A healthy mouth is essential for a successful denture. Therefore you will need to ensure that your remaining teeth and gums are in good condition. This artificial appliance must lie on clean healthy surfaces even when all your teeth have been lost. When a diseased or damaged tooth is lost, the hole (socket) in the gum heals initially by a blood-clot and then by the jaw bone and gum shrinking to cover it. As the muscles of the face lose the support of the lost teeth and jaw bone, the face can start to sag and fall inward. A denture will replace both the missing teeth and gums, and restore chewing function.
Dentures can never replace the function of natural teeth unless supported by implants. Neither are they a substitute for the emotional importance of our teeth which make a vital contribution to our body image, sense of youth and wholeness. Nevertheless, most denture wears manage to accommodate to these losses and function adequately: they speak clearly and eat most foods they like. Fresh vegetables and meat can be awkward, as we cannot bite so hard with dentures as we could with our natural teeth. Some patients are never reconciled with having to lose their natural teeth. While dentures do not function as well as natural teeth they can look quite natural, and maintain the support of the lips and cheeks just like the natural teeth did.
Stages and number of visits
There are a number of stages in making a denture, these being:
- The Impression from which models of your mouth are made. For this an impression tray is used which is very similar in size to the finished denture.
- The Registration which records the correct biting position of your lower jaw to your upper jaw. This information is passed on to the dental technician, a highly skilled member of the dental team, who creates the denture prescribed by the dentist. At this stage a second impression will be taken of your upper and lower jaws with the special trays that are made by the dental technician.
- The Try-in which is when you can see what the denture will look like in your mouth before it is finished. This is the stage when adjustments can be made, especially in appearance. It is very important at this stage to tell the dentist of any changes you want made to the appearance of the denture. Changes cannot be made after this stage.
- The Fit when you receive your finished denture and it is checked for fit and comfort.
Types of Dentures
The base of a denture is called a plate and can be made of either acrylic (plastic) or metal, and the teeth are normally acrylic (plastic). If only some teeth are being replaced it is known as a partial denture: if all the teeth are being replaced it is called a full denture. If you are having a tooth extracted and the denture put in place straight away, this is called an “immediate” denture.
What is the difference between plastic and metal dentures?
Plastic partial dentures are relatively easy and inexpensive to make. They are most suitable when quite a large number of teeth are missing. Metal partial dentures are much stronger than plastic and therefore can often be made much smaller and thinner. Being more intricate to design and manufacture, they are usually more expensive. The dentist will advise you as to which types are available, and which will be most suitable for your mouth. Factors which influence your decision may be cost, the final appearance, the amount of your palate to be covered by an upper denture, and the size you know can tolerate from previous experience.
An immediate denture is made before your own teeth are extracted, so that on removal, the denture is fitting “immediately” into the hole (socket) produced. This technique has obvious social advantages, but also dental disadvantage, mainly that the socket, healing by shrinkage, will form a gap between your denture and gum, making it loose and possibly unsightly. The immediate denture is therefore considered to be a temporary denture for 2-6 months when a well fitting denture can be made.
Getting used to your Dentures
Learning to wear dentures is like learning to ride a bicycle, practice is necessary, and the younger you are the quicker you will learn. Here are a few tips to make it easier for you to get the best from your new dentures.
- The lower denture always feels much looser than the upper. Try to hold it down when you eat by spreading out your tongue at the back.
- Take small mouthful at first and cut up your food into small pieces so that you do not have to bite with your front teeth until you are used to your dentures.
- Try to eat with food on both sides of your mouth at the same time.
- Start with eating soft foods (eggs, fish, and soft bread) before trying hard foods.
- Don’t worry about your speech being upset, this will correct itself rapidly.
- To help overcome any speech difficulties, practice reading aloud.
- You should wear the dentures for the first two or three nights, to help your mouth get used to them. After this, leave them out at night, it keeps the gums more healthy.
- When you leave them out always keep them in cold water.
- If they get dry they may change their shape.
- Even with your dentures, you will still need to take care of your mouth.
- Each day before inserting your denture, brush your gums, tongue and palate with a soft-bristle brush to remove plaque and stimulate circulation.
- Your dentures will probably cause sore spots during the first few days. If these sore spots persist you need to go back to the dentist for an adjustment.
- If these spots are so painful that you have to leave the dentures out, put them in for three hours or so before your appointment for an ease. We can then see the sore spots.
- Clean the dentures thoroughly at night by using cold water, liquid soap and a firm toothbrush.
- Hot water may be harmful.
- All dentures take time to “bed in”. This is because the gums of your mouth do squash underneath the denture. This is why when you first receive a new denture it might not feel quite right.
- You should always allow a few days for your new denture to settle in before it will become as comfortable as your old denture.