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Everything you need to know about Dentures

Image of Dentures throughout history

The History

Dentures, or false teeth, have been used since as early as 2500 BC, with materials ranging from wolf teeth in ancient Mexico to gold-banded human and animal teeth by the Etruscans in 700 BC. The Renaissance period in Europe saw limited progress in denture development, focusing more on tooth extraction. In Japan, wooden dentures were popular from the 16th century until the early 20th century.

Significant advancements occurred in the 18th century, including the creation of the first porcelain dentures by Alexis Duchâteau in 1770, which were later improved for durability. The introduction of Vulcanite in the 1850s made dentures more affordable and widespread. By the 20th century, materials like polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) became standard due to their durability, cost-effectiveness, and ease of repair. 

So What Are Dentures?

I’m sure you’ve seen them, but dentures are custom-made, removable dental appliances that replace missing teeth and surrounding tissues, helping to restore oral function and aesthetics. They are crafted from various materials such as acrylic, resin, nylon, metal, and porcelain to closely mimic natural teeth and gums. Each denture is individually designed to fit the wearer’s mouth comfortably and match the appearance of their remaining teeth, ensuring a natural look.

Types of dentures

Dentures come in various forms, tailored to meet different dental needs. They can broadly be classified into 5 several types:

  1. Full Dentures (Complete Dentures): Typically, these dentures are what most people think of. They replace an entire arch of teeth, either upper or lower and rest on the gums. Some may require adhesives to stay in place. 
  2. Partial Dentures: These are used when some natural teeth remain. They are beneficial for filling the gaps left by missing teeth and preventing the remaining natural teeth from shifting. They often have clasps that attach to the remaining teeth to provide stability.
  3. Immediate Dentures: These dentures are provided immediately after teeth extraction to ensure that the wearer does not have to go without teeth during the healing period. They generally serve as a temporary solution until the gums heal fully before being replaced with more permanent dentures.
  4. Implant-Retained Dentures: These are anchored by dental implants embedded in the jawbone, providing increased stability. They are removable for cleaning but do not require adhesives due to the support from the implants.
  5. Implant-Supported Dentures: Similar to implant-retained, these are anchored by implants but are typically non-removable, offering a permanent solution. They are fixed into place by a dentist and provide the most natural function and feel, requiring similar maintenance to natural teeth.

What is the process of getting dentures?

The process of obtaining dentures is intricate and typically spans several weeks and appointments. Here are the general steps involved:

  1. Taking Impressions and Measurements:
    • Initially, your dentist or prosthodontist will take detailed impressions of both the upper and lower jaws, which include any remaining teeth and gums. These impressions may need to be taken more than once to ensure precision.
    • Measurements of how the jaws relate to one another and the space between them are also recorded to assist in the denture’s design.
  2. Creating the Models:
    • The impressions are sent to a dental laboratory where a dental technician crafts a stone model of your mouth. This model serves as the basis for constructing the denture.
    • Using the model, the technician creates wax forms or plastic patterns that mimic the exact shape and positioning of the future denture. This prototype, often in wax, is used for a “try-in” to assess the fit, color, and shape of the denture and make any necessary adjustments before the final product is made.
  3. Making the Denture:
    • Once the wax model is approved, the dental technician builds the denture using materials like acrylic, nylon, or resin for the base, where the artificial teeth will be set.
    • The teeth themselves are typically made from a hard resin, which is more fragile than natural teeth and prone to wear and tear, requiring replacement every five years or so.
  4. Final Adjustments
    • After the denture is assembled, it is polished to give it a natural-looking shine and smooth finish.
    • The completed denture is then sent back to the dentist for the final fitting, where further adjustments are made as necessary to ensure comfort and proper function.

While it is never the same for any two patients, this process ensures that the denture fits comfortably and functions similarly to natural teeth.

Denture care

Image of Elderly woman holding her dentures

Once you have dentures, it is very important to take care of them to ensure optimal oral health. Here are some dental care tips:

Denture Lifespan and Maintenance:

Dentures typically last between seven to ten years, but they require regular maintenance including relines every one to two years, or as needed to ensure a comfortable fit.

Daily Care Routine:

  • Remove dentures nightly to clean and to give your gums a rest.
  • Use a soft-bristled denture brush and non-abrasive denture cleaner to avoid scratching the surfaces.
  • After meals, rinse dentures to remove food particles.
  • Soak dentures overnight in a suitable cleanser solution; if dentures have metal parts, they should be soaked in water to avoid tarnishing.

Handling and Storage:

Handle dentures carefully. When handling, do so over a folded towel or a basin filled with water to avoid damage if dropped. Store dentures in a moist environment when not worn to maintain their shape. Avoid hot water as it can warp the denture.

Professional Care and Repairs:

Schedule follow-up appointments for adjustments and never attempt DIY repairs or adjustments, as improper handling can damage the denture. Contact your dentist immediately for professional repairs if dentures crack, break, or if a tooth becomes loose.

Cleaning Techniques:

Dentures should be cleaned daily using recommended techniques and products bearing the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. Avoid using toothpaste, bleach, or harsh cleaners that can damage dentures.

4 Common denture questions

Image of dentist working on dentures

At Ottawa Downtown Dentist, we have developed a reputation for providing quality dental service to our patients. When it comes to dentures our patients often have many questions. Here are 4 of the most common questions we hear from our patients.

Can I wear them for 24 hours?

It is generally recommended not to wear dentures continuously for 24 hours. Most people remove their dentures at night to give their mouth tissues a rest, which is crucial for oral health. Leaving dentures out for at least eight hours daily helps give your gums a break, reduces oral bacteria, and helps to keep the jawbone strong. Initially, your dentist may advise you to wear them even while sleeping to identify areas needing adjustment, but after this period, nightly removal is beneficial.

Will eating be more challenging?

Eating with new dentures may feel awkward at first and can be uncomfortable for a few weeks. To combat this, it is advised that you start with soft foods cut into small pieces and chew slowly using both sides of your mouth. Gradually introduce more varied textures as you become accustomed to the dentures. Be cautious with hard, sticky, or sharp foods, and avoid using toothpicks or chewing gum while your dentures are in.

Will they affect the way I speak?

New dentures may affect your speech initially, making it difficult to pronounce certain words. Practice speaking out loud to adapt more quickly. If your dentures click while talking or slip when you laugh, cough, or smile, reposition them by gently biting down and swallowing. Persistent issues should be addressed by your dentist or prosthodontist.

When should I call a doctor?

Schedule a visit with your dentist if your dentures feel loose, cause discomfort, click during speech, show signs of damage or discoloration, or are older than 10 years. Regular check-ups every six months are also recommended to ensure the dentures fit well and to examine your oral health for any other underlying issues.