Dentures are replacements for missing teeth that can be taken out and put back into your mouth. While dentures take some getting used to, and will never feel exactly the same as your natural teeth, dentures today are more natural looking and comfortable than ever before.
After performing a full assessment of your mouth including x-rays, the dentist will be able to accurately evaluate the bone height, and ridge form and shape to allow him or her to give you the best possible fit for your dentures. Dentures are custom-made in a dental laboratory from impressions (molds) taken of your mouth. There may be as many as 5-6 appointments involved before your dentures are completed. These steps help ensure that your dentures will be well fitted, functional and natural looking. It is best to make upper and lower dentures at the same time to ensure they fit together properly.
There are two main types of dentures: complete and partial. With complete dentures, a pink-coloured acrylic base fits over your gums. The base of the upper denture covers the palate (the roof of your mouth), while that of the lower denture is shaped like a horseshoe to accommodate your tongue. A partial denture rests on a metal framework that attaches to your natural teeth. Your natural teeth serve as anchors for the denture. Partial dentures offer a removable alternative to bridges.
New dentures may feel awkward or uncomfortable for the first few weeks or even months. Eating and speaking with dentures might take a little practice. A bulky or loose feeling is not uncommon, while the muscles of your cheeks and tongue learn to hold your dentures in place. Excessive saliva flow, a feeling that the tongue does not have adequate room, and minor irritations or soreness are not unusual. Dentures may require several adjustments before a comfortable fit is achieved.
Even though you no longer have your natural teeth, it is still important to see your dentist annually. It is normal for the tissues in your mouth to change, and as these changes occur your denture may no longer fit properly. An ill-fitting denture is a major irritant in the mouth and does not permit proper speaking or chewing. The dentist needs to examine you annually in order to evaluate the fit and condition of your denture. The hard and soft tissues of your mouth will also be checked for early signs of oral cancer or any other abnormalities.
Your jaw bones shrink up to 0.8 mm. each year when teeth are missing. Unfortunately, this is one of the main disadvantages of dentures. Because of this shrinkage, over a period of time, your dentures will need to be relined, and eventually replaced. Dentures are made of plastic which in time wears down; therefore dentures should be replaced every 7-10 years.
Implants can also be used to support complete dentures. Conventional removable dentures attach to the jaw with a suction effect. Over time the jaw-bone may deteriorate causing inadequate support and retention. Consequently the denture will no longer fit properly and will move around. The placement of dental implants provides a stable foundation for the removable denture while helping preserve the jaw-bone. The denture snaps into place over the implants and can easily be removed for cleaning.