Dentures are the removable false teeth that are used to replace teeth that have been lost due to tooth decay or injury amongst other causes. Dentures are created to fit snugly with the shape and size of the wearer's jaws and sit across the gums to replace the missing teeth.
Why are dentures necessary?
Most people need dentures because they have lost their teeth to decay or injury and have experienced difficulty with eating, chewing or even speaking as a result. In some patients, the entire set of teeth lining both the upper and lower jaws may be removed and replaced by a full set of dentures.
Sometimes people opt for dentures to address cosmetic issues that may be causing low self-esteem. Examples include dentures for the correction of an unsightly smile or to fill out face shape that has been lost.
Types of dentures
Dentures are available as full sets for replacing the entire set of upper or lower teeth and as partial dentures, which can be used to replace just one or a few missing teeth.
Fitting the dentures
Dentures are usually fitted by a dentist or a qualified clinical dental technician. Measurements are taken using impressions (moulds) of the mouth that are used to create the dentures. Dentures are fitted as soon as the teeth are removed in order to minimize the time without teeth. If there is gum inflammation or injury, dentures may be fitted once this has been resolved.
Sometimes a trial denture will be created from the initial moulds taken from the jaws, allowing a patient to gauge whether the dentures are a comfortable fit before the final denture is created. The colour and shape may be adjusted in the final denture set.
Partial dentures are usually made of plastic or metal plates with false teeth attached that can be clipped onto the adjoining existing teeth with metal clips that can hold it firmly in place.
Initially, dentures may feel very foreign to the mouth and may even cause drooling or excessive salivation. With time, the mouth adjusts to the dentures. Poorly fitted or worn dentures may lead to difficulty in eating and speaking and mouth sores.
Dentures are supposed to be removed before sleeping and soaked in water inside a container. Removal of the dentures at night allows the gums to rest and also prevents the risk of accidentally choking on the dentures (most commonly occurs with partial dentures).
After removal, dentures should be cleaned meticulously to remove plaque. Plaque is a colourless film containing bacteria that forms across the teeth causing damage and decay. Unclean dentures may lead to bad breath, fungal infections of the mouth and gum disease. Dentures should be brushed with toothpaste to remove food particles and then soaked in a fizzy denture-cleaning solution to remove bacteria and stains.
Dental hygiene is important even in those wearing dentures. Any remaining teeth should be brushed with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste to keep the gums and tongue clean and prevent gum disease, tooth decay and other problems.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc