Dentures offer patients with substantial or complete tooth loss a way to regain oral function and a natural looking smile again. According to the CDC, one out of every four Americans over the age of 65 has lost all of their teeth. If you are one of these patients, you may have learned to live without teeth. But you know what a toll this can take on your well-being and your social life. Missing teeth make it difficult to eat a healthy diet or speak clearly. You’ve probably learned to avoid smiling, and you may feel embarrassed about your appearance. Over time, extreme tooth loss may lead to the collapse of your facial features and wrinkling around the mouth.
Benefits of Getting Dentures
Dr. Krause and Dr. Frederickson will properly design and fit a set of partial or full dentures to greatly improve your quality of life. Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy:
- Restored ability to bite and chew a wide variety of foods. Imagine getting back to a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables again!
- A more youthful appearance as your teeth, gums and jaw bone are restored to their original dimensions. These underlying structures keep your nose and chin from being too close together when you shut your mouth. Since you can chew normally, the muscles in your face get a good workout and remain strong and taut.
- Better self-esteem. You can laugh and smile again without worrying what people think about your missing teeth.
Clearer speech. You can go back to speaking normally, making communication easier and less stressful. This can make you more outgoing and self-reliant if you’ve been avoiding social situations due to speech problems.
Types of Dentures
Dentures come in a few different varieties. The two basic types are full and partial. As the names suggest, a full denture replaces an entire set of missing teeth (upper or lower). Partial dentures generally fill in a gap of 3 or more teeth where a bridge won’t provide enough support. These prosthetics are typically made of acrylic but can be placed over a metal base for added strength. Newer versions may be made of flexible resin, which offers a more comfortable, precise fit for some patients.
Traditional full dentures are held in place in the mouth by the pressure of the cheeks and tongue and by suction, sometimes supplemented by denture adhesive. They are removable. Partial dentures are often connected to remaining teeth with metal clasps to help prevent unwanted movement. These may be fixed or removable. Full and partial dentures are usually custom made after the removal of any remaining damaged or decayed teeth. It’s easiest to achieve the right fit after the gums have fully healed, but you may also request immediate dentures that can be worn during the healing period.
Implant-supported dentures represent the latest development in denture technology. Full or partial dentures can be fitted to titanium posts that are implanted directly into the jaw bone. This approach has several benefits compared to traditional dentures:
- The implants hold dentures firmly in place so there is no rubbing or irritation
- Dentures don’t slip during biting, chewing or speaking
- Food shouldn’t be able to work its way under the dentures when you eat
- Implants promote normal pressure on your bone tissue, reducing the rate of resorption (bone loss) in the jaw over time
- Implants provide more stability for lower jaw dentures than traditional prosthetics
- Only patients with good jawbone density are candidates for oral implants. In some cases, the necessary bone support can be created through grafting.
Getting Fitted for Dentures
Denture fittings involve a full evaluation by Dr. Krause or Dr. Frederickson of your gums and jaw. You will have a mold of your jaws taken along with precise measurements showing the distance between your upper and lower jaw. These measurements and impressions are used to create “practice” models made of wax or plastic for you to try on. This allows your dentist to make adjustments prior to creating the real dentures. You will need to make choices about the “gum” and “tooth” colors used in the prosthetics as well as the size and shape of teeth and other aesthetic aspects of your dentures during this visit.
Once the final dentures are custom fabricated based on the trial pattern, you will return for a fitting. It may take several visits to get just the right fit. Proper fit is essential to prevent irritation, slipping, poor function and discomfort such as gagging sensations. There is a learning period when you first get dentures. They may initially feel a little loose and you may find that you produce more saliva than usual. You may need to practice chewing and speaking to get used to how the dentures affect these everyday activities. However, if your dentures continue to cause problems, don’t ignore this! These prosthetics should be customized precisely to provide you with years of practical use without discomfort or frustration.
Maintenance Tips for Dentures
You will need to keep your gums and your dentures clean to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush them daily as directed by your dentist. If you have removable dentures, you will need to place them in a denture cleaning solution or water overnight so they don’t dry out. The shape of your gums and jawbone will probably continue to change over the years. Don’t rely on using more and more adhesive to keep dentures in place if you notice a difference in how they fit. If your dentures become uncomfortable or loose, this is a sign that you need a checkup for adjustment or replacement.