A denture, or a complete denture as it is often called, is an appliance that is inserted in the mouth which rests or is supported by the oral tissues. A complete denture prosthetically replaces lost natural teeth and provides support for the cheeks and lips, helps in speaking clearly, and finally, provides the ability to chew food.
Well fitting 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 mouth, 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.
Most dentures are made of acrylic; upper and lower complete dentures should be fabricated for the patient simultaneously. A conventional denture is made after all teeth have been extracted and the tissues (gums) have healed (usually 6 – 8 weeks). An immediate denture is fabricated prior to any extractions and inserted immediately after the teeth are extracted;the tissues are allowed to heal under the denture. An immediate denture requires reline or remake three to six months after placement to achieve the best tissue fit possible after healing.
An upper denture is acrylic and usually pink colored that covers the palate (roof of the mouth) and a lower denture is shaped like a horseshoe to leave room for the tongue. The teeth are made of plastic, porcelain, or a material which is a combination of both. Dentures can be fabricated to fit over endodontically-treated teeth to help maintain the bone and a complete denture can also be be made to fit over and be attached to dental implants to allow for a more secure fit of the prosthesis.
An upper denture is relatively predictable to fabricate utilizing the broad hard palate to assist in retention and stability. The lower full denture is typically more complex because there is no “suction” holding it in place which is often available with the upper denture. For this reason, there is a general consensus that a lower full denture should be supported by two to four implants placed in the lower jaw. A lower denture supported by implants is a far more secure placement than without implants. Without implants, the denture is only held in place with weak lower mouth muscles. With a lower denture secured with implants, the patients should be able to chew more efficiently. Without implants, it will be more difficult to do so.
Over a normal course of time, the patient’s supporting tissues change and the dentures will wear requiring the dentures 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