what are dentures

When we have multiple or all of our teeth removed, eating becomes a significant issue. We are compelled to eat only soft food that requires little chewing. But with dentures, most of our teeth functions can be mimicked. Dentures are prosthesis and can replace complete or partial missing teeth.

However, always keep in mind that even the best of dentures can never replace natural teeth. There are different types of dentures as complete, partial, immediate partial and implant supported denture.

What are dentures?

A denture is a prosthesis that is customized for each person to replace their missing teeth. When you have just one or two teeth removed, you may get an implant which is in the mouth.

But for multiple or complete tooth replacement, a removable prosthesis can be given. In old patients or people with poor bone health, implants are contra-indicated.

Every denture has two components as the artificial teeth and the acrylic portion that looks like the gums and palate.

Types of Dentures

Depending on the number of teeth replaced, a denture may be complete or partial.

Complete denture

A complete denture is one which replaces all your teeth. It is a single prosthesis that is worn by a completely edentulous patient. Most older adults opt for this if they’re having all their teeth extracted.

 Partial denture

A partial denture is one which replaces only a few of your natural teeth. If you have had multiple teeth removed because of decay, tumor or any other reason, you may have only those teeth replaced.

A partial denture is smaller than a complete denture and has small wires to adapt to the natural teeth. These wires aid in retention and help you to place and remove the denture correctly.

All the components of a partial denture are bound together by a metal framework.

Immediate partial denture

An immediate partial denture is a type of partial denture that is given immediately after your teeth are removed. However, it needs modifications after a while since your bone undergoes many changes a few months after extraction.

For an immediate partial denture, your dentist takes the measurements during your previous visits. These dentures need relining over a period. (1)

Implant supported denture

There is another type of denture called an implant supported denture which is a denture made on your existing implants. A denture can also be fabricated on the remaining root stumps of your teeth, called an overdenture.

The procedure of Denture Fabrication

  • Once decided that your teeth need removal for whatever reason, your dentist will usually brief you about how he plans on replacing those teeth.
  • The actual procedure of making a denture starts once your extraction wound has healed completely. This usually takes about two to four weeks.
  • Once that is done, the dentist checks the health of your ridge and other soft tissues to ensure they are healthy enough to support a prosthesis.
  • If required, the doctor will run some x-rays of the whole mouth to check for any remaining root pieces or TMJ problems. Such an x-ray is called an orthopantomogram (OPG).
  • The first step is to have your measurements taken through a series of impressions. Different trays and materials are used to make these impressions. The trays are loaded with the material and placed in your mouth.
    This records your tissues at rest and while doing some movements. It is essential to get the correct impressions because the fit of the denture depends on this.
    Though there are different techniques, most dentists usually take one preliminary impression and one final impression.
  • For the next step, the technician pours the impression and makes casts.
  • On this casts the doctor fabricates trays which are used to record the relationship of your upper and lower arch under different conditions. This is called a jaw relation. If only a few teeth need replacement, a jaw relation may not be required- this is at your dentist’s discretion.
  • Then, the dentist makes a temporary denture for you. The idea behind this is to check the fitting and appearance of the teeth. It also tells the dentist if he has picked the right shade and size of the teeth- something you both mutually decide for the best results.
  • Once the trial is done with the necessary changes, the final denture is fabricated using acrylic. There are different qualities available, depending on your budget.
  • When you visit the dentist for your final appointment, he will give you the denture and explain to you how to wear and remove it, when to wear it and how to clean it.

How to care for your dentures?

  • Just like your teeth need regular cleaning to be in good health, so do your dentures.
  • Remember that these are prosthesis made of acrylic. This means that they stand the chance of breakage if they fall.
  • You should wear your dentures as advised by your dentist. At night while sleeping, remove them and place them in a container with clean water. Do not add any detergent or soap in that.
  • Brush your dentures regularly but gently. If your brushing action is too abrasive, it will damage the teeth. Keep all the surfaces of the denture clean, including the portion over your gums and palate. Do not allow food debris to accumulate.
  • If the denture cracks or breaks, see your dentist immediately. Do not try to repair it at home.
  • If you feel some sharpness on any of the surfaces, see your dentist and get it smoothened.
  • For partial dentures, the wires and metal framework will guide you about placement and removal. Follow a single path of placement and removal each time to avoid breakage.
  • Sometimes you may develop an ulcer or a fungal infection due to unclean dentures or irritation of the acrylic to the mucosa. Inform your dentist about this and stop wearing your dentures for a few days. Your dentist will also prescribe a gel or anti-fungal medication. (2)

Some things to keep in mind before you get a denture

  • A denture is an artificial replacement for teeth. Remember it can never match your natural teeth regarding biting ability and even phonetics. (3)
  • It will take a while before you get used to wearing a denture, a few weeks or maybe even one or two months. Don’t expect it to feel perfect from the very beginning.
  • You may have episodes of the denture falling out while speaking or food being stuck in between because you can’t chew. Be patient, it will take some time.
  • A denture is not a one-time investment. It is something you have to periodically replace even if you maintain it in the best possible way.
    This is because our bones undergo natural resorption over time and hence the denture fitting is likely to change. So don’t be surprised if your dentist tells you that your denture needs to be replaced after a few years or needs relining. (4)
  • In the infrequent case that you have an allergy to acrylic, or develop one while wearing the denture, you must inform your dentist.

Over to you on dentures

Dentures are a great way to replace your missing teeth, especially for the geriatric population. Do remember to care for them and regularly have then checked by your dentist.

But dentures can never be like natural teeth and that is why it is important to take care of your teeth.