Dentures are nothing new, but have come a long way dead-mens-teeth-a-history-of-dentures Today’s dentures use the most modern materials available, but it’s worth remembering that earlier dentures used ivory, bone, and even human teeth to create the dentures of the past.
What are dentures?
People lose teeth for many reasons — disease, accident, or poor oral health—and when that happens dentures are often a solution. Dentures artificially replace natural teeth and gums, providing a replacement that can restore proper dental function and appearance. Dentures help with chewing, facial appearance, speech, and overall personal confidence.
Dentures can be a full replacement of all the teeth in the mouth, or a partial set of replacement teeth.
Partial dentures replace a few teeth, and are used when the neighbouring teeth are unable to sustain a dental bridge. A “partial” typically includes some artificial teeth, a section of artificial gum, and clasps to secure it to the neighbouring teeth. Partial dentures are removed at night, and cleaned before bed and after meals.
Complete dentures are what are typically what people are referring to when they speak of “false teeth”. A complete denture is a dental prosthesis that holds the replacement teeth for the full upper or lower jaw.
How dentures are made
All dentures are custom-made to fit the person who will use them. The better the fit, the more comfortable, effective, and secure the denture will be.
Several steps are required in the making of dentures, occurring over several weeks and appointments.
First, the dentist or prosthodontist will take measurements of the teeth, gums, and jaws, and the spacing between upper and lower teeth. These measurements will be used to create preliminary wax or plastic models of the final denture to be made, and these test versions will be assessed for fit. A final denture is then made, and over time is adjusted to fit the wearer’s needs in practice.
Making a denture involves an iterative process of fittings and adjustments as the mouth adapts to the absence of natural teeth, and to the new dental prosthesis. People often find this stage the most difficult when starting out with dentures.
Complete dentures are of a couple of types: immediate or conventional. Immediate dentures are created by taking measurements of a person’s dentition before teeth are removed, and designing the denture to replace them. The natural teeth are then removed, and the denture inserted. This method offers the benefit of having the dentures in use immediately, instead of waiting for the mouth to fully heal. The drawback is that the immediate denture will need more frequent adjustment and relining because it is being fitted to a mouth with gums that are still changing shape and size as healing progresses. Immediate dentures are usually an interim step to conventional dentures.
Conventional dentures are fitted to a mouth that has already had the natural teeth removed, and that has healed from that disturbance. The fitting will require less tweaking that that needed for immediate dentures, but there will be a period—sometimes months — in which the person has no teeth while the mouth fully heals. As noted above, immediate dentures are sometimes used as a way to transition to conventional dentures.
Methods of securing dentures
How a denture is secured in the mouth is determined by what remains of the natural dentition, how complete the replacement of teeth will be, and matters of lifestyle and preference. The goal in any case is to have dentures that are fastened securely enough to the mouth that normal eating is possible, that comfort is maximized, and that the dentures can be readily cleaned.
Adhesive pastes and powders, selling under names such as Polydent, Polygrip, and so forth are frequently used to secure dentures. A small amount of paste or powder is applied to the part of the denture that will seat on the gum, and then the denture is pressed into place. The denture must be clean and dry for the most effective adhesion. Sometimes adhesive strips are used. The method of adhesion is generally a matter of personal preference.
Metal clasps are used to secure partial dentures. They generally curve around the neighbouring teeth, with most of the metal hidden behind the teeth. Sometimes a dental adhesive is used in conjunction with these metal clasps.
At times the denture is fitted to seat on dental implants, which are posts secured directly into the upper jawbone (maxilla) or lower jawbone (mandible). Such fastening is very secure, but can be costly.
Alternatives to dentures
Full dental implants that mimic natural teeth completely can be a good alternative to removable dentures. They fit securely in the mouth, as they are implanted directly into the bones of the jaw. Implants feel more like natural teeth than do dentures, and, as noted above, implants can also serve as a foundation for securing dentures or bridges. Dental implants can be costly compared to dentures, but do offer significant benefits.
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