Dentures are what used to be called “false teeth” – they are prosthetic replacements for teeth that have been lost due to tooth decay, infection or other causes. Most people think of dentures as being a full set of false teeth – like the ones George Washington used. While it’s true that “full dentures” still exist and are used by some dental patients, this type of denture is a rather extreme type of dental care – most people in modern-day America are not going to lose all of their natural teeth during the course of their lives.
However, if you or one of your family members find yourselves in a situation where most of your teeth need to be removed, or if your teeth have decayed to the point that you are considering replacing them with dentures, here are some tips and pointers to keep in mind.
There are several options for dentures, ranging in cost and in the degree of the impact on your lifestyle.
Full dentures: This is the most extreme kind of denture treatment – this is for people who have lost all of their natural teeth. Some patients who have experienced severe tooth decay might decide to remove their remaining teeth in order to replace all their teeth with dentures. This is a major decision and should be carefully considered – discuss your options with your dentist and with your loved ones.
Removable partial dentures: Partial dentures can be affixed with the support of existing natural teeth. Even if there are only one or two teeth remaining on the top or bottom jaw, this can still be helpful in creating a better fit for the denture. There are many types of partial dentures depending on the number of teeth that are missing and the location of teeth that need to be replaced.
If you need to get full dentures:
- Consider the decision carefully. Some people who have only a few natural teeth remaining decide to get their natural teeth removed in order to replace them with a full denture – often, these patients regret the decision. Don’t make any decisions too hastily – talk it over with a dentist who you can trust. The general recommendation is that patients should try to keep as many of their natural teeth as possible, for as long as possible – the decision to remove your remaining teeth should not be made lightly.
- Top dentures are easier. If you do need a full denture, most patients have better success with the top teeth than with the bottom. Bottom dentures tend to be more complex to fit and tend not to perform as well.
What about partial dentures? What are my options?
In general, partial dentures have two main options – fixed and removable.
- Fixed dentures: These dentures are fixed into your mouth by your dentist – they include bridgework (replacement teeth built around your other existing teeth).
- Removable dentures: This type of denture can be safely removed by yourself – one common example is an “overdenture” or a piece that you place into your mouth that fits over your existing teeth.
Will dentures make me look “different?”
Modern dentures are meant to look as much as possible like natural teeth. Most people will not notice that you are wearing dentures.
What are some other benefits of dentures?
Many patients who get dentures for the first time report that they are able to speak, eat, and converse more easily with other people. Dentures can also be a big boost for a person’s self-esteem, as they make it easier to smile openly, talk with people out in public, and generally present yourself confidently to the world.
What are some of the challenges involved with dentures?
Dentures can take some time to get used to. You might have some pain or discomfort at first – talk to your dentist if the pain continues; you might need to have your dentures adjusted or re-fitted. It can take some time to learn how to speak and eat normally after being fitted with dentures. Dentures also need to be cleaned properly and need to be well taken care of to prevent them getting damaged, lost or broken.
Dentures can be a difference-maker in your life – or in the life of one of your loved ones. Talk to your dentist to get some more information on the options that might be best for you.