dental instruments and oral health

What are Dentures?

Dentures (false teeth) are defined as artificial substitutes for missing natural teeth and surrounding tissues in a permanent dentition (set of teeth). Depending on your needs, they come in removable and fixed forms, including:

  • Complete
  • Fixed Partial
  • Removable Partial
  • Implant-Retained
  • Immediate

When an individual loses all or some of their natural teeth from tooth decay, gum disease, or an injury, replacement teeth help reduce the risk of developing other oral health conditions.

When teeth are missing, facial muscles sag over time. So, dentures are designed to help fill out your facial profile and improve appearance. In addition, they make it easier to eat, chew, and speak regularly.

Which Dental Specialists Provide Dentures?

General Dentists

General dentists primarily make false teeth. They also offer preventive and restorative services, such as x-rays, teeth cleanings, cavity fillings, and sealants. Unlike specialists, who focus on one specific area of dentistry, general dentists offer a wide range of treatment and procedures for people of all ages.

Prosthodontists

Prosthodontists are also providers of false teeth. They specialize in all types of tooth replacement and rehabilitation dental treatments.

Causes

The leading cause for getting dentures is from the loss of natural, permanent teeth. In particular, you may lose teeth due to:

Candidates

Men and women with significant tooth loss are candidates for dentures. False teeth are not dependent on age, but more so on the condition of teeth. It is also important for a patient to have enough jawbone structure and healthy gum tissue remaining. This is because false teeth need a sufficient amount of support from natural tissue to remain in place for a long period of time.

19 percent of women over 40 have dentures.”

Seniors (65+) are the most common age group that have false teeth. Needing dentures over age 40 is also fairly common, especially in women. Men and women below 40 are also at risk of tooth loss, but cases are rare.

There are 32 teeth in a permanent dentition, including wisdom teeth, which dentists typically remove. According to The National Institute of Health, the average number of teeth people retain between 21 to 65+ years of age are as follows:

graphs showing the different amount of teeth left for dentures

27.5 percent of seniors over 65 have no remaining teeth.”

Depending on the severity of tooth loss, a dentist will recommend the best option available:

  • Complete (Full) Dentures — recommended for patients with all teeth missing.
  • Partial Removable Dentures — recommended for patients missing some teeth and who prefer to remove them freely.
  • Partial Fixed Dentures — recommended for patients missing some teeth and who prefer permanent artificial teeth.
  • Implant Retained Dentures — recommended for patients with the need for added retention due to bone loss and who prefer stable artificial teeth. Implant-retained teeth provide an anchorage for the teeth to connect to when in the mouth. You must remove them for cleaning.
  • Immediate (Same Day) Dentures — recommended for patients who want their teeth extracted and false teeth installed the same day.

Care

Properly taking care of your false teeth ensures the long-term health of the gums, jaw bone, and artificial teeth. Dental plaque buildup on false teeth can lead to bone loss, bad breath, and stomatitis (inflammation of the soft tissue lining inside of the mouth). Another risk factor of uncleaned false teeth is a fungal infection called “thrush.” Care practices include:

  • At night, brush them gently to remove plaque using a soft denture brush. While brushing, removable artificial teeth should be held over the sink with a small washcloth covering the basin. This washcloth acts as a cushion if they drop. It is very common for false teeth to break if dropped into the sink, on the counter, or on the floor.
  • Soak them in a commercial denture-cleansing liquid overnight.
  • In the morning, brush them again and wear them throughout the day. You should brush the surface of residual ridges gently to reduce tissue inflammation and remove plaque.
  • They can be soaked in white vinegar diluted with water overnight to remove calculus or to prevent the formation of calculus. Full strength vinegar is acidic and can damage the surface of the teeth, causing acid erosion.

Types of Dentures

Complete Dentures

Complete dentures (CD) are removable replacements for a patient’s entire set of teeth (dentition). They are completely customized and restore the aesthetics of natural teeth. CD’s also improve mastication, which means the patient can crush, grind, and eat food normally again. If a patient’s chewing functions were normal before denture placement, the functions will be much less than with natural teeth or implants. The lack of anchorage in the bone means that the patient is not able to produce as much chewing force. However, if a patient has severe gum disease with loose teeth, severe tooth decay, or broken and/or painful teeth, then false teeth would provide a better chewing force.

Many patients also experience speech impediments, such as lisping, with false teeth because of the thickness of the material covering the palate (which is necessary and cannot be thinned). Some people adapt to it over time, but others do not and cannot speak properly with dentures.

Complete dentures are the last consideration for a patient after all other tooth restoration options are deemed ineffective. false teeth do not prevent bone shrinkage, and sometimes, poorly fitting teeth can contribute to it. After tooth loss, only a dental implant will preserve the bone and prevent its shrinkage.

Complete denture candidates include:

  • Elderly Patients — a “complete edentulous situation” (lack of teeth) is most common in elderly people (65+). This is because tooth loss relates to age, especially geriatric patients (those with diseases and problems due to old age).
  • Younger Patients — in rare cases, young patients may also be candidates for CD’s if they lost all teeth due to an injury or from severe tooth decay.
Fixed Partial Dentures

Fixed partial dentures (FPD) refer to dental bridges that use natural teeth as abutments. The abutments refer to the surrounding teeth that serve as the main support for the dental prosthesis. FPD is technically the correct term for replacing a few missing teeth in a row with two dental implants. However, they are usually called “implant-supported bridges.” Unlike complete and removable partial false teeth, FPD’s cannot be removable. Fixed dentures restore one or more consecutive missing teeth when strong natural teeth are present on both sides of the missing ones. Although, a fixed denture that replaces an entire set of teeth is called a “fixed hybrid prosthesis.”

Advantages of fixed partial dentures over removable teeth:

  • Aesthetics
  • Patients typically feel more secure with fixed (permanent) dentures
  • Stronger than removable false teeth
  • Consistent tooth positioning and occlusal functioning (proper bite)
  • Longer preservation of the oral structure

Disadvantages:

  • Irreversible replacement of surrounding teeth (abutments)
  • Abutments are more at risk of decay
  • Risk of injuries to the periodontium and dental pulp
  • Replacement cost is higher than removable dentures
Removable Partial Dentures

Unlike complete dentures that replace all teeth, removable partial dentures (RPD) replace some teeth in a patient’s permanent dentition (set of teeth). In addition, an RPD consists of replacement teeth attached to a gum-colored plastic base. They are built onto a cast metal framework for strength. They also restore oral function to its natural look, feel, and mastication.

RPD’s can be removed at-will and replaced easily. They are most commonly recommended for patients who cannot get a bridge (fixed partial denture). There are two types of RPD’s, including:

  • Cast Partial Dentures — cast partial dentures are made of tissue colored acrylic (gums), replacement teeth, and a metal framework that holds all of the materials together. Dentists recommend these dentures when one or more natural teeth remain in the lower or upper jaw.
  • Acrylic Partial Dentures — acrylic partial dentures, also known as “flippers,” are made of acrylic resin and mimic the look and function of natural teeth. They come with or without clasps of wrought wire. Acrylic false teeth are temporary because a patient’s gums entirely support the teeth. Long-term use can lead to gingival recession.
Implant-Retained Dentures

Implant-retained dentures do not permanently attach to the implants. They click into place, latching on to the locator abutments and provides increased stability and improved chewing function over traditional dentures. You must remove these false teeth nightly for cleaning and tissue rest. Although, implant dentures support more than one tooth and, often times, an entire set of teeth. They last a long time and provide a functioning set of natural-looking teeth with more comfortability and better natural biting and chewing surfaces.

Types of implant retained dentures include:

  • Ball Attachment or Locator-Attached — an implant-retained option that replaces permanent lower teeth.
  • Bar Attachment — a bar-shaped implant that supports a full set of false teeth in the lower jaw.
Immediate Dentures

In traditional dentures, After all of a patient’s teeth are extracted, they must wait at least 6 to 8 weeks before false teeth are placed. This gives the extraction sites and jaw bone enough time to heal. Before making a conventional complete denture, patients often turn to removable immediate dentures, which can be used directly after the natural teeth are extracted. Although, immediate dentures are more challenging than conventional false teeth because they are not molded specifically to a patient’s gums.

Types of immediate dentures include:

  • Conventional Immediate Dentures — removable artificial teeth that are created for immediate use after natural tooth/teeth extractions. They are also made from the same materials as conventional or traditional dentures. They often require a reline to improve the fit after the gums and underlying jawbone have fully healed.
  • Interim Immediate Dentures — removable artificial teeth designed to improve aesthetics and facial appearance. They also improve oral function for a short period of time before the placement of definitive false teeth. However, interim false teeth usually consist of flimsier material, as they are to be used only on a temporary basis.

Cost & Insurance Coverage

Most full dental insurance policies cover up to 50% of the cost of dentures. According to Carefree Dental, the cost depends on the chosen type and individual insurance coverage policies:

Complete Dentures
$1275-$2750 (upper or lower, not both)
Complete Immediate Dentures
$1475-$3150 (upper or lower, not both)
Partial Removable Dentures
$650-$2500 (upper or lower, not both)
Implant-Retained Dentures
$1500-$4000 (upper or lower, not both)