Dentures are are removable appliances that can replace missing teeth and help restore your smile. This is the one of the options to replace missing teeth. Depending on your existing teeth, bone, or financial condition, dentures may be an option for you. It is the least costly and least comfortable option available.
If you’ve lost all of your natural teeth, whether from gum disease, tooth decay, or injury, replacing missing teeth will benefit your appearance, your teeth alignment/harmony and your health. That’s because dentures make it easier to eat and speak better than you could without teeth—things that people often take for granted.
When you lose all of your teeth, facial muscles can sag, making you look older. Dentures can help fill out the appearance of your face and profile. They can be made to closely resemble your natural teeth so that your appearance does not change much. Dentures may even improve the look of your smile.
Can you guess how old this lady in the picture (left) without teeth is (Credit: “As Good As New” by Charles A. Babbush)? She lost all her teeth as a teenager to decay and gum/bone infection. Over time the advanced jaw bone shrinkage (without teeth or implant to stop the melting away of bone) has severely compromised her youthful appearance.
The same lady after receiving lower dentures with supporting implants to hold the denture, and a full upper denture without implants (since the upper arch has plenty of bone surface areas for denture retention). You can notice the facial structure is being supported by the denture and it replaces the bone that was lost after her extractions in her teenage years. Notice how her lips are not as collapsed as the photo above, her cheeks look lifted and not sagged, and she does look like her age instead of three decades older.
Dr. Hanah Pham does a detailed facial workup before she starts any complex dental work. She believes it is very important to recapture your youthful, facial vertical that you're comfortable with (which you may have lost over time due to tooth loss and grinding and clenching) to not only compliment your natural vertical aesthetics that you've lost and the facial/lip support that you had before. During most of her visits, she will have you do certain speaking sounds in the wax form of the denture before the denture is turned into the permanent finished product. The process takes multiple visits to create the final product to restore the patient's natural aesthetics, speeches, and chewing function.
There are many specific types of dentures: for the upper jaw, lower jaw, upper and lower jaws, full dentures, partial dentures, implant-supported dentures, and natural teeth-supported dentures.
- Conventional Full Denture: Conventional dentures are rigid and made out of acrylic. This full removable denture is made and placed in your mouth after the remaining teeth are removed and tissues have healed, which may take several months. This materials allows addition of teeth. (Implants can serve the same function, too. Usually, if the upper jaw has a few scattering teeth that are not in good condition, it is normally recommended to remove all and put in a full denture.)
- Conventional Partial Denture: Partial dentures are another option when not all of your teeth need to be removed or if you have multiple missing teeth all over your arch. Conventional partial dentures require a metal plate to strengthen the partial denture and prevents it from cracking. We also metal clasps to hold onto teeth for retention. With metal needed, this will be heavier for patients. It is more the more cost-effective option to replace a few missing teeth as opposed to having a bridge. However, this would be the least comfortable option because it is recommended to remove dentures at night for gum healing, and it is not fixed in your mouth.
- Immediate Full or Partial Denture: This removable denture is rigid and is a temporary denture that is inserted on the same day that the remaining teeth are removed. If you like the denture, over time, you can use the denture as a permanent with lab reline or make a new denture after your jaw bone has healed and settled. Dr. Hanah Pham will take measurements and make models of your jaw during a preliminary visit. You don’t have to be without teeth during the healing period.
- Overdenture (Natural Tooth-Supported or Implant-Supported): Sometimes some of your teeth can be saved to preserve your jawbone and provide stability and support for the denture. An overdenture fits over a small number of remaining natural teeth or over a few anchor implants for better retention of the denture and for chewing. In general, lower jaw has very little bone support for denture retention, therefore Dr. Hanah Pham usually recommends a few implants or existing teeth for support.
- Flexible Denture: A newer way of making dentures. It is not rigid and can be flexible due to being made of resin, and it is harder to break than a rigid acrylic denture. Because the material is more durable, it can be made with half of the thickness which makes it lighter and more comfortable.
Your dentures may take some time to get used to. The flesh colored base of the dentures is placed over your gums. Some people say that it feels bulky or that they don't have enough room for their tongue. Other times the dentures might feel loose. These feelings will affect the way you eat and talk for a little while. Over time, your mouth becomes trained to eat and speak with your dentures and they begin to feel more and more like your natural teeth. They may never feel perfectly comfortable, but it is much better than the alternative of not having teeth.
Even though dentures are not real teeth, you should care for them like they are. You should brush them to remove plaque and food particles before removing your dentures. After they have been removed you should place them directly into room temperature water or a denture cleaning solution. Never use hot water because it could warp the dentures. Your dentures are delicate, so make sure you are careful when handling them so you don't drop them. Also, never try to adjust your dentures yourself. You could ruin them, so you should always seek assistance from your dentist if they feel uncomfortable or loose.
Of course, you will need further evaluation by Dr. Hanah Pham. Please call (703) 860-4148 or request an appointment for a free consultation to ask any questions you may have about dentures or other options for your missing teeth. Dr. Hanah Pham can help you decide which types of dentures fit you and your circumstances, so you can confidently smile and laugh again. Take charge of your dental journey now!