Types of Dentures & Causes for Treatment

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What are Dentures?

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:

  • Complete (full) dentures are for patients who are missing all of their teeth.
  • Partial removable dentures are for patients who have some missing teeth or those who prefer a removable option.
  • Partial fixed dentures are for patients missing some teeth and those who prefer a non-removable option.
  • Implant retained dentures are for patients who need added retention due to bone loss. Implant dentures provide an anchorage for the teeth to connect to when they are in the mouth. However, they must be removed for cleaning.
  • Immediate (same day) dentures are for patients who want their teeth extracted and dentures installed the same day.

How are Dentures Made?

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:

  1. Your dentist will take impressions and measurements of your jaw/teeth.
  2. A plaster model of your mouth is created using the impressions.
  3. The model is placed on an articulator (a mechanical device that represents your jaw). This allows the technician to attach the teeth with wax.
  4. After placing the fake teeth, the denture technician will carve and shape the wax to create realistic gum tissue.
  5. Then the dentures are placed in a flask (holding device). More plaster is poured onto the denture to maintain its shape.
  6. The flask is placed in boiling water, which rinses away any leftover wax.
  7. The technician injects acrylic into the flask to replace the wax. To ensure the acrylic doesn't stick, they will apply a liquid separator onto the plaster.
  8. The plaster mold is carefully broken off of the denture and any remaining plaster is removed.
  9. The technician will then trim any excess acrylic and polish it.
  10. The dentures are sent back to your dentist, where you will set up an appointment for a fitting. Any adjustments are made (if necessary).

Who Makes & Fits Dentures?

Two types of dentists offer dentures:

General Dentists

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

Prosthodontists are the main providers of dentures. They specialize in many different tooth replacement procedures.


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Causes of Tooth Loss

Tooth loss is the main reason people get dentures. There are a few primary causes of tooth loss, including:

  • Periodontal disease (most common)
  • Tooth extraction
  • Natural aging
  • Poor oral care
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Facial or jaw injury

You are also at a higher risk for tooth loss if:

  • You are older than 35
  • You are male
  • You smoke or use tobacco products
  • You have rheumatoid arthritis
  • You have diabetes or high blood pressure
  • You neglect professional teeth cleanings and exams (every six months)
  • You neglect at-home dental care (brushing twice a day, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash)

Who is a Candidate for Dentures?

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.

Types of Dentures

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

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.

complete set of dentures on white background

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:

  • 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 complete dentures. This is only the case if they lost all of their teeth due to an injury or severe tooth decay.

Fixed Partial Dentures (Implant-Supported Bridge)

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.

jaw and implants with dental bridge

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:

  • Improved aesthetics
  • Patients typically feel more secure with fixed (permanent) dentures
  • Stronger than removable false teeth
  • Consistent tooth positioning and better bite
  • Longer protection of the oral structure

Disadvantages of fixed partial dentures:

  • 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) only replace some missing teeth.

An RPD consists of replacement teeth attached to a gum-colored plastic base.

removable partial denture lower jaw

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:

  • 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 (Overdentures)

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:

  • 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.

Benefits of implant-retained dentures:

  • They last a long time
    They provide a functioning set of natural-looking teeth with more comfortability
  • They provide better natural biting and chewing surfaces

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 site and jawbone enough time to heal.

removable full denture lower jaw

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:

  • Conventional immediate dentures — removable artificial teeth that are created for immediate use after natural tooth extractions. They are also made from the same materials as conventional or traditional dentures.
  • 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 because they are only used temporarily.

Snap-In Dentures

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.

How to Clean & Care for Your Dentures

  • At night, gently brush the dentures with a soft denture brush to remove plaque. While brushing, removable dentures should be held over the sink with a small washcloth. This washcloth acts as a cushion if they drop. It is 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.
  • They can be soaked overnight in white vinegar diluted with water 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.

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.

Cost of Dentures & Insurance Coverage

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)

Dentures: Questions & Answers

How much are partial dentures?

Partial dentures cost $650 to $2,500 for an upper or lower denture, not both.

Does Medicare cover dentures?

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.

Does Medicaid cover dentures?

Medicaid coverage varies by state. This document detailing Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits from the Center for Health Care Strategies Inc. provides an overview.

Contact your state's Medicaid department for more information.

What are dentures made of?

Dentures are usually made of acrylic, metal, nylon, and/or plastic.

How do you clean dentures?

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.

Are there any alternatives to dentures?

There are two alternatives to dentures, including dental bridges and dental implants.

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).

Are dentures worn all day?

Fixed dentures should be worn throughout the day but taken out at night.

Can you eat with dentures?

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.

Do dentures change the way you speak?

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.

Do dentures change the way you look?

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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Resources

Bilhan, Hakan, et al. Complication Rates and Patient Satisfaction with Removable Dentures. May 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3381202/.

“Complete Denture.” Complete Denture - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/complete-denture.

Devlin, Hugh. Complete Dentures: a Clinical Manual for the General Dental Practitioner. Springer, 2012.

Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.

Rangarajan, V., and T. V. Padmanabhan. Textbook of Prosthodontics- E-Book. Elsevier India, 2017.

Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.

“Tooth Loss in Seniors.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/tooth-loss/seniors.

“Upper Denture Savings.” Carefree Dental, www.carefreedental.com/procedures/complete-upper-denture.

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