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Dentures

Reviewed by: Paul Amato, DDS
 

Dentures are prosthetic appliances that replace missing teeth and gums. There are two types of removable dentures: partial for those who have natural teeth remaining, and complete for those who have no natural teeth (edentulous). Dentures can be made for either the maxillary (upper) or mandibular (lower) arch.

Types of Dentures

There are various types of dentures available to help patients eat, speak, and feel more confident. They include:

Complete Dentures - Complete dentures, also known as full dentures or plates, are broken down into two categories: conventional and immediate. Conventional dentures are not made until after the teeth are removed and the gums begin healing. These dentures are usually ready to be placed into the mouth 8-12 weeks after all teeth have been removed. Immediate dentures are available to the patient at the time their teeth are removed (the same day), and are generally a temporary solution, until conventional dentures are made. Once the teeth are removed, the gums and bone begin to heal. In the process of healing the gums and bone remodel and shrink. When immediate dentures are used, the patient must see the dentist more often to have the immediate dentures relined and adjusted due to the changes occurring from the healing process.

Partial Dentures – Partial dentures are generally used when a patient has some permanent teeth. Partial dentures replace the missing teeth on the upper arch and/or lower arch to improve the appearance of a smile and increase the functionality of the dentition. They can be removable or fixed. Removable partial dentures consist of the acrylic teeth replacing the missing teeth and pink acrylic to replace missing gums. The acrylic gums and teeth are attached to a metal framework. The removable partial denture is held into place with metal clasps that latch onto the permanent teeth. Fixed partial dentures (also known as bridges), bridge the gap or spaces. Fixed partial dentures are permanently cemented and cannot be removed like a removable partial denture. For a more detailed explanation about bridges, please click here.

Overdentures - These are an alternative to complete dentures. Complete dentures rest on a ridge of gums and bone that shrink over time without teeth. Overdentures rest on a ridge of gums, bone, and teeth roots. Sometimes a dentist can save the roots of two teeth. The advantages of saving the roots of two teeth are retaining bone and gum height. Another advantage of an overdenture can be increased retention of the denture. If this option is chosen, it is important that the retained roots have root canals performed.

Implant Retained Dentures - These are an alternative to overdentures. If the patient does not have any dental roots that can be retained, dental implants can be used to assist in retaining the denture. An oral surgeon, a periodontist, or a general dentist can place dental implants. It typically takes 3-4 months for the bone to heal around the dental implant. Once the bone is healed, the implant-retained denture can be fabricated. The advantage of the implant-retained denture is the increased retention of the denture, which assists in speaking, eating, and overall function. The denture attaches into the implants. The implants also allow the bone height and width to maintain and not shrink. This is the best option to replace teeth, but the cost is the biggest disadvantage..

Caring for your Dentures

Dentures should always be treated like natural teeth, and need to be brushed at least twice a day. There are special toothbrushes designed specifically for denture wearers, but regular toothbrushes work too. Talk to your dentist about special denture cleaning solutions to help keep your dentures clean and moist. Dentures that have been dried out or mishandled have the potential to crack, chip, or break. When cleaning your dentures, hot water is not recommended, as it’s known to sometimes reshape or warp the dentures. It is important to remove your dentures at night and let your gums “breathe.”

How much do Dentures Cost?

Most dental insurance plans cover a portion of the cost of dentures. This can take the burden off of patients who do not have the extra money to pay for their dentures. Complete dentures range in price from $400 to $8,000 per set. There are many factors that will determine what your dentures will cost, including:

  • The dentist or prosthodontist you choose
  • Type of dental insurance the patient has
  • The complexity of the dentures that is required
  • Dental materials (usually chosen by patient and dentist together)
  • Type of dentures you’ll need (complete or partial)
  • Type of warranty offer (could be up to 10 years)
  • Additional procedures such as oral surgery to remove teeth

Denture Alternatives

Not everyone who has missing teeth has to get dentures to fix the problem. In the current world of dentistry, there are numerous ways to replace missing teeth, such as dental implants or dental bridges. Some people consider leaving spaces where teeth are missing or have been removed. They do not want to wear removable partial dentures, or they can not afford the more expensive procedures, such as dental implants or dental bridges. It is not recommended to leave spaces since oral problems can develop in the future, such as bone loss and existing teeth shifting into the empty space.

How Dentures Are Made

Dentures are not made overnight. Conventional Dentures are processed and made in about six weeks, and the patient must visit the dentist multiple times before the procedure is complete. First, your dentist will take impressions of your jaw. Once the impressions are done a model is created out of wax and/or plastic in the exact shape and position of the future dentures. You will have to try on the model during multiple appointments until the right fit is achieved. Once the model fits properly a final denture is made. The final product must also be fitted and adjusted, which could again take multiple appointments. Dentures are not your natural teeth, so don’t expect them to be able to perform like your natural teeth. They can work very well, but they take practice to chew, eat, and talk. If the dentures are new, this can take months or years.

Page updated March 2011

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