Definition and Overview
Complete dentures refer to a full set of replacement teeth that are used in the lower (mandibular) or upper (maxillary) regions to replace teeth that have been extracted due to serious gum disease or tooth decay.
The teeth are some of the hardest parts of the body but there are cases when they get damaged. Usually, it is because of tooth decay that develops due to plaque buildup or bacteria that penetrate the gums, causing inflammation and pockets.
A dentist’s role is to ensure that teeth are saved as much as possible. If not, at least much of the structure is preserved. Nevertheless, when the damage is severe, the teeth are extracted as a last option.
If there are remaining teeth, the option is a partial denture, which can also act as a bridge. When several teeth in the upper or lower section have to be removed, complete dentures are the best option.
Complete dentures can be immediate or conventional. They are conventional when they require multiple dental visits and when impressions are obtained only after the teeth have been removed and the gums are healed. On the other hand, immediate dentures are ready even before the teeth are extracted. This way, the patient doesn’t leave the clinic without teeth. These are readjusted once the gums have fully healed.
Different materials used to create dentures include metal, acrylic, and nylon. They can also be wax based to imitate the natural appearance of the teeth and gums.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Complete dentures are recommended if:
- All set of teeth has been removed
- There are issues with the bite due to missing teeth
- Missing teeth make the patient less confident – One of the reasons why many prefer to get dentures is they want to boost their self-confidence. Missing teeth can certainly make someone feel more conscious, embarrassed, or even feel depressed
One can expect immediate results as soon as the dentures are attached. Though they may not look entirely the same as the original teeth, they can help restore certain functions including proper speech and bite. They can also avoid unnecessary teeth or jaw movement.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Whether the dentures are conventional or immediate, the first step is consultation. The dentist has to carefully assess the overall condition of the teeth, gums, and even bones. A variety of examinations including physical and imaging tests are carried out. If there are lingering issues such as a root canal infection, they are treated first to avoid further damage.
Before the dentures can be attached, the damaged or decayed teeth have to be extracted first. During the procedure, local anesthesia is administered to numb the pain. If the patient is restless, nervous, or anxious, sedation may be given.
Using tools such as forceps and drills, the teeth are removed from the roots and tissues one by one. It may take a couple of visits to the dentist before all teeth are extracted.
In conventional dentures, impressions are obtained once all the affected teeth have been extracted. The patient may be provided with temporary dentures to ensure ease of biting and eating. The dentures can also be used while the gums are healing.
In the next appointment, the dentures are then fitted into the mouth, making sure that they snuggle nicely into the roof or palate.
In immediate dentures, the dentist gets teeth impressions first before the teeth are removed. In the next visit and right after all the teeth have been removed, the immediate dentures are then fitted. The patient may have to go back, however, once the gums are healed to modify the size of the dentures.
Possible Risks and Complications
Dentures have the tendency to become loose, and nothing is more embarrassing than accidentally dropping them in public. Fortunately, there are already over-the-counter dental adhesives, which can help secure the base to the mouth. Further, the patient may have to regularly visit the dentist for readjustments.
Meanwhile, there are risks associated with tooth extraction such as swelling, pain, and infection. To minimize all three, the dentist may suggest an antibiotic and pain reliever. Home remedies such as an ice pack or compress can also reduce the swelling.
Some of the dentures may look unnatural, which may mean it’s easy for others to know you’re wearing them.
- Stevenson RB. Denture Care. J Am Dent Assoc. 2011;142(6): 596-8.