Definition and Overview
Dentures, commonly known as "false teeth," are removable dental appliances that are constructed to replace missing teeth. They are made of prosthetic or artificial teeth that are only attached to a supporting structure, making them removable. They provide the most cost-effective means of replacing missing teeth, as they are much cheaper than dental implants or bridges.
Benefits of dentures
Dentures can give you a set of fully functioning teeth that can restore your look and give an aesthetically pleasing appearance at a fraction of the cost compared to implants. They provide at least three important benefits:
- Cosmetic benefits : Dentures supply back missing teeth to prevent further shifting of remaining teeth and support facial structure. Dentures can give your cheek and mouth its original definition, restore back your smile and promote a more youthful appearance.
- Functional benefits : Dentures allow patients to maximize oral function, as well as better speech and better quality of communication.
- Affordable price : Dentures remain to be the least costly solution for replacing missing teeth.
Unlike old, traditional dentures, modern dentures are now made of more advanced, natural-looking materials and have a more comfortable fit. There are, however, alternatives to dentures that provide more benefits, details of which will be presented later in this article.
Types of dentures
There are several types of dentures, the use of which will depend on whether or not there are still remaining natural teeth to support them:
- Complete dentures - These are full dentures worn by patients who have lost all of their teeth in either the maxillary (upper) or mandibular (lower) arch or both. They are placed on and supported by the jaw and rest directly on the gum.
- Partial dentures - These are dentures used for patients who have lost a few or several, but not all teeth. Partial dentures are usually anchored to natural teeth, gums or through connective structures that are made out of metal or plastic.
- Immediate dentures - As its name indicates, these are dentures placed immediately after natural teeth have been removed. These are used when damaged teeth have to be removed prior to dentures. It typically takes a few months for the gums and jaw to heal and for a custom-fit denture to be made. With immediate dentures, patients can continue to lead a normal life in the next few months while awaiting their denture.
- Implant-retained dentures - These are dentures that make use of titanium material abutments attached into the jawbone. Implant-retained dentures are more stable than conventional types but are still relatively inexpensive compared to implant restorations.
Dentures are also classified depending on the type of material they are made from. Dentures can be made from metal, plastic, acrylic, porcelain or ceramic or a combination of these materials.
Disadvantages of dentures and some alternatives
Despite all the aforementioned benefits of dentures, this affordable solution for teeth restoration does have some disadvantages. Among common reported drawbacks of dentures are as follows:
- Imperfect fit and discomfort especially for first-time users
- Susceptibility to periodic irritation and oral sores caused by clenching, chewing, or by food particles stuck in between the gums and dentures
- Difficulty in chewing or eating certain foods such as crunchy or sticky food
- Inconvenient maintenance and cleaning; dentures have to be periodically taken out and soaked with cleaning solution
- Some discomfort in speaking or saying certain words, although this goes away as you get used to the dentures
If you want a more comfortable and stable alternative to dentures, you can consider these alternatives:
- Dental Implants - With implants, prosthetic teeth are surgically attached to the bone matter and jaw. Unlike dentures, implants are permanent and fully integrate with the underlying bones, just like natural teeth.
- Dental Bridges - A bridge consists of one to three prosthetic teeth anchored to adjacent natural teeth through metal and plastic connectors.
Although they are significantly more expensive than dentures, these alternatives can offer better comfort and fit, more permanent and guarantees a more natural-looking appearance. There are also other restoration solutions such as implant-supported dentures that offer more advantages than conventional dentures but at a lower cost compared to dental implants. Consult your dentist for the best restorative option available that best suits your needs and budget.
When to get dentures and who to see
Loss of teeth is something that all individuals go through, some people go through them ahead of others. If you experience any loss of permanent tooth, it is best that you see your dentist immediately for proper advice and treatment solution. This is especially true if tooth loss leads to impairment in your emotional and social well-being. More importantly, when left untreated, loss of even just one tooth can lead to drastic changes in your teeth's overall appearance and your oral bite. A general dentist can give adequate advice on tooth restoration, and may refer you to a specialist such as an orthodontist or an endodontist, depending on the severity of your case.
The process of getting dentures
Dentures are custom-fabricated. After determining that your teeth and gums are in good health, the dentist will take an impression of your teeth with the use of a dental putty or through digital machines. A wax model is then created based on the impression to determine the fit and appearance of the dentures to be fabricated. Modifications and adjustments are made on the model prosthetics before the actual dentures are made. After finalizing the model, the final dentures are then fabricated and fitted into the mouth. Final adjustments are made when necessary.
Taking care of dentures
Once the dentures are in place, patients are highly encouraged to properly care for the teeth and gums. Just like natural teeth, the dentures, as well as the gums and tongue have to be brushed twice daily. Regular flossing is also required to remove debris buildup in between teeth. Although false teeth are not susceptible to decay, plaque buildup can still cause gum problems and bad breath. Over a period of time, dentures may need to be relined, rebased or remade due to normal wear. Dental visits every six months are also a must so that your dentist can regularly monitor the fit of the dentures and check for signs of dental problems.
American Dental Association. “Dentures” Available: http://www.ada.org/en/Home-MouthHealthy/az-topics/d/Dentures
Colgate Oral and Health Resource Center. “What are Dentures” Available: http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Checkups-and-Dental-Procedures/Dentures-and-Dental-Implants/article/What-are-Dentures.cvsp