Dentures (false teeth) are synthetic replacements for missing natural teeth. Some dentures are designed to replace a few missing teeth. Other types of dentures replace all of your teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues.
Tooth decay, gum disease, and facial injuries can lead to tooth loss. Depending on how many teeth are lost, dentures may be necessary.
When teeth are missing, facial muscles can sag over time. Dentures are designed to help fill out your facial profile and improve your appearance. They also make it easier to eat, chew, and speak regularly.
Common types of dentures include:
After you are fitted for dentures, it will take the dental lab a few weeks to make them. You will also have to set up a few different appointments with your dentist or prosthodontist (a teeth replacement specialist).
In general, the denture fabrication process consists of 10 steps:
Two types of dentists offer dentures:
General dentists make dentures. 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 treatments for people of all ages.
Prosthodontists are the main providers of dentures. They specialize in many different tooth replacement procedures.
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Tooth loss is the main reason people get dentures. There are a few primary causes of tooth loss, including:
You are also at a higher risk for tooth loss if:
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 the patient's teeth.
It is also important for a patient to have enough jawbone structure and healthy gum tissue remaining. False teeth need a sufficient amount of support from natural tissue to remain in place for a long period of time.
The most common age group that has false teeth are people over 65 years of age. Needing dentures over age 40 is also fairly common, especially in women.
Nineteen percent of women over 40 are denture wearers. Twenty-seven percent of seniors over 65 have no remaining teeth.
There are many different types of dentures available. The type of denture that is best for you depends on your oral health status and lifestyle. The most common types of false teeth include:
Complete dentures, also known as full dentures, are removable replacements for a patient’s entire set of teeth. They are completely customized and restore the shape and look of natural teeth.
Conventional dentures also improve mastication, which means you can crush, grind, and eat food normally again.
If your 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 you are not able to produce as much chewing force.
Many patients also develop speech impediments, such as a lisp, with complete dentures. This is due to the thickness of the material covering the palate (which is necessary and cannot be thinned). Some people adapt to it over time, while others do not.
Complete dentures are the last option after all other tooth restorations are deemed ineffective. False teeth do not prevent bone shrinkage, and sometimes, poorly fitting teeth can contribute to it. Only a dental implant will preserve the bone and prevent it from shrinking after tooth loss.
Candidates for complete dentures include:
Fixed partial dentures (FPD), also called implant-supported bridges, use existing teeth as abutments. Abutments refer to the surrounding teeth that serve as the main support for the denture.
FPD's replace a few missing teeth in a row with two dental implants.
Unlike complete and removable partial false teeth, implant-supported bridges are not removable. These permanent dentures restore one or more missing teeth in a row when strong natural teeth are present on both sides of the missing ones.
Advantages of fixed partial dentures:
Disadvantages of fixed partial dentures:
Unlike complete dentures that replace all teeth, removable partial dentures (RPD) only replace some missing teeth.
An RPD consists of replacement teeth attached to a gum-colored plastic base.
Removable partial dentures are built onto a cast metal framework for strength. They restore the natural look, feel, and function of your teeth.
RPD’s can be removed at any time and replaced easily. They are most commonly recommended for patients who cannot get a dental bridge (implant-supported bridge).
There are two types of removable partial dentures available, including:
Implant-retained dentures, also called overdentures, do not permanently attach to dental implants. They click into place and latch onto the abutments (metal posts). Implant dentures support more than one tooth and, oftentimes, an entire set of teeth.
Implant-retained dentures increase stability and improve chewing function better than traditional dentures. However, you must remove them every night for cleaning and tissue rest.
Types of implant retained dentures:
Benefits of implant-retained 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 site and jawbone enough time to heal.
Removable immediate dentures can be used directly after your natural teeth are extracted. Although convenient, immediate dentures are more challenging than traditional dentures because they are not molded specifically to the gums.
Types of immediate dentures include:
Snap-in dentures, also called snap-on dentures, are other names for removable implant-supported overdentures. Snap-on dentures are held in place by dental implants that are screwed into your jawbone. In most cases, two to four implants keep the denture in place. However, up to 10 implants can be inserted.
After the implants are surgically inserted into the bone, you can snap on the implant-supported denture. The overdenture can be removed at any time, but the implants cannot.
Properly taking care of your false teeth ensures your gums, jawbone, and artificial teeth stay healthy long-term.
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 dentures is a fungal infection called oral thrush. To prevent these conditions, it is essential to practice proper denture care.
Most full dental insurance policies cover up to 50 percent of the cost of dentures. According to Carefree Dental, the cost depends on the chosen type and individual insurance coverage policies:
|Complete Dentures||$1,300-$3,000 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Temporary (Immediate) Dentures||$1,500-$3,200 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Partial Removable Dentures||$650-$2,500 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Implant-Retained Dentures (Overdentures)||$1,500-$4,000 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Snap-In Dentures||$1,500-$4,000 (upper or lower, not both)|
Partial dentures cost $650 to $2,500 for an upper or lower denture, not both.
No, Medicare does not cover dentures or other dental devices, such as partial plates. Generally, Medicare does provide dental coverage.
Medicare Advantage plans sold through private insurance companies may provide coverage for dentures and other dental health care.
Dentures are usually made of acrylic, metal, nylon, and/or plastic.
At night, gently brush the dentures with a soft denture brush to remove plaque. Soak them in a commercial denture cleanser liquid overnight.
In the morning, brush them again before you insert them. They can be soaked overnight in white vinegar diluted with water to remove calculus and prevent the formation of calculus.
Full-strength vinegar is acidic and can damage the surface of your teeth, causing acid erosion.
Full mouth dental implants provide a permanent full-arch restoration using four implant placement points. These implants can replace failing or missing teeth, whether in the upper jaw, lower jaw, or both. However, full mouth implants are expensive (ranging up to $25,000 per jaw).
Fixed dentures should be worn throughout the day but taken out at night.
Yes, you can eat with dentures in your mouth. It may be difficult to eat at first. You will get used to them over time.
Dentures can change the way you speak at first. However, you will adjust to them.
Your voice may also sound different (but only to you). This is because the sound travels to your ears through vibrations in the skull and jaw. Dentures increase this sound, but only you will notice the change.
Dentures change the appearance of your smile. If you had many missing teeth, especially in the front, dentures will improve your self-confidence.
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Bilhan, Hakan, et al. Complication Rates and Patient Satisfaction with Removable Dentures. May 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3381202/.
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Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
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