Dentures are designed to replace missing teeth and are worn by millions of Americans. Technological advancements have resulted in dentures that are lightweight and mimic the look and feel of natural teeth. Most dentures are made from a combination of metal and synthetic material such as acrylic resin.

Types of Dentures

Dentures are generally classified as partial or full. Partial dentures are designed to replace a small section of teeth and help prevent existing, healthy, natural teeth from shifting position; full dentures generally replace an entire set of teeth such as upper and lower dentures.

An “immediate denture” is a complete or partial denture that is inserted on the same day, immediately following the removal of the patient’s natural teeth. A mold of the patient’s mouth — specifically the jaws — is made so the immediate denture can be customized for the individual. Candidates for immediate dentures are able to wear the appliances right after removal of affected natural teeth.

Partial dentures, also sometimes called “overdentures,” are designed to fit over a small section of implants or natural teeth. Partial dentures are characteristic by their pinkish gum-like plastic bases, on to which replacement teeth are attached. Small clasps are used to attach the denture to existing teeth. Some clasps, which can be more expensive, are made of natural-looking material that is hard to detect. In some cases, a crown will be installed on an existing healthy tooth to facilitate a better hold for the clasp.

How Are Dentures Made?

Denture candidates can expect to have their appliances fitted after about five visits. The process takes approximately a month. During the first visit after diagnosis, your mouth and jaw are measured and an impression is made. The impression is critical for ensuring proper bite relationship, as well as the proper relationship of the appliance to the size of your face. After the impression is made, a temporary set of dentures may be applied so the patient can ensure that the fit, color and shape are suitable.

Getting Used to Your Denture

It does take some time to get used to new dentures. Wearers can expect this period of adjustment to last for as long as two months. Some denture wearers need to wear their dentures without removing them for a certain period of time. This allows your dentist to make the critical initial adjustments for proper fit, and to identify any pressure points that may be causing discomfort.

Caring for Your Denture

Dentures today are made from very advanced materials designed to give you a natural appearance. However, keep in mind that just like your teeth, dentures should be cared for with diligence. Keeping your dentures in top shape helps keep the soft tissues of your mouth healthy; an unclean or malformed denture can cause infections and irritation.

Just like natural teeth, dentures need to be cleansed of plaque, food particles and other debris. This means rinsing and brushing your dentures after every meal. You should also soak them in denture solution overnight to clean them while allowing your gums to breathe while you sleep. And remember to visit your dentist regularly for minor adjustments.

Like any new thing, caring for dentures takes practice. Here are some simple techniques for keeping your dentures clean:

  • You can brush your dentures in a variety of ways, including with soap and water, a slightly abrasive toothpaste or commercial denture pastes and creams.
  • Avoid using highly abrasive chemicals or pastes or vigorously brushing with hard-bristled toothbrushes. These can scratch or even crack dentures.
  • Hold your dentures gently to prevent loosening a tooth.
  • Clean your dentures with cool or tepid water over a water-filled sink. Hot water can warp a denture. Place a washcloth in the bottom of the bowl so your denture won’t sustain damage should it happen to fall.
  • Soak your dentures overnight in any commercially available product, like Efferdent or Polident, and remember to rinse your dentures before placing them back in your mouth.
  • Use a separate toothbrush to clean your natural teeth as well as your gum tissues. In lieu of a toothbrush, a soft washcloth can be used to wipe your gums.
  • A powerful ultrasonic cleaner may be used to remove hard accumulations of tartar and other substances.
  • Over time, even with daily care of your dentures, they may still be required to be cleaned by the dentist.

Adjustments to Your Denture

Most denture wearers experience a break-in period as long as two months, during which the tissues surrounding their extracted teeth must heal. Conventional denture wearers must periodically visit their dentist to have the appliances adjusted. This is because patient’s gums sometimes change shape or shrink; moreover, daily maintenance of the appliances over time may also create the need for minor adjustments.

Adjustments are critical because a loose-fitting appliance or one that has not been adjusted to compensate for gum or jaw changes, can cause pressure points, leading to mouth sores and possible infection. In addition to adjustments, regular dental visits also provide an opportunity to replace or repair loose teeth or make small repairs to dentures that have become chipped or cracked.

Over time, the base of a denture may need to be “re-lined” because of wear and tear from constantly rubbing against your soft palate or roof of your mouth.

Common Concerns

Technology advancements have made dentures very natural looking; however, it is only natural for first-time denture wearers to be self-conscious about their appearance and speech. Over time, a denture wearer’s confidence level increases, and this usually ceases to be an issue.

Under normal circumstances, denture wearers can eat most foods with confidence that their appliance will not shift. Caution must be taken, however, to avoid certain kinds of hot, hard, crunchy, chewy or sticky foods. During the break-in period, denture wearers are usually advised to eat on both sides of their mouth, so the appliances don’t get out of balance or tip to one side.