What are dentures?

Dentures or ‘false teeth’ are designed to replace missing teeth. This equally applies to people who are missing a few teeth as well as those who have lost all of their teeth. They look and behave in the same way as your natural teeth and have proved to be a popular alternative to missing teeth.

A denture is a set of false teeth attached to a plastic or metal plate which fits inside your mouth.

Note: the technical name for a complete loss of teeth is ‘edentulism’.

So, what can cause tooth loss? Periodontal gum disease, tooth decay, an accident or injury can all result in missing teeth. You may feel that losing a couple of teeth isn’t a big problem but there can be long term consequences of this.

What happens is that the remaining teeth shift out of their normal position and become misaligned. Those teeth situated next to any gaps will start to sag inwards which can cause problems with biting and chewing food. Another side effect is that your teeth provide shape and tone to your cheeks and any tooth loss will cause them to take on a sunken, drawn appearance which will make you look older!

Plus, your jaw starts to lose bone density as a result of missing teeth. This happens because the roots of your teeth help to maintain this bone tissue as part of a renewal process. This process involves vital nutrients which travel via the root canals of the tooth and help to stimulate bone growth.

If, however you have a gap where a tooth used to be then this process no longer takes place which results in ‘bone atrophy’: where bone tissue starts to shrink rather than grow because of the lack of essential nutrients in that area. This is why it’s so important that you seek treatment as soon as possible.

If you are only missing a couple of teeth then dental implants can help. These are small titanium rods which act as a ‘tooth root’ and are inserted into your jaw. Once there they fuse with your jaw and together with a special attachment called an ‘abutment’, enable the dentist to fix a replacement tooth to it.

There are two types of dentures:

  • Full or complete dentures: these false teeth are designed to replace all the missing teeth in both your upper and lower jaw. There is the conventional type of denture which is designed to be worn a month after full tooth extraction. The other type of denture is the immediate denture which can be worn straightaway but will require some adjustments later on.
  • Partial dentures: this type of denture replaces the spaces left by a few missing teeth. There are two types of partial denture: fixed and removable.

The fixed denture is also known as a ‘bridge’ and is fixed permanently in place via dental cement. This is a comfortable and natural looking denture but it tends to cost more than its removable counterpart.

The removable denture is fastened to your teeth via metal clasps which can snap on and off as need be. The advantage of this is that it can be taken out to be cleaned which is easier to do than with the fixed version.

Another type of full denture is the ‘overdenture’: an overdenture is a full denture which is placed in the mouth and covers a few remaining teeth, or dental implants.

Dental technology is advancing all the time and this can be seen in the field of ‘prosthodontics’ (dentures). Modern dentures are made from a variety of materials which includes acrylic resins and the revolutionary Valplast flexible denture.

Can I eat normally with a denture? How long do I have to wear a denture for? What is the best way of cleaning my dentures? How long do they last for? These are a just a few of the many questions patients have about dentures.

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