Dentures, also known as false teeth, are prosthetic devices constructed to replace missing teeth. They are supported by the surrounding soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Conventional dentures are removable (removable partial denture or complete denture). However, there are many different denture designs, some of which rely on clasping onto teeth or dental implants.
If you have lost teeth, you can consider dentures for a number of reasons:
- To help with chewing food: Chewing ability is improved with dentures
- To help with facial aesthetics: The presence of teeth gives a natural appearance to the face; wearing a denture to replace missing teeth provides support for the lips and cheeks and corrects the collapsed appearance that results from the loss of teeth
- To help with speech: Replacing missing teeth, especially the anteriors, enables patients to speak more clearly
- To help with self-esteem: Improved looks and speech boost confidence in the ability to interact socially
Bridges and implants are the most common alternatives to dentures.
In most cases, dental implants will be preferable to dentures for replacing missing teeth because they provide better chewing force, and can prevent bone loss in the jaw.
Bridges can only be used as a replacement for dentures if there are enough healthy teeth in the surrounding area to anchor the missing tooth. If most of the original tooth structure is lost, a bridge can only be used if some of the missing teeth are replaced with dental implants, which can then serve as support for the bridge.
When you have been fitted with a new denture, there is a period of adjustment when it is especially important to visit your dentist so that he or she may make minor modifications until your denture fits comfortably. It is natural for the bone and tissue beneath the denture to change over time, so periodic adjustments and relining are important for continued good fit and to protect the health of the underlying bone and tissue. Implants used to support dentures need to be inspected yearly by x-ray, and attachments to implants need to be cleaned periodically.
Plaque will form on your dentures and attachments to implants that support the dentures and food can get trapped between the dentures and your gum tissue. After each meal, remove your dentures and, using a soft toothbrush, brush the implant attachment, your gums, your tongue, and all sides of the denture. Take your denture out at night and be sure to store it in a denture bath filled with denture cleaner or water.
Dentures are fragile and can break if dropped. It is a good idea to clean your dentures over a sink filled with water. Denture adhesive may be used to assist in the retention of your denture, but should not be used with a poorly fitting denture. Poorly fitting dentures should be relined or replaced.