A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and surrounding tissues. Two types of dentures are available -- complete and partial dentures. Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing, while partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain.

Complete Dentures

Complete dentures can be either "conventional" or "immediate." Made after the teeth have been removed and the gum tissue has begun to heal, a conventional denture is ready for placement in the mouth about eight to 12 weeks after the teeth have been removed.

Unlike conventional dentures, immediate dentures are made in advance and can be positioned as soon as the teeth are removed. As a result, the wearer does not have to be without teeth during the healing period. However, bones and gums shrink over time, especially during the healing period following tooth removal. Therefore a disadvantage of immediate dentures compared with conventional dentures is that they require more adjustments to fit properly during the healing process and generally should only be considered a temporary solution until conventional dentures can be made.

Partial Dentures

A removable partial denture or bridge usually consists of replacement teeth attached to a pink or gum-colored plastic base, which is connected by metal framework that holds the denture in place in the mouth. Partial dentures are used when one or more natural teeth remain in the upper or lower jaw. A fixed (permanent) bridge replaces one or more teeth by placing crowns on the teeth on either side of the space and attaching artificial teeth to them. This "bridge" is then cemented into place. Not only does a partial denture fill in the spaces created by missing teeth, it prevents other teeth from changing position. A precision partial denture is removable and has internal attachments rather than clasps that attach to the adjacent crowns. This is a more natural-looking appliance.

Are There Alternatives to Dentures?

Yes, dental implants can be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost is usually greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the feel of real teeth. Dental implants are becoming the alternative to dentures but not everyone is a candidate for implants.

How Are Dentures Made?

The denture development process takes about three to six weeks and several appointments. Once the PROSTHODONTIST (a dentist who specializes in the restoration and replacement of teeth) determines what type of appliance is best for you, the general steps are to:

  • Make a series of impressions of your jaw and take measurements of how your jaws relate to one another and how much space is between them.
  • Create models, wax forms, and/or plastic patterns in the exact shape and position of the denture to be made. You will "try in" this model several times and the denture will be assessed for color, shape, and fit before the final denture is cast.
  • Cast a final denture
  • Adjustments will be made as necessary.

Problems associated with new dentures

Most new dentures have to go through an initial period of adaptation or breaking in. In the beginning, you may experience some ofthe following:

  • A feeling of fullness. Itis normalto feel different and awkward at first with your new dentures. Your appearance has most likely undergone a slight change. With time, patience, and some training of your facial muscles, things will soon begin to feel more natural.
  • A gagging sensation. Many times dentures and partials give difficulty in the beginning stages while swallowing. With time,this will improve.
  • Difficulty in speaking. Careful practice and repetition in pronouncing those hard to say words willmake yourtransition period easier. Youmust also learn to control a tendency to tongue‐thrusting, whichmay dislodge the denture.
  • Difficulty eating. Start with softfoods or those that are easy to chew. More difficult foods that are fibrous or hard (apples) willrequire a gradual learning curve. To bite foodsthat normally require the frontteeth, such apply pressure backward against the front when closing.
  • Possible Soreness. Soreness from uneven pressure on the gums due to healing or irregularities may develop at anytime and is not unusual. This can be corrected with a simple adjustment appointment.
  • Excessive salivation.

Cleaning your Dentures or Partials

Cleaning your denture or partial should be an everyday habitto keep yoursmile beautiful. Plaque and tartar buildup can formon denturesjustlike it does on your naturalteeth. Failure to remove your denture for proper cleaning can result in staining ofthe teeth, mouth odor, or possible gumirritation. Here are a few simple tipsthatmay help:

  • Dentures can break,so alwaysfillthe sink with water, and clean them over the sink, justin case you drop them.
  • Don’t use hot or boiling water;the denture material may warp.
  • Don’t use rough household products,such as bleach, vinegar, orsoap to clean your dentures. These products sometimes contain abrasive particles thatmay scratch your denture or partial.
  • Don’t use abrasive regular tooth paste. It could scratch the prosthesis resulting in poor cosmetics. While you sleep at night,soak your denture or partial in a cleansersuch as Fixodent, or any other denture cleaner.
  • Brush your gums,tongue, and palate with a regulartoothbrush to remove plaque, bacteria, and to stimulate good circulation.
  • Be sure to have your dentures checked atleast once annually as changesin the mouth,such asshrinkage and bone loss will occur. Careful maintenance and routine checkups will help to slow down these changes. If you have a partial and some remaining teeth, an exam and cleaning should be scheduled every 6 months.