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Even with modern knowledge about oral health and how to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, more than 25 percent of Americans have lost all their teeth by the time they are 65. Perhaps they did not have access to dental education, quality care or treatment. Whatever the reasons, those who suffer from “edentulism” — the complete loss of all permanent teeth — also suffer from poor self-image, impaired nutrition, and reduced quality of life.
Removable full dentures are often the solution of choice for those suffering from edentulism. Dentures can be made to look good and feel great; but successful denture-wearing demands the collaboration of a skilled dentist and a willing patient.
A set of well-fitting full removable dentures starts with detailed planning. We need to work out where each tooth will be placed and how the upper and lower teeth will meet together. To do this, we make use of photos taken before the teeth were lost, as well as using the facial features as a guide. You as the patient have to decide whether you want your dentures to look much like your natural teeth did, including any gaps and uneven areas, or whether you want to make your new teeth more regular and uniform than the originals.
In addition to the size, spacing and locations of the teeth, decisions must be made regarding the colors and textures of the part of the denture that fits over and looks like gum tissue. Photos can help with this aspect as well. Ridges can be added to the section of the denture behind the upper front teeth to aid in natural speaking and chewing.
The upper and lower dentures must be designed so that in the process of biting they stabilize each other. This is called “balancing the bite.” This is necessary for normal function and speech.
All this careful planning and design are only the beginning. The dentures will be created in a wax form, tested and modified. They are then completed in a dental laboratory, where the new teeth and gums are created out of a special plastic called methyl methacrylate. With careful planning, skill and artistry they are made to look like natural teeth and gums.
At this point the role of the denture wearer becomes vitally important. He or she must relearn how to bite, chew, and speak while wearing the dentures. As the dentures press down on bone and gum tissues, over time some bone will be lost. This will require coming in for frequent checkups and modifications to make sure the dentures continue to fit well and comfortably.
If an adult has lost his or her teeth (a condition called “edentulism”), full removable dentures (false teeth) can restore the person's appearance and ability to bite, chew, and talk properly. Even with our current extensive knowledge about tooth care and restoration, over 25 percent of Americans have lost all their teeth by the time they are 65.
How much do you know about dentures? Test yourself below.
How does tooth loss affect your bones?
Bone is a living substance that is constantly changing and rebuilding itself, depending on signals it receives from surrounding tissues. The bone that surrounds your teeth is called alveolar bone (from “alveolus,” meaning sac-like). To keep healthy, alveolar bone needs stimulation or function such as chewing and your teeth touching your opposing teeth. If you lose your teeth, bone begins to melt away (resorb).
How can we minimize bone loss during tooth extraction?
We can maintain bone volume by using bone grafting techniques. While this sounds scary, it is a relatively easy procedure. The principle of bone grafting is to build a sort of scaffolding on which your body begins to build and maintain its own bone. Bone loss can be prevented by the placement of a few dental implants.
How are dentures designed and created?
The dentures that look best and work best for you are based on your original teeth. We often utilize photographs of how you looked with your natural teeth, along with your input about possible changes you would like to see. First we take detailed impressions (molds) of the residual ridges in which your teeth once rested. From these we make denture bases of a light cured plastic resin. We attach horseshoe-shaped rims made of wax to the bases, to simulate the position of the teeth as we work out their design and spacing, based on both appearance and function. The prosthetic teeth are then tried out in your mouth, adjustments are made, and the dentures are processed in a dental laboratory. The final product substitutes a pink colored plastic (methyl methacrylate) to represent the gums and white plastic material as the teeth, created to make them look as natural as possible.
What is your part in the denture fitting process?
As a patient with new dentures, you must learn to use your jaw joints, ligaments, nerves, and muscles in new ways to help stabilize your dentures and to relearn to speak, bite, chew, smile, and laugh with these new structures. It takes a little practice, but with your removable dentures you can once again enjoy a complete and normal life.