Dentures are removable false teeth made of acrylic or metal. They fit snugly over the gums to replace missing teeth and eliminate potential problems caused by gaps. Gaps left by missing teeth can cause problems with eating and speech, and teeth either side of the gap may grow into the space at an angle. Sometimes, all the teeth need to be removed and replaced.
You may therefore need either:
• Complete dentures (a full set), which replace all your upper or lower teeth, or
• Partial dentures, which replace just one or a few missing teeth
Dentures can help prevent the problems of missing teeth if complete dentures are needed, can improve the appearance of your smile, fill out your face and give you confidence.
This page offers information for anyone who is considering dentures, and advice for those who already wear them. It explains:
• How dentures are fitted
• Looking after your dentures
• When to see your dentist
How dentures are fitted
Complete dentures: A full denture will be fitted if all your upper or lower teeth need to be removed or you are having an old complete denture replaced. Usually, the denture is fitted as soon as your teeth are removed, which means you won't ever be without teeth. The denture fits snugly over your gums and jawbone. Occasionally, however, your gums may need to heal for several months before dentures can be fitted.
• A dentist will take measurements and impressions (moulds) of your mouth, then order your full or partial dentures from a dental technician.
• You should still attend your regular examination with your dentist.
A trial denture will be created from the impressions that are taken of your mouth. The dentist or clinical dental technician will try this in your mouth to assess the fit and for you to assess the appearance. The colour and shape may be adjusted before the final denture is produced.
A partial denture is designed to fill in the gaps left by one or more missing teeth.
Looking after your dentures
Dentures may feel a bit strange to begin with, but you'll soon get used to wearing them. Your dentist will advise you as to whether you should remove your dentures before sleep. It is not always necessary to remove your dentures at night, but doing so can allow your gums to rest as you sleep. If you do remove them, they should be kept moist - for example, in water or a polythene bag with some dampened cotton wool in it, or in a suitable overnight denture cleaning solution - to stop the denture material from drying out and altering in shape.
Keeping your mouth clean is just as important when you wear dentures. You should brush your remaining teeth, gums and tongue every morning and evening with fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems.
It's important to regularly remove plaque and food deposits from your dentures, as unclean dentures can also lead to problems such as bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay and oral thrush.
Clean your dentures as often as you would normal teeth (at least every morning and night), by:
• Brushing them with paste or soap and water before soaking, to remove food particles
• Soaking the dentures in a solution of denture-cleaning tablets to remove stains and bacteria - follow the manufacturer's instructions
• Brushing them again, as you would your normal teeth
Dentures may break if you drop them, so you should clean them over a bowl or sink filled with water, or something soft like a folded towel.
Eating with dentures
When you first start wearing dentures you should eat soft foods cut into small pieces, and chew slowly using both sides of your mouth. Avoid chewing gum and any food that is sticky, hard or sharp-edged.
You can gradually start to eat other types of food until you are back to your old diet. Never use toothpicks.
You should not need to use denture fixative (adhesive) if the dentures fit properly. However, if your jawbone has shrunk a lot, adhesive may be the only way to help retain them. Your dentist or clinical dental technician will advise you if this is the case.
Some people feel more confident with their dentures, at least at first, if they use adhesive. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and try not to use excessive amounts.
Adhesive can be removed from the denture by brushing with soap and water. Remnants of adhesive left in the mouth may need to be removed with some damp kitchen roll or a clean damp flannel.
When to see your dentist
You should continue to see your dentist regularly if you have dentures, even if you have complete dentures, so they can check for any problems.
Dentures should last for several years if you take good care of them. However, your gums and jawbone will eventually shrink and the dentures may not fit as well as they used to and become loose, or they may become worn.
You should see your dentist as soon as possible if:
• Your dentures click when you are talking
• Your dentures tend to slip, or you feel they no longer fit properly
• Your dentures feel uncomfortable
• Your dentures are visibly worn
• You have signs of gum disease or tooth decay, such as bleeding gums or bad breath
If poorly fitting or worn dentures are not replaced, they can cause great discomfort and lead to mouth sores, infections or problems with eating and speech.