What are Dentures?
Dentures (artificial teeth) are synthetic replacements for missing natural teeth. Tooth decay, gum disease, facial injuries, and aging can lead to tooth loss.
Dentures are designed to help fill out your facial profile and improve your appearance. They also make it easier to eat, chew, and speak regularly.
Some dentures replace a few missing teeth. Others replace all teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues.
Dentures cost between $650 and $4,000. Most full dental insurance policies cover up to 50 percent of the cost of dentures.
7 Types of Dentures
There are many different types of dentures available. They come in removable and fixed forms. The best type for you depends on your oral health status and lifestyle.
Complete dentures are also called full dentures. They're replacements for entire sets of teeth.
Most dentists will try to save at least some natural teeth before recommending full dentures. But complete dentures are usually necessary if all other options have been exhausted.
Dentures are made of acrylic resin and are only supported by remaining hard and soft tissues. They are not as stable as natural teeth or implants, which are anchored into the bone.
Many people also develop speech impediments with complete dentures. This is due to the thickness of the material covering the palate and neuromuscular control of the tongue and cheeks with the new prosthesis. The acrylic cannot be thinned significantly, as this will cause fractures over time.
- Restores eating and chewing
- Improves self-esteem and confidence
- Maintains a fuller, more youthful appearance
- Requires maintenance like relines and repairs
- Retention of lower dentures declines over time
- Can slip out of place when speaking or eating
- A lisp may develop
Fixed Partial Dentures (Implant-Supported Bridge)
Fixed partial dentures (FPD) are also called implant-supported bridges. FPDs replace a few missing teeth in a row with two dental implants and a prosthetic tooth or teeth in between. They are permanently glued or screwed into the mouth.
Implant-supported bridges are ideal for patients who have three or more missing teeth in a row. Unlike complete and removable partial false teeth, implant-supported bridges are not removable.
- Improved aesthetics
- Patients typically feel more secure with fixed (permanent) dentures
- Stronger than removable false teeth
- Consistent tooth positioning and better bite
- Requires surgery
- Cost is higher than removable dentures
- More difficult to keep clean (requires special floss)
Removable Partial Dentures
Removable partial dentures (RPD) only replace some missing teeth in your upper or lower jaw. RPDs can be removed at any time and replaced easily. They can restore the natural look, feel, and function of teeth.
They consist of false teeth and a gum-colored base made of acrylic. The base is attached to two or more clasps that hold the denture in place. Clasps are made of either metal or flexible pink plastic and hook onto the adjacent teeth for increased support.
They are commonly recommended for people who aren't good candidates for an implant-supported bridge. This includes people who can't undergo surgery.
- Durable due to the underlying metal framework
- Easily removable for cleaning
- Don't break easily
- Maintain the structural integrity of your mouth (prevent teeth shifting)
- Can only be used to replace some missing teeth
- Prone to plaque buildup if not cleaned properly
- May have some metal clasps that show when smiling
Implant-Retained Dentures (Overdentures)
An overdenture, also called an implant-supported denture, is held in place on top of your gums by dental implants. Most overdentures are held in place with at least four implants, but this is not always the case. Overdentures can also be placed in the upper jaw, lower jaw, or both.
They have more stability and chewing function than conventional dentures. However, you must remove them every night to clean them and allow your gum tissues to rest.
- Stable and robust
- Won't loosen while speaking
- Good chewing ability
- Comfortable, custom fit
- More aesthetically pleasing and natural-looking than traditional dentures
- Invasive surgery
- Increased treatment time
- May require a bone graft or sinus augmentation to support the denture implants
- Attachments can become loose and require tightening
After all of your teeth are extracted, you must wait at least 6 to 8 weeks before traditional dentures are placed. This gives your mouth enough time to heal.
Removable immediate dentures are placed directly after your natural teeth are extracted.
Although convenient, immediate dentures are more challenging because they are not molded to your gums. They also don't look as natural and require more upkeep.
These temporary dentures are ideal for patients who have sensitive gums and teeth. The denture can be worn for a few weeks before placing a permanent denture to provide a smoother transition.
- Provide a temporary solution for eating and talking after getting teeth extracted
- Allow you to have teeth while your mouth is healing, reducing the amount of time you don't have teeth
- Serves as a bandaid to help extraction sites heal, minimizing swelling and bleeding
- Not a long-term solution
- Not as natural looking as permanent dentures
- Prone to breakage and bacteria buildup
- Requires multiple adjustments and, eventually, reline or replacement
All-On-4 Implant Dentures
All-On-4 implant dentures are ideal for patients who need a complete set of dentures. They replace all missing teeth in the upper and/or lower jaws using four dental implants. You cannot remove the denture yourself, but your dentist can.
- More durable than traditional complete dentures
- More natural-looking than implant-supported dentures
- Dentists can place temporary prostheses on the same day as the implant procedure
- Dentists are the only ones who can remove them
- Requires diet restrictions during the first three months until the final prosthesis is placed
- More expensive than traditional dentures
Dentists do not recommend economy dentures because they can harm your mouth and lead to poor oral hygiene.
Economy dentures are premade, generic, and inexpensive. They’re not custom-made for your mouth. A denture adhesive is also necessary to keep the dentures in place.
- More affordable than other types of dentures
- Easily accessible
- Unnatural looking
- Less secure due to needing denture adhesive
- Can cause more harm to your oral health
How are Dentures Made?
Dentures can be made from materials such as acrylics, porcelain, and plastic. The material used is chosen based on the patient’s needs and preferences.
Here's how dentures are made:
- A mold is created by taking an impression of your jaw and mouth. Your dentist will usually use wax or plastic to do this.
- The impressions are sent to a lab, where they will be placed in an articulator. The articulator allows the technician to simulate and attach the teeth with wax.
- A technician files down the wax to mimic your gums and fit the impressions.
- The dentures are placed in a 2-part mold called a flask. Plaster is poured into the flask to maintain the denture's shape.
- Acrylic resin is injected into the flask to replace the wax and is left to cure.
- The technician removes plaster mold using special lab tools. Any remaining acrylic and plaster are removed from the dentures.
- The dentures are cleaned and then polished using pumice.
- After polishing, the dentures are ready. Your dentist will call you for a final fitting.
Why Do People Get Dentures?
Tooth loss is the main reason people get dentures. There are a few primary causes of tooth loss, including:
- Periodontal disease (most common)
- Poor oral care
- Tooth extraction
- Severe tooth decay
- Facial or jaw injury
- Certain genetic diseases
You are also at a higher risk for tooth loss if you:
- Are older than 35
- Are male
- Smoke or use tobacco products
- Have rheumatoid arthritis
- Have diabetes or heart problems
- Neglect professional teeth cleanings and exams (every 3 to 6 months)
- Neglect at-home dental care (brushing twice a day, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash)
It's also important to have enough jawbone structure and healthy gum tissue. False teeth need sufficient support from natural tissue to remain in place for a long time.
How to Care for Your Dentures
Denture materials are more delicate than natural teeth. If dropped or poorly cared for, dentures can easily chip or crack. However, with proper care, dentures can last a long time.
Dental plaque buildup on false teeth can lead to bone loss, bad breath, and stomatitis (inflammation of the soft tissue lining inside the mouth).
Another risk factor for poorly kept dentures is an oral thrush fungal infection.
To prevent these conditions, practice proper denture care:
- At night, gently brush the dentures with a soft denture brush and liquid soap without microbeads (not toothpaste) to remove plaque.
- Removable dentures should be held over the sink with a small washcloth while brushing. This washcloth acts as a cushion if they drop. It's common for false teeth to break if dropped into the sink, on the counter, or the floor.
- Soak them in a commercial denture cleaner overnight. In the morning, brush them again and wear them throughout the day.
- They can also be soaked overnight in white vinegar diluted with water to remove or prevent the formation of calculus. Full-strength vinegar is acidic and can damage the surface of the teeth, causing acid erosion.
When to Repair or Replace Dentures
You need to repair or replace dentures when:
- The dentures are cracked, chipped, broken, missing a tooth, or lose their shape
- A bad smell and taste is coming from your dentures
- You can't chew or speak properly while wearing your dentures
- The dentures are causing you pain or discomfort
- Your dentures are loose and not fitting well in your mouth
- It's been more than 10 years since the last time you had your dentures replaced
Tips for Getting Used to Dentures
Here are some tips for adjusting to new dentures:
1. Follow your post-op instructions
Your dentist or prosthodontist will provide aftercare instructions. Make sure you follow them carefully to ensure proper healing and comfort.
If you have removable dentures, refrain from removing them too often. It's essential to wear them throughout the day to get used to them quickly.
"Regardless of the type of denture you choose with your dentist, keep in mind that any new prosthesis will take time to adjust to. Just like it takes your body time to get used to a new pair of eyeglasses or shoes, your mouth will need time to get used to your new prosthesis," says Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth's in-house dentists. "Be patient and always follow up with your dentist with any questions or concerns. They are there to help."
2. Only eat soft foods at first
For the first few days post-op, only eat soft foods to prevent additional discomfort.
According to Dr. Aggarwal, once you are more comfortable, you can cut harder foods into small pieces and eat them on both sides towards the back. Never bite into an apple or a granola bar with your dentures, as it can cause them to dislodge.
3. Practice speaking & exercise facial muscles
Practice speaking out loud to exercise your facial muscles and prevent unwanted speech issues. Singing can also help you form words correctly.
4. Brush your dentures and gums regularly
Brush your dentures and gums regularly to prevent bacteria buildup and bad breath.
5. Use denture adhesive when necessary
A denture adhesive can be used to soothe any irritation.
If you notice that your dentures aren't fitting properly, set up an appointment with your dentist. Adhesives can't fix poorly-fitted dentures, says Dr. Aggarwal, and shouldn't be used as a crutch.
Cost of Dentures & Insurance Coverage
Most full dental insurance policies cover at least some of the cost of dentures.
According to Carefree Dental, the cost depends on the chosen type and individual insurance coverage policies. Here's the average cost of dentures without insurance10:
|Complete denture||$1,300-$3,000 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Temporary (immediate) denture||$1,500-$3,200 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Partial removable denture||$650-$2,500 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Implant-retained denture (overdenture)||$1,500-$4,000 (upper or lower, not both)|
|Snap-in denture||$1,500-$4,000 (upper or lower, not both)|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about dentures. These answers have been written or reviewed by Dr. Aggarwal, one of NewMouth's in-house dentists.
How much are partial dentures?
Partial dentures cost $650 to $2,500 for an upper or lower denture, not both.
Does Medicare cover dentures?
Medicare doesn't cover dentures or other dental devices like partial plates. Medicare Advantage plans sold through private insurance companies may provide dentures and other dental care coverage.
Does Medicaid cover dentures?
Medicaid coverage varies by state. This document detailing Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits from the Center for Health Care Strategies Inc. provides an overview.
Contact your state's Medicaid department for more information.
What are dentures made of?
Denture materials include acrylic, metal, nylon, and/or plastic.
How do you clean dentures?
Dr. Aggarwal says dentures should be cleaned with a liquid soap without microbeads, not toothpaste. They are very abrasive and can scratch dentures.
Gently brush the dentures with a soft denture brush to remove plaque. Soak them in a commercial denture cleanser liquid overnight.
In the morning, brush them again before you insert them. To remove calculus, they can be soaked overnight in white vinegar diluted with water. Full-strength vinegar is too acidic and can damage teeth from acid erosion.
Are there any alternatives to dentures?
According to Dr. Aggarwal, implants can be used for a variety of dentures, including implant-retained or supported prostheses.
Are dentures worn all day?
Most dentures can be worn throughout the day but should be removed at night, says Dr. Aggarwal.
Can you eat with dentures?
Yes, you can eat with dentures in your mouth. It may be difficult to eat at first but you'll get used to them over time.
Dr. Aggarwal says it is always better to cut up harder foods and chew them on both sides of the back of your mouth, rather than biting into an apple or granola bar with your front teeth.
Do dentures change the way you speak?
Dentures can change the way you speak at first. Your voice might also sound different (but only to you). This is because the sound travels to your ears through vibrations in the skull and jaw. Dentures increase this sound, but only you will notice the change.
Do dentures change the way you look?
Dentures change the appearance of your smile. If you had many missing teeth, especially in the front, dentures will improve your self-confidence.
Your face might have a sunken appearance after you lose teeth, says Dr. Aggarwal. Conventional dentures can provide lip and cheek support, so your face has a more full appearance.
Can I get my teeth pulled and dentures on the same day?
You'll go back in to get your permanent dentures once your mouth fully heals, says Dr. Aggarwal.
When should I use a denture adhesive?
If your dentures don't fit properly, you can use denture adhesive to keep them in place temporarily.
How often should I see my dentist if I have dentures?
After you adjust to your new dentures, visit your dentist at least twice a year for routine check-ups. This is the same for patients who don't have dentures.
What do new dentures feel like?
Your dentures may feel bulky and uncomfortable at first. This is normal and will get better over time as you adjust.
Many people experience speaking, chewing, and eating difficulties during the first few weeks.
Extra saliva flow is also common.
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