What are dentures and how do they work?

Dentures are removable replacements for false teeth and the loss of associated bone volume. They are usually made of plastic, metal or nylon. Designed to fit comfortably over the gums, they not only replace missing teeth but fill any gaps left by them. Which is extremely important for your oral health.

Problems that can arise from gaps in your teeth include;

  • Without a neighbouring tooth the ones remaining either side of the gap may start to move. This can loosen the teeth which might result in them needing to be removed.
  • Missing teeth can cause problems with speech and make it harder to pronounce certain words.
  • A gap between the teeth can make it harder to chew and eat food. Depending on how many teeth are missing this could result in not being able to eat solid foods. This can lead to malnourishment and affect the whole body.
  • Mental health issues can arise due to missing teeth. Problems such as anxiety and depression are common problems due to a lack of confidence in appearance.

Dentures can replace a single missing tooth or all of your teeth depending on what the best approach is. As everyone’s mouths are different, dentures vary in size and shapes. As a result different materials will be used as some are more effective than others depending on how many teeth need replacing.

Sometimes people need all their teeth replaced whilst others just need a small number. As a result, there are two types of dentures available; complete dentures and partial dentures.

Complete dentures

Complete dentures​ are sometimes known as a ‘full set’. They get this name due to the fact that if all of your upper or lower teeth are missing a complete denture will replace them. Even if you have few teeth remaining it might be recommended to have those removed and replaced with a full set. This is because the last few remaining teeth are not really of much use to the mouth. Whereas a complete denture would be much more beneficial.

However if you do need to have teeth removed it could take up to 12 weeks until you can have permanent dentures. During this time provisional dentures are supplied so your mouth can still function and smile.This is because the mouth changes shape after extraction due to swelling and needs time to heal. If dentures were fitted instantly they would quickly lose their ability to function correctly due to the changes in the mouth.

Earlier we mentioned that loss of associated bone volume is a problem that can occur when we start to lose teeth. Although dentures work well for most people, if they are suffering from a loss of associated bone volume problems can arise. ​These problems include the dentures ability to function correctly and a patient’s tolerance to them.

Upper complete dentures

Upper complete dentures cover the roof of your mouth and stay in place by suction and muscle control. Upper dentures are quite successful and do not need much aid to stay in. Providing the mouth produces enough saliva to aid suction and are fitted correctly they shouldn’t cause issues for many years.

The problem is over time your jaw bone changes shape and the dentures might start to loosen. This is because the dentures no longer fit as well as they once did and cannot receive enough suction. Regular relines to replace a new fit surface will ensure a good fit and suction. We try to avoid using a denture fixative such as an adhesive but for some patients it may be the only option.

Lower complete dentures

Unlike upper complete dentures lower complete dentures are very difficult to make work.

There are a number of reasons for this, however this is primarily down to three reasons;

  1. The lower jaw bone is narrow
  2. The lower jaw bone flattens when we lose our teeth
  3. The lower jaw moves a lot more than the upper jaw

Due to lower dentures being difficult to make work part of them fitting securely will come down to the patient. Although it can be frustrating, lower dentures rely on the wearer learning to control it with their tongue, cheeks and muscles This can even be the case for a well fitted denture.

There are many techniques that can be used to create full dentures. ​Depending on the shape of your mouth and the way your jaw bones are positioned will affect how a complete denture is made​. Here at ​Revitalise Dental Centre​ we use two methods;

Ivoclar BPS technique​ – ​If you have retained a good amount of bone the Ivoclar Biofunctional Prosthetic System (BPS) technique will be used. BPS dentures are the most realistic solution to replicating the natural look, feel and function of teeth.

Swiss Denture Concept​ – ​If you have a flat ridge of bone then the only option would be the Swiss Denture Concept, developed to enable a more stable balanced situation.

Partial Dentures

Partial dentures​ are made to fill any gaps missing from your natural teeth. Full dentures are not always necessary when you are only missing a small number of teeth. Partial dentures attach to a plate made of metal, plastic or nylon. The Partial Denture is held in place by engaging the natural undercuts of the patient’s own remaining teeth. The teeth that are used have to be healthy and secure .

What are dentures made of?

The days of using animal teeth and bone for dentures are long gone. Historically other materials have also been used including gold and wood. Modern dentistry also makes use of multiple materials such as plastic, metal or nylon.

The most commonly used material is acrylic due to its durability and it being a cheaper option. Porcelain can also be used and creates a more natural looking end result. However it is more expensive than acrylic and heavier resulting in a less comfortable product. Full acrylic dentures ​enables dentists to adapt and resurface the fit area to give maximum suction as your body changes.

It’s not uncommon for dentures to use a combination of acrylic and metal materials, particularly in partial dentures. Metals such as steel and chrome can be used for the dentures plate with acrylic false teeth attached to it. Although metal might be visible in the mouth it does come with benefits regarding its build. Metal will make the denture more durable and will be thinner than an acrylic plate. A thinner plate helps dentures fit more precisely and as a result they are more comfortable.

It’s possible for dentures to be made with materials that make them much more flexible usually from plastic. Although it does have its benefits including the fact that they will not require clips to stay in place there are drawbacks. One of the problems with being flexible means there is movement. This can result in trauma to the remaining teeth or gums.

How much do dentures cost?

The cost of dentures will vary. Different private dentists will offer them at a range of prices. The price will also vary depending on how many artificial teeth you need and if you need a full set of dentures or partial.

Typically in the UK the ​cost of partial dentures ​can start from around £600 to £2000 depending on materials and what and how many teeth are being replaced.

Complete dentures will typically cost from £1200 to £5000 .
BPS dentures and Swiss dentures as they are made with better materials that fit more comfortably and look more realistic.

Do dentures require much upkeep?

Looking after your dentures in extremely important to ensure they last as long as possible. If you need a partial denture it’s important to look after your remaining teeth. To do this you should brush your teeth, gums and tongue twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Once at night and once in the morning. Even though a denture is replacing your missing teeth, not caring for your natural ones can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and further dental problems.

Your dentures need to be cleaned twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. However it’s important to brush them first to remove any remaining food particles.

All Denture wearers should regularly see their dentist. They can ensure that the mouth and gums are healthy and free from disease. Even if you do not have any teeth remaining it’s important to still have check ups. This is because oral health screening for disease and oral cancers is essential.

Find Out More

Dentures have changed so much over the years. They have got a bad reputation due to them being misrepresented as a sign of getting old and having poor dental hygiene. You have probably seen a cartoon or image of dentures popping out when eating hard food such as an apple. The reality is that dentures are a lot more comfortable and secure than they are portrayed.

If you are missing teeth or need need to replace existing dentures, please come in for a free consultation with our clinical technician Martin Docking to discuss your options.

About the author

Martin Docking is the Founder of Revitalise Dental Centre. Widely recognised as a leading Clinical Dental Technician Martin has a passion for embracing new skills, techniques and materials to deliver the best products, service and patient care.

Connect with Martin Docking on LinkedIn.

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