Health,  Procedures

Dentures: vs Implants – Cost, Care, Adjusting

Key Facts:

  • Dentures are removable appliances that replace missing teeth and surrounding tissues
  • They help restore the ability to eat and speak properly, and improve facial appearance
  • Dentures can be full or partial, depending on the number of teeth that need replacing
  • Regular maintenance and cleaning are essential for the longevity of dentures
  • It may take some time to get used to wearing dentures

What are Dentures?

Dentures are custom-made replacements for missing teeth and can be taken out and put back into the mouth. They are typically made from acrylic resin, sometimes combined with metal attachments. While dentures take some getting used to, and will never feel exactly the same as natural teeth, today’s dentures are natural-looking and more comfortable than ever.
People lose teeth for various reasons including gum disease, tooth decay, or injury. Losing teeth can make it harder to eat and talk, and can change the way you look. Dentures can help with these issues, giving you a full set of teeth that work and look much like your natural teeth.

Types of Dentures

  1. Full Dentures:Full dentures, often referred to as complete dentures, replace all of a patient’s teeth. They are fitted to the gums and held in place with suction or adhesive. Full dentures are removable and must be taken out nightly for cleaning.
  2. Partial Dentures: Partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain. They consist of replacement teeth attached to a gum-colored base, connected by a metal framework. Besides filling in the spaces created by missing teeth, partial dentures also prevent other teeth from changing position.
  3. Immediate Dentures: Immediate dentures are made before the remaining teeth are removed and can be positioned as soon as the teeth are removed. This ensures that the wearer does not have to be without teeth during the healing period. However, because the bone and gums shrink over time, especially during the healing process, immediate dentures may need more adjustments to fit properly during the healing process and generally are considered a temporary solution until conventional dentures can be made.
  4. Implant-retained Dentures: Implant-retained dentures are over-dentures attached to and supported by implants. A regular denture rests on the gums and tends to fit less firmly. An implant-retained denture is used when a person doesn’t have any teeth but has enough bone in the jaw to support implants. It has special attachments that snap onto attachments on the implants.
  5. Implant-supported Dentures: Implant-supported dentures are similar to implant-retained dentures but are supported by and attached to the implants. A person can have two or more implants that support a denture. This type is commonly used in the lower jaw where removable dentures are less stable but can also be used in the upper jaw as well.

What Happens During a Denture Consultation?

During a denture consultation, your dentist will evaluate the health of your remaining teeth and gums and discuss the different denture options that are available to you.
The consultation typically involves the following steps:

  • Medical History Review: The dentist will review your medical history, including any medications you are taking and any chronic diseases you might have.
  • Oral Examination: A thorough examination of your mouth will be done to assess the health of your gums and see if any remaining teeth need extraction or other treatment.
  • X-rays: Dental X-rays might be taken to evaluate the jaw bone and the structure around the teeth. This helps in planning the denture fitting.
  • Discussion of Options: The dentist will discuss the different types of dentures, and what the process entails. You will be given information about the pros and cons of each type and what to expect regarding comfort, appearance, and cost.
  • Impressions and Measurements: If you decide to proceed with dentures, the dentist will take impressions of your mouth and measurements to create a denture that’s tailored to fit your mouth.
  • Setting Expectations: The dentist will provide you with information on what to expect during the denture fabrication process, how long it will take, and instructions for the care and maintenance of your dentures once they are fitted.

Are There Alternatives to Dentures?

While dentures are a common solution for missing teeth, there are alternatives available that some people may find more comfortable or convenient.
Here are a few alternatives to dentures:

  • Dental Implants: Dental implants are considered to be a more permanent solution compared to dentures. They involve the placement of titanium posts into the jawbone, which then fuse with the bone to provide support for artificial teeth. Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, several teeth, or a full arch of teeth.
  • Dental Bridges: Bridges are used to replace one or more missing teeth. They consist of two or more crowns that are placed on the teeth on either side of the gap, with artificial teeth in between. Unlike dentures, bridges are cemented in place and are not removable.
  • Partial Dentures or Overdentures: For those who do not need a full set of dentures, partial dentures or overdentures (which fit over remaining natural teeth or dental implants) can be a good option.
  • Snap-on Dentures: These are a type of overdenture that is anchored to dental implants. They can be snapped on and off for cleaning and comfort.

What are the Benefits of Dentures?

  • Improved Appearance: Dentures can significantly enhance the appearance of your smile by replacing missing teeth. They also provide support to the facial muscles, which can prevent sagging and give a more youthful appearance.
  • Restored Functionality: By replacing missing teeth, dentures enable you to chew and speak more effectively.
  • Customization: Dentures are custom-made to fit your mouth, ensuring a natural look and feel.
  • Dietary Benefits: With dentures, you can enjoy a wider variety of foods than you might be able to with missing teeth.
  • Non-surgical Option: Unlike dental implants, dentures don’t require surgery, making them a more accessible option for many people.
  • Cost-effective: Compared to other tooth replacement options like implants, dentures tend to be more affordable.

What are the Drawbacks of Dentures?

  • Adjustment Period: It takes time to get used to wearing dentures. They may feel bulky or loose initially, and it can take some practice to eat and speak with them.
  • Maintenance: Dentures require daily cleaning and must be handled with care to avoid damage.
  • Potential for Discomfort: Ill-fitting dentures can cause discomfort and, in some cases, mouth sores or infections.
  • Bone Loss: Long-term use of full dentures can lead to bone loss in the jaw, as the bone is no longer stimulated by natural teeth roots.
  • Slippage: Dentures can sometimes slip out of place, causing difficulty in speaking and eating and potential embarrassment.
  • Alteration in Taste: The coverage of the palate by the upper denture can lead to decreased sensation in taste.

How are Dentures Made

Dentures are custom-made in a dental laboratory using impressions taken of your mouth.
Here are the steps involved in making dentures:

  • Dental Impressions: Your dentist takes several impressions of your jaw and measures how your jaws relate to one another and how much space is between them.
  • Models Creation: The dentist creates models, wax forms, or plastic patterns in the exact shape and position of the denture to be made. You will “try in” this model several times, and the denture will be assessed for color, shape, and fit before the final denture is cast.
  • Casting the Dentures: A dental lab will then use the models to create the gum-colored acrylic base of the denture. Teeth made of acrylic resin or porcelain are attached to this base.
  • Final Adjustments: Once the dentures are made, you’ll have them fitted in your mouth, and any necessary adjustments are made.
  • How Long Does It Take to Get Used to Dentures?

    The length of time it takes to get used to dentures can vary widely among individuals. On average, it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for most people to adjust. However, it is not uncommon for some individuals to take several months to feel completely comfortable with their dentures.
    During the adjustment period, it’s common to experience some minor irritation and increased saliva flow. It’s also normal to feel that the dentures are too bulky or that you don’t have enough room for your tongue. As you get used to your dentures, these problems should diminish.
    It’s essential to communicate with your dentist during this adjustment period. If you experience ongoing discomfort, additional adjustments may be needed to improve the fit and comfort of your dentures. Also, practicing speaking and eating with your dentures can help hasten the adjustment period.

    What Happens During a Denture Fitting?

    During a denture fitting, the following steps typically occur:

    • Initial Fitting: The dentist will first fit the denture in your mouth to check for any areas that may need adjustment for proper fit.
    • Bite Adjustment: The dentist may ask you to bite down several times to see if the bite is aligned properly.
    • Comfort and Stability Check: The dentist will check the comfort and stability of the denture. A well-fitted denture should adhere smoothly to your upper gums and jaw.
    • Instructions for Care: You will receive instructions on how to properly care for your dentures, including cleaning and handling procedures. Recommendations on adhesives might also be provided.
    • Follow-up Appointments: Your dentist will likely schedule follow-up appointments to check the fit of your dentures and make any necessary adjustments.

    Getting used to dentures can take a little time, and it’s normal to need a few adjustments as you get accustomed to wearing them.

    How Can I Take Care of My Dentures?

    Proper care of your dentures is crucial for both the longevity of the dentures and your oral health.
    Here are some steps you can take to care for your dentures:

    • Clean Daily: Just like natural teeth, dentures must be cleaned daily to remove food particles and plaque and to prevent staining. Use a brush designed for dentures and a denture cleaner. Don’t use toothpaste on dentures as it can be too abrasive.
    • Handle with Care: Be careful not to drop your dentures as they can break. When handling them, do so over a folded towel or sink of water.
    • Rinse After Eating: After eating, remove your dentures and rinse them under running water to remove loose food particles.
    • Soak Overnight: Most types of dentures need to remain moist to keep their shape. Place the dentures in water or a mild denture-soaking solution overnight.
    • Rinse Before Wearing: If you use a denture-soaking solution, rinse the dentures thoroughly before putting them back in your mouth as these solutions can contain harmful chemicals.
    • Brush Your Gums: Even if you have full dentures, it’s important to brush your gums, tongue, and the roof of your mouth with a soft-bristled brush to stimulate circulation and prevent oral infections.
    • See Your Dentist Regularly: Schedule regular dental check-ups to ensure your dentures are in good condition and that they fit properly.

    When Should I Call My Dentist?

    You should call your dentist if you experience any of the following issues with your dentures:

    • Discomfort or Pain: While some discomfort is normal when you first start wearing dentures, ongoing or severe pain could indicate a problem with how they fit.
    • Loose Fit: If your dentures feel loose, they may need to be adjusted. Wearing dentures that don’t fit properly can cause sores and infections.
    • Breaks or Cracks: If your dentures break, crack, chip, or if one of the teeth becomes loose, see your dentist as soon as possible.
    • Changes in Fit Over Time: As you age, the shape of your gums and jawbone can change, which can affect the fit of your dentures.
    • Signs of Infection or Sores: Red, irritated, or swollen gums, or the development of sores in your mouth, could be signs of an infection or another issue that needs attention.
    • Difficulty Chewing or Speaking: If you’re having trouble chewing or speaking with your dentures, this may be a sign that they don’t fit properly or need adjustment.

    Remember, regular dental visits are essential not just for the maintenance of your dentures but also for your overall oral health. Keeping your dentures in good shape and ensuring they fit well can contribute to your quality of life.

    Is It OK to Sleep With Dentures In?

    In general, it is recommended to remove dentures at night while sleeping.
    There are several reasons for this:

    • Allowing Gums to Rest: Wearing dentures can be taxing on the gums and underlying bone structure. Removing them at night gives your gums a chance to recover.
    • Cleaning and Soaking: Removing dentures at night allows for thorough cleaning and soaking, which is necessary for maintaining the dentures and for oral hygiene.
    • Preventing Infections: Removing dentures can help to reduce the risk of infections such as thrush, as well as irritation and inflammation of the gums.
    • Reducing Bone Loss: Wearing dentures continuously, even at night, may lead to accelerated bone loss in the jaw.

    However, it’s important to note that immediate dentures (those placed right after extractions) should be worn overnight for the first few nights to help reduce swelling.

    Caring for Dentures

    Proper care of dentures is essential for maintaining their functionality and appearance.
    Here’s a general guide:

    • Clean Daily: Just like natural teeth, dentures need to be cleaned every day. Use a soft-bristled brush and a denture cleaner (not regular toothpaste, which can be too abrasive).
    • Soak Overnight: Many types of dentures need to stay moist to keep their shape. Soak them in a mild denture-soaking solution or water.
    • Handle Carefully: Dentures can break if dropped. Always handle them over a soft surface.
    • Avoid Hot Water: Hot water can warp dentures.
    • Regular Check-Ups: Regular dental check-ups are essential to ensure that dentures fit properly and to check the overall health of your mouth.

    How Are Denture Adhesives Applied?

    Denture adhesives are used to help secure dentures in place, providing additional stability and comfort.
    Here’s how they are typically applied:

    1. Clean and Dry Your Dentures: Before applying the adhesive, make sure your dentures are clean and dry. Adhesives will adhere better to a dry surface.
    2. Apply the Adhesive: Denture adhesives come in various forms, including creams, powders, and strips. Depending on the type, you’ll apply it slightly differently:
      • Creams: Apply small dots or a thin line along the ridges and in the center of the denture. Avoid placing too close to the edge to prevent oozing.
      • Powders: Sprinkle the powder evenly over the surface that comes in contact with your gums, then shake off any excess.
      • Strips: Place the adhesive strips onto the denture, trimming if necessary to fit.
    3. Press Dentures into Place: After applying the adhesive, press the dentures firmly into place and hold briefly. You may want to bite down gently to make sure they are seated properly.
    4. Follow Product Instructions: Different products may have specific instructions, so it’s wise to follow the directions on the packaging or any guidelines given by your dental professional.
    5. Avoid Eating and Drinking Immediately: Waiting a few minutes before eating or drinking can help ensure the adhesive sets properly.
    6. Clean Daily: At the end of the day, remove your dentures and clean them thoroughly to remove the adhesive and any food particles.

    Using the right amount of adhesive is key. Using too much can cause the material to ooze out and may actually reduce the effectiveness of the product. If you find you need a lot of adhesive to keep your dentures in place, it might be time to see your dental professional, as it could indicate that your dentures need to be adjusted or replaced. Remember, while adhesives can provide extra security and comfort, they are not a substitute for well-fitting dentures. If you have persistent problems with your dentures slipping or causing discomfort, see your dental professional, as adjustments may be necessary.

    How Should I Care for My Mouth and Gums if I Have Dentures?

    Proper care for your mouth and gums is essential, even with dentures.
    Here’s a short guide:

    • Daily Cleaning: Even if you have full dentures, it’s still important to gently brush your gums, tongue, and roof of your mouth with a soft-bristled brush.
    • Regular Check-ups: Continue to see your dental professional regularly to check the health of your gums and the fit of your dentures.
    • Take Breaks: If possible, remove your dentures at night to give your gums a chance to rest.
    • Stay Hydrated: Saliva promotes oral health, so make sure to drink enough fluids.
    • Look for Changes: Monitor your mouth for any signs of irritation, infection, or other issues and seek professional help if you notice anything unusual.

    Questions And Answers About Dentures:

    Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Dentures?

    Many insurance plans do cover at least a portion of the cost of dentures, but this can vary widely depending on the specific policy and provider. It’s recommended to consult with your insurance provider or a dental professional who has experience with insurance billing to determine what may be covered under your particular policy.

    What Do New Dentures Feel Like?

    New dentures might feel strange or uncomfortable at first. They may feel bulky, loose, or tight, depending on the fit. As you adjust, these feelings typically diminish. Some soreness or irritation may occur initially, especially if this is your first set of dentures. Regular check-ups with your dental professional are essential to make any necessary adjustments for a more comfortable fit.

    Will Dentures Make Me Look Different?

    Dentures are designed to resemble natural teeth, and often they can enhance a person’s appearance by providing support for the cheeks and lips, which can suffer from a sunken appearance if teeth are missing. If the dentures are well-made and correctly fitted, they should not drastically change your appearance. However, the transition might take some getting used to, and some minor changes in appearance can be expected.

    Will Eating With New Dentures Be Difficult?

    Eating with new dentures can initially be a challenge. It may require practice and a period of adjustment. Starting with soft foods and gradually introducing more challenging textures can help. It’s also common to have to learn to chew using both sides of the mouth simultaneously to prevent the dentures from tipping. Over time, most people adapt to eating with dentures and are able to enjoy a varied diet, although some particularly hard or sticky foods may always be somewhat problematic.

    Will Dentures Change How I Speak?

    Dentures may temporarily affect your speech, causing you to slur or lisp while you become accustomed to having them in your mouth. Pronouncing certain words or sounds might feel different initially. With practice and as you become more comfortable, your speech should return to normal, or even improve if you were previously missing several teeth.

    Are Dentures Worn 24 Hours a Day?

    Typically, dentures are not worn 24 hours a day. Most dentists recommend removing them at night to allow the gums and other oral tissues a chance to rest and recover. Removing dentures also provides an opportunity for cleaning both the dentures and your mouth properly. Some people may wear them overnight, especially at first or in specific circumstances, but this should be discussed with a dental professional.

    Should I Use a Denture Adhesive?

    Denture adhesive can be used to help keep dentures in place and provide a more secure fit. It might be particularly helpful for those who are still getting used to new dentures or for those who have experienced changes in their gums or jaw over time. Using an adhesive should be discussed with a dental professional to ensure it’s appropriate for your situation, as it is not necessary for everyone.

    When Shouldn’t Denture Adhesives Be Considered?

    Denture adhesives should not be used as a substitute for ill-fitting dentures. If dentures are not fitting properly, they need to be adjusted or replaced by a dental professional, as using adhesive can mask underlying problems and lead to more serious issues. People who are allergic or sensitive to the ingredients in the adhesive should also avoid using it. If there are any open wounds or infections in the mouth, the use of adhesive should be avoided until the issues are resolved.

    Are Denture Adhesives Safe?

    Yes, denture adhesives are generally considered safe when used as directed. They are specifically formulated for use in the mouth and are subject to regulations to ensure their safety. However, some individuals might be sensitive or allergic to specific ingredients, so it is wise to read labels and possibly test a small amount if you’re using an adhesive for the first time.

    Can I Adjust or Repair Dentures?

    While minor adjustments might be tempting to do at home, it’s strongly advised to have any adjustments or repairs done by a dental professional. Improper adjustments can cause damage to the dentures or harm to your mouth. If your dentures are uncomfortable or broken, schedule an appointment with your dentist or prosthodontist to have them properly adjusted or repaired.

    Will My Dentures Need to Be Replaced?

    Yes, dentures will likely need to be replaced at some point. Over time, the fit may change as the gums and jawbone alter in shape, particularly if teeth continue to be lost. Wear and tear can also affect the appearance and functionality of the dentures. How often they need to be replaced depends on many factors, including the type of dentures, how well they are cared for, and individual anatomical changes.

    How Long Do Dentures Last?

    The lifespan of dentures varies depending on several factors including the material they are made of, how well they are taken care of, and changes in the shape of your mouth and jaw over time. On average, dentures last about 5 to 8 years. However, it’s important to note that even well-made dentures will need to be relined, remade, or rebased due to normal wear and changes in the mouth. Regular check-ups with your dentist are essential to ensure that your dentures are in good condition and continue to fit properly.

    How Often Should I See the Dentist if I Have Dentures?

    The frequency of dental visits for someone with dentures may vary based on individual needs and the recommendations of a dental professional. Typically, an annual check-up might be sufficient, but some may benefit from more frequent visits, such as every six months. Regular visits allow the dentist to check the fit of the dentures, look for signs of wear, and monitor the overall health of your mouth.

    How Soon Can I Have a Denture After My Teeth Are Taken Out?

    There are different types of dentures that can be fitted at various times after teeth extraction. Immediate dentures can be placed right after teeth are removed, allowing for no time without teeth. However, these may need to be adjusted or replaced with conventional dentures after the gums and bones have healed and changed shape. Conventional dentures are typically fitted several weeks to a few months after extraction, once the tissues have healed. The exact timing can depend on many factors, including individual healing rates and the preferences of both the patient and dental professional.

    Who Will Make and Fit My Denture?

    Dentures are typically made and fitted by dental professionals who specialize in this area. This could be a general dentist with experience in prosthetic dentistry, or a prosthodontist, who specializes in the replacement and restoration of teeth. The process usually involves taking impressions and measurements of the mouth, which are sent to a dental laboratory. There, dental technicians craft the dentures to the precise specifications. The dentist or prosthodontist then fits the dentures, making adjustments as needed to ensure a comfortable and functional fit.

    Will I Be Able to Eat With Dentures?

    Yes, you should be able to eat with dentures. However, it may take some time and practice to get used to eating with them. Starting with soft foods and gradually introducing more challenging textures can help. You may need to learn new ways of chewing to prevent the dentures from shifting, and certain foods that are particularly hard or sticky may always be a bit more challenging. Over time, most people adapt and are able to enjoy a wide variety of foods.

    How Long Should I Wear My Dentures?

    The length of time you should wear your dentures each day varies based on individual needs and the recommendations of your dental professional. Some people wear their dentures most of the day, removing them only at night to allow the gums and mouth to rest. Others may need to take them out for short breaks during the day. Following the specific guidelines provided by your dental professional will help ensure comfort and proper care for both the dentures and your mouth.

    My Upper Denture Fits Fine, So Why Am I Having Problems With My Lower One?

    It’s not uncommon for people to find that their lower denture is more challenging to get used to than the upper one.
    Several factors contribute to this:

    • The lower jaw moves more than the upper jaw, which can cause more movement of the denture.
    • There’s often less surface area in the lower jaw for the denture to adhere to, making it more prone to shifting.
    • The presence of the tongue and its movement during speaking and eating can also affect the fit and stability of a lower denture.
    • The shape and bone structure of the lower jaw can make fitting more challenging.

    If you continue to have problems with your lower denture, it’s best to consult with your dental professional. They can check the fit and make necessary adjustments or recommendations to improve comfort and functionality.

    Can I Take the Teeth Out if They Are Fixed to Implants?

    If you have implant-supported dentures, they may or may not be removable, depending on the specific type of attachment and the design chosen by your dental professional. Some are designed to be removed by the patient for cleaning, while others can only be removed by a dental professional. Fixed implant-supported crowns or bridges (replacing individual teeth) are typically not meant to be removed except by a dental professional.

    Do the Implants Show?

    Dental implants that support dentures are typically anchored into the jawbone and covered by the gums, so they should not be visible. The part of the implant that might be exposed inside the mouth is usually covered by the denture itself or a connector called an abutment, which is used to attach the denture to the implant. In a properly designed and fitted implant-supported denture, the implants should not show when you smile, speak, or eat. The visible parts of the prosthesis should resemble natural gums and teeth.
    However, if there are issues with the gums receding, or if there’s a problem with the placement or design of the implant-supported denture, there might be situations where part of the implant or metal abutment could become visible. This would typically be considered an undesirable outcome and would require attention from a dental professional to correct.

    What if I Have an Accident?

    If you wear dentures and have an accident that damages the dentures or your mouth, it’s important to see a dental professional as soon as possible. They can assess the damage to both the dentures and your mouth and recommend appropriate treatment. If the dentures are broken, they might be repairable or may need to be replaced. If you’ve been injured in an accident, any wounds or trauma to the mouth should be evaluated and treated as needed. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and your location, there may be different considerations for how the treatment is paid for, such as through insurance, compensation from a responsible party, or government health services like the NHS. It would be wise to consult with both healthcare providers and any relevant legal or insurance professionals to understand your options.

    Can I Get the Treatment from the NHS?

    Yes, denture treatment is generally available through the NHS in the UK. You can get both partial and complete dentures through the NHS, although there may be some costs involved depending on the treatment band it falls under and your personal circumstances. The type and quality of dentures available on the NHS might be more functional and basic compared to private options. If you want more aesthetic or specialized materials, you may have to go through a private dentist and pay additional fees.

    Bottom Line

    Dentures are a widely used solution for replacing missing teeth, and with modern dentistry, they can be very comfortable and natural-looking. However, they do require proper care and maintenance to keep them in good shape and to ensure the health of your gums and remaining teeth. There are alternatives such as dental implants and bridges, which can be more convenient and comfortable for some people. It’s essential to follow your dentist’s advice regarding the care and wearing of dentures, including removing them at night to allow your gums to rest and to maintain proper oral hygiene.

    This article is complete and was published on June 15, 2023, and last updated on August 26, 2023.

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