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When we think of dentures, we often picture grandma’s false teeth in a glass of water sitting on her bedside table.  Grandma has taken her dentures out to sleep so you can see she has no teeth at all and a very gummy smile.  These types of dentures are called full dentures and are needed when there are no teeth left in the mouth.  They are usually made of plastic teeth in a plastic base and fit over the gum and bone in the mouth which were originally housing the real teeth.

A denture may also be used when only one or some teeth are missing and the patient still has some of their own teeth.  In this case, a denture replaces a tooth with a plastic one attached to a metal or plastic framework.  The framework wraps around the remaining teeth and surrounding soft tissues.  It usually has clips or clasps attached to other teeth to help hold the denture in place.  These are commonly known as partial dentures or plates.

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Look At That Coverage

Dentures are a lower cost means of replacing missing teeth, but need the most getting used to because it covers a lot of the mouth that would not otherwise be covered.  A denture has the greatest impact on comfort, speech and eating until the patient adapts to it.  It is not fixed in place and needs to be removed for cleaning and to give the tissues that it covers time to rest and recover.  It can be used as a permanent long term option, but is commonly used as an interim option until a bridge or an implant is made.

Dentures replacing the top teeth tend to be easier on the patient.  There is a large area of tissue for the denture to sit on, including the hard palate.  The shape of the palate can help create suction with the denture which helps hold an upper denture in place.  Dentures replacing the bottom teeth are generally harder to get used.  The tongue rests against the lower teeth and may push against and dislodge a lower denture.  Unlike the upper jaw, there is less stable tissue in the lower jaw that can help retain a denture in position.  For this reason, a lower denture may be loose and uncomfortable to wear.

Is It That Time Already?

Although traditional dentures have been superceded by bridges and dental implants, they are still useful in certain cases.  Dentures can be advantageous for the following reasons:

  • Cost-effective option
  • 1 denture can replace many teeth
  • Option to be supported by implants
  • Can be used as interim option until bridge or implant
  • Removable for easier cleaning

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Dental implants can be placed in the jaw bone to retain a denture which may otherwise be loose and uncomfortable.  Several implants can be connected by a bar onto which the denture can sit.  Alternatively, attachments can be placed over the implants which connect with reciprocal attachments in the denture.

Sometimes a denture is needed to replace a front teeth that needs to be removed.  So there is no time without a front tooth, a denture can be made before the tooth is extracted.  The denture can be used to cover the extraction site and guide tissue healing.  There is some inaccuracy with this technique, however, as it cannot be fully predicted exactly how the tissue covered by the denture will heal.  This type of denture is called an immediate denture and may require relining to compensate for this inaccuracy.  Relining a denture involves giving the denture a new inner surface so it better adapts to the underlying gum and bone.  This can only be done a limited number of times before the denture needs to be remade.