A denture, or a complete denture as it is often called, is an appliance that is inserted in the mouth that replaces natural teeth and provides support for the cheeks and lips.
Dentures are beneficial in multiple ways:
- Mastication – chewing ability is improved by replacing missing teeth with dentures.
- Aesthetics – dentures not only restore a natural and attractive appearance to the teeth, but can also correct the collapsed exterior of lips and cheeks that occurs after losing teeth.
- Confidence – a healthy and beautiful-looking smile will help the patient feel more confident and attractive.
- Phonetics – by replacing missing teeth, patients will be able to better pronounce certain words that require the use of teeth to speak.
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Most dentures are made of acrylic and can be fabricated at different times. A conventional denture is made after all teeth have been extracted and the tissues (gums) have healed. An immediate denture is fabricated and inserted immediately after the teeth are extracted and the tissues are allowed to heal under the denture.
An upper denture is acrylic and usually flesh-colored that covers the palate (roof of the mouth) and a lower denture is shaped like a horseshoe to leave room for the tongue (i.e., the maxillary [upper] or mandibular [lower] arch). The teeth are made of plastic, porcelain, or a combination of both. Dentures can be fabricated to fit over endodontically-treated teeth and a complete denture can be attached to dental implants to allow for a more secure fit of the appliance.
An upper denture is relatively straightforward to manufacture and is generally stable with minimal slippage. The lower full denture is typically more complex because there is no “suction” holding it in place like the upper denture. For this reason, there is a general consensus that a lower full denture should be supported by two-to-four dental implants placed in the lower jaw. A lower denture supported by implants is a far more secure situation than a denture without implants. Without implants, the denture is only held in place with weak lower mouth muscles and the properties of adhesion and cohesion. With a lower denture secured with dental implants, the patients should be able to eat most foods. Without implants, it may be difficult or impossible to do so. The placement of a dental implant will also serve to maintain the residual bone as opposed to the ongoing resorption of the jaw bone that occurs without teeth or dental implants.
Over a normal course of time, dentures will wear and need to be replaced or relined in order to keep the jaw alignment normal. The alignment will slowly change as the bone and gum ridges recede or shrink due to extraction of the teeth. Regular dental examinations are still important for the denture wearer so the oral tissues can be checked for disease or change.