Dentures are a common dental prosthetic used to replace missing teeth. They play an essential role in maintaining facial aesthetics, preventing sagging of the cheeks and jaw that can occur when teeth are missing. Dentures also help restore chewing and biting ability, thus allowing individuals to enjoy a wider range of foods.
Types of Dentures
There are various types of dentures available depending on the patient's needs:
Full Dentures: Also known as complete dentures, these replace all the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw, or both. They consist of a plastic base that is colored to resemble the gums and a complete set of plastic or porcelain teeth. The upper denture covers the roof of the mouth and stays in place through suction, while the lower denture, which is shaped like a horseshoe to accommodate the tongue, is held in place by the natural suction of the mouth and the close fit against the alveolar ridges.
Partial Dentures: These are used when one or more natural teeth remain in the upper or lower jaw. Partial dentures fill in the spaces created by missing teeth and prevent other teeth from changing position. They are attached to the natural teeth with metal clasps or precision attachments and can be removed for cleaning.
Immediate Dentures: These are made in advance and can be positioned as soon as the teeth are removed, meaning the wearer does not have to be without teeth during the healing period. However, bones and gums can shrink over time, especially during the healing period following tooth removal, so they may require adjusting or even replacing.
Overdentures: These are similar to complete dentures but are used when some teeth roots are left in the mouth to preserve the jaw bone and provide stability and support for the denture.
Implant-Supported Dentures: As the name suggests, these are attached to implants in the jawbone that extend outward from the gums. They can be more stable than regular dentures, especially lower dentures.
Snap-In Dentures: These are an advanced type of implant-supported denture that have attachments within the tissue side that snap onto attachments on the implants.
Economy Dentures: These are the most affordable type of denture. They're often generic, use inexpensive materials, and don't fit as comfortably or look as natural as more expensive varieties.
Custom Dentures: These are made specifically for the individual with high-quality materials that fit well and appear natural. However, they're more expensive than economy models.
The process of getting dentures involves several steps, usually over several weeks. Initially, the dentist takes an impression of the patient's jaw, measures the space in the mouth and makes models of the teeth using wax forms. These models are tried out in the patient's mouth several times and adjusted for color, shape, and fit before the final denture is cast.
After the denture is ready, the dentist will make final adjustments for fit and comfort. It's important for patients to return to their dentist for follow-up visits and to report any sore spots or problems with the denture's fit or bite.
Care for Dentures
Like natural teeth, dentures require daily care. They need to be brushed daily to remove food particles and plaque, and to prevent staining. When not being worn, dentures should be placed in water or a denture cleaning solution to prevent them from drying out or losing their shape. Regular check-ups with the dentist are important to ensure a proper fit and to check for signs of oral diseases.
With proper care, dentures provide a functional and aesthetic replacement for lost teeth. Though they may take some getting used to and never feel exactly the same as one's natural teeth, today's dentures are natural-looking and more comfortable than ever.