from their position or cause sores on the gums, are signs that a denture reline is needed. As all prosthetic restorations, they can break, chip or crack making necessary a denture repair.
Proper denture care is the best way to avoid denture problems and postpone the need for denture relining. Caring for your dentures basically includes: cleaning regularly your dentures and mouth, allowing your gum tissues to rest by taking out the dentures at night and preventing them from damage.
Cost of dentures
The denture cost may range from $380 to $8,000 for a full set of both upper and lower dentures. The more expensive ones provide better esthetic results simulating the look of natural gums and teeth, better fit on the gums, and normally will last longer.
Dentures can provide an affordable solution for patients who have lost all or most of their teeth. Dental implants have to offer many esthetic and functional advantages versus traditional removable dentures for replacing missing teeth, but at a much higher cost.