Everything That You Ever Wanted To Know About Dentures

How much do dentures cost? Can dentures be worn all day? Is it easy to keep dentures clean? This guide to dentures will tell you everything you need to know.

Everything you need to know about dentures

Image from Kathy McGraw on Flickr. 

There was a time when dentures were thought of as a last resort, as a kind of failure option designed for people who could not take proper care of their own teeth. They were rough, ill fitting, uncomfortable to wear, and did nothing for the appearance. Luckily, things have changed quite dramatically over the last thirty years. Now, dentures are pretty much indistinguishable from natural teeth when worn correctly.

This all down to the continued evolution of dentistry and dental treatments. The quality of modern dentures is improving all the time and it is no longer a daily annoyance to have to deal with them. As there are many different reasons why a person might need replacement teeth, this is great news for patients. The use of dentures is most prevalent among the elderly, as a lifetime of wear and tear can easily lead to teeth becoming too damaged to keep.

However, this is never a guaranteed outcome. If a person takes exceptionally good care of their teeth, there is every chance that their natural ones will last them all of their life. This means careful brushing and flossing (twice a day), eating a healthy diet, and attending regular dental check-ups and appointments. Nevertheless, many of us do end up needing dentures when we get old. If your dentist has recommended this course of action, it is important to be informed and know exactly what it involves.

This comprehensive guide to dentures will tell you everything that you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

What Are Dentures?

Essentially, a denture is just a type of replacement for natural teeth. It is different from other kinds of replacement or repair, because it is not permanently attached to the natural teeth or jawbone. This is because dentures are primarily designed to replace lots of teeth, all at one time. As the only way to replace a lost tooth is to use some form of anchor (usually the natural teeth), if multiple teeth on the same row are missing, dentures are the only viable solution.

This is why they are fitted in mouths that are missing all or most of the natural teeth. The two basic options for dentures then are complete and partial. A complete set of dentures is worn for most of the day, as a replacement for natural teeth, but taken out for cleaning at night. The partial denture works in the same way, but it is clipped on to the remaining natural teeth. Both options are very common and come with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Why Might I Need Dentures?

Well, you are likely to be prescribed dentures if you are missing multiple teeth on both rows. Where there are wide gaps of three or more missing teeth, there is not enough of an anchor to be able to replace them with crowns or fillings. So, dentures is usually the only viable option. The choice of full or partial dentures will depend entirely on how many teeth are missing and where the gaps are located in your mouth.

If you are an older person, years of wear and tear may have caused your natural teeth to deteriorate. Replacing them with dentures can be a way to alleviate pain, eradicate persistent root infections, and just generally live an easier life as far as dental health goes. However, modern dentists are trained to do everything possible to save natural teeth, so dentures will only be proposed as a final resort. This means that, if they are recommended, they are usually the only suitable option left.

Fortunately, dentures have come on leaps and bounds over the years. They are extremely sophisticated these days and, when worn properly, cannot be distinguished from natural teeth. They can be used to eat and chew anything that regular teeth can and caring for dentures gets easier all the time. You should not look at this option as something to be feared. For older people especially, it can end up significantly improving quality of life.

Do I Need Partial or Complete Dentures?

If almost all of the natural teeth are missing, it is common for a dentist to recommend the removal of the remaining ones (but only if they are few). This makes sense if there are only, say, three or four teeth left in the whole mouth. It is possible to design dentures that accommodate the natural teeth, but this costs more, and in such short supply, natural teeth do not really benefit the mouth.

So, it can be a better option to remove the few remaining teeth and fit the patient with a complete set of dentures. In order to do this, the specialist first needs to take a cast of the mouth. Once measurements are taken, a ‘conventional’ set of dentures is prescribed. They are designed to be a temporary solution, while the gum tissue and jawbone recover from any dental extractions.

This is important for patients who have had teeth pulled, in order to fit dentures, because the mouth is a different size and shape immediately after treatment. It is necessary to give it some time to heal and wait for the swelling to subside before fitting a permanent set of dentures. Generally speaking, permanent dentures are added around twelve weeks after extractions. In the interim, the patient can use the conventional set.  

On the other hand, a partial denture works in much the same way as a complete one, only it does not replace all of the natural teeth. Instead, the missing teeth are filled with artificial ones attached to a flexible plastic frame. For some patients, a partial denture is fixed and constant (and is not removed at night like complete dentures). For others, it is removed and routinely cleaned in the same way. If you have been advised to consider dentures, it is a good idea to ask your dentist for more advice on which option is most suitable.

How Are Dentures Created?

The exact method of manufacturing will depend on your requirements, since each patient presents a unique set of challenges. However, the process always involves building up a comprehensive picture of your mouth. The dentist will take a number of different measurements, so that the dentures can be designed to fit your precise specifications. It is very important for dentures to fit well, because they are worn for long periods.

It may take some time for a final set of dentures to be made. It could be necessary for your dentist to try two or three different casts, in order to find the best fit. You will need to be patient throughout this process, because your specialist is only trying to provide you with the finest quality dentures. It will also take some time to get used to the feel of new dentures in your mouth, so patience is really key to success.

How Do Dentures Stay Firm in the Mouth?

It is a common misconception to think that all dentures need adhesive to stay in place. In actual fact, requiring extra support from a glue like product can be an indication that dentures need to be updated. In ordinary circumstances, where dentures are well fitting and worn correctly, natural suction should be enough to hold them firm. You should only use adhesive if your dentist has recommended or approved it.

The likelihood of needing a ‘glue’ for dentures increases with age and use. So, the longer that you wear them, the more your gums will naturally recede, and the higher the chance of needing an adhesive in the future. Then again, most dentists prefer to simply remove and update dentures. They replace an old set with dentures that fit better and, once again, no adhesive is needed to hold them firmly in place.

For the first few weeks of wearing dentures, your mouth will feel a little strange. This is perfectly normal; your gums need to get used to the new addition. Talking, chewing, and swallowing will feel a little awkward at first, but you will soon get used to it. If there is any pain, tightness, or tenderness, it is best to consult with your dental specialist. The dentures should not feel uncomfortable to wear, even for long periods of time.

Will It Be Difficult to Eat with New Dentures?

For a few weeks, eating with new dentures will simply feel a little strange. You may need to have an awareness of your mouth and chewing actions that you did not have before. But this strangeness will subside once you are familiar with the dental replacements. It is important to chew on both sides of the mouth, so that you become equally familiar with both sides of the dentures. For the most part, you should be able to eat the same things that you once did.

The exceptions are very hard and very sticky foods. For example, you may have to sacrifice things like hard toffees and candies, unless you are prepared to suck and not chew on them. Where possible, avoid chewing gum because it will pull at the dentures and may result in them coming loose at inconvenient times.  

How Long Can I Wear Dentures For?

Generally, dentures are only worn during the daytime. They are usually removed and left to rest in a cleaning solution overnight. This not only keeps them disinfected and free from bacteria, it also gives the mouth enough time to carry out its own maintenance processes. For example, while we sleep, gum tissue is allowed to rest and the tongue and saliva work to clear the mouth of debris and dirt. Even if you wear dentures, this recovery period is important for the maintenance of good oral health.

Your dentist will be able to advise you on exactly how long you need to wear your dentures for and how long you need to rest them. It is common for patients to be advised to wear brand new dentures overnight too. This is because prolonged wear gives specialists the clearest indication of which parts of the denture need adjusting. If you wear a new set of dentures overnight and a part of your mouth is tender in the morning, it probably needs adjusting.

How Am I Supposed to Care for My Dentures?

The good news is that taking care of dentures is surprisingly easy. They do need to be taken out of the mouth at night, but they can simply be left to rest in a glass of cold water. The majority of wearers prefer to add a mild cleaning solution while the dentures are resting. This is not always necessary, but it can be a good way to make sure that the artificial teeth stay clean and in tip top condition.

You need to brush the dentures, as you would normal teeth, but this should be done before you put them back into your mouth. If you have never done this before, it will feel a little odd, but it soon becomes a part of the regular morning and evening routine. It is best to brush dentures over a bowl or a towel, because there is a small chance that they will crack or shatter if dropped from a decent height over a sink.

If you have been wearing dentures for some time and they have developed stubborn stains, even though you clean them thoroughly, you can ask your dentist to give them a deep clean. This should not take long and you will be left with sparkling teeth, even if they are artificial. To keep your gum tissue and tongue healthy, use a soft brush to clean the insides of your mouth twice a day. This will help to improve circulation and eliminate bacteria.

Just because your teeth are artificial, this does not mean that you can get away with avoiding regular dental check-ups and appointments. They are still very important and if you do not see your dentist regularly, the health of your mouth will suffer. As you age, your gums and remaining teeth will change, so the shape of your dentures may need to change too. If you stay in contact with your dental specialist, they will be able to pick up on these developments and respond to them quickly.

How Long Will My Dentures Last?

As dentures are made out of artificial materials and are not usually built on top of existing enamel, they do not really deteriorate with time. In fact, the main reason why dentures need to be changed or replaced is because the mouth has changed. This is a natural part of getting older and dentures do require tweaking if they are to remain comfortable and secure.

If you attend regular check-ups, your dentist will be able to spot the need for a replacement very early on, usually before any kind of tenderness or irritation occurs. Aside from this, dentures are very sturdy and long lasting if they are of a high quality. Listen carefully to all of the advice that your dental specialist gives you and care for your dentures in the right way. If you do this, they will never cause you problems and will allow you to get on with your life.

How Much Are Dentures Likely to Cost?

The cost of your dentures will depend entirely on your needs and the material that they are made from. So, a partial denture usually costs less than a complete set. Then again, the cost of both partial and complete dentures can increase if the number of fitting appointments starts to climb. Ultimately, the more specialist attention that you require, the pricier the dentures will turn out to be.

Unfortunately, this cannot always be controlled. There are some people who require a very brief amount of fitting time and there are others who require several different casts and a number of appointments. Again, it will all depend on your unique needs. You may be able to make meeting the costs easier with a reliable and affordable dental membership plan. If you are concerned in any way about denture costs, discuss payment options with your dentist.  

If you are keen to opt for the highest quality cross linked polymer dentures the costs will be greater. These are more expensive, but they wear slower than standard plastic dentures. Once again, it is best to discuss the options with your dental specialist, because they are the person who knows your teeth and mouth better than anybody. They will be able to advise you on whether or not a premium polymer is worth the extra investment.

If tooth extractions are needed, on top of denture fittings and designs, the cost will go up. Sometimes this is necessary and, other times, extractions are a practical choice, so talk with your dentist about whether you need teeth pulled. You should also ask about the kind of warranty that comes with your dentures, because you do need to be protected in case they become damaged and you need an entirely new set.

The Main Advantages of Wearing Dentures

So, to recap, there are plenty of advantages to wearing dentures. The main benefit is for people who have lost many of their natural teeth. Without the option of dentures, these people are resigned to a lifetime of problems with chewing, swallowing, and speaking. If multiple teeth are missing on one row, the facial tissues can begin to sag and cave inwards. This means that dentures can be a way for people with missing teeth to feel and look normal again.

They can transform lives, especially for those who have consistently struggled with eating and chewing and resigned themselves to such problems. Also, if a person has battled with painful teeth throughout most of their life, it can actually be quite a relief to have bad teeth pulled and replaced with a pain free alternative. And as modern dentures are sturdy, flexible, and easy to maintain, they come with few downsides.

If your dentist has recommended that you try dentures for the first time, do not be afraid to dive in head first. This option may mean that your natural teeth are no longer healthy enough for use, but it also means that a viable alternative has been found. Dentures are extremely common these days and they allow a person to live much as they would with normal teeth. So, there is nothing to fear and nothing to be worried about; your dentist will tell you the same.

The Few Disadvantages of Wearing Dentures

There are not many downsides to wearing dentures, besides no longer having the natural teeth. But this is the cause and not the consequence of dentures, so the option to retain them has usually long passed anyway. On average, patients need their dentures replacing every five years. This is an inevitable consequence of aging and changes within the mouth. For some, it can be quite frustrating to have to keep up with these upgrades.

The cost is the other main disadvantage of dentures. As they are designed to be a constant fixture of daily life (until a replacement is needed), they can be fairly pricey, in the same way that something like spectacles are pricey. The cost reflects the prolonged and heavy duty job that dentures are created to fulfil. Nevertheless, it can still be tricky for low income patients to meet the costs of design and fitting.

For some patients, dentures are never able to fully satisfy as a replacement for teeth. These people constantly worry about the movement of dentures in their mouth and whether or not other people can tell that their teeth are not real. They look at dentures as an annoyance and, as such, they become an annoyance. If you want your dentures to look and feel as natural as possible, you cannot constantly remind yourself that they are fake.

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