Dentures, also known as false teeth, are prosthetic devices constructed to replace missing teeth; they are supported by the surrounding soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Conventional dentures are removable (removable partial denture or complete denture). However, there are many denture designs, some which rely on bonding or clasping onto teeth or dental implants (fixed prosthodontics). There are two main categories of dentures, the distinction being whether they are used to replace missing teeth on the mandibular arch or on the maxillary arch.
Removable partial dentures
Removable partial dentures are for patients who are missing some of their teeth on a particular arch.
Another option in this category is the Flexible partial, which is widely considered to be the most comfortable. The final restoration can now be made very quickly with innovations in digital technology. Flexible partials are becoming much more popular due to their aesthetic qualities. While the cost may be higher than a partial made with visible metal clasps, the results of the flexible partial are beautiful, with high levels of satisfaction. Flexible partial fabrication involves only non-invasive procedures, and serves as a virtually invisible tooth replacement option.
Complete dentures are worn by patients who are missing all of the teeth in a single arch (i.e., the maxillary (upper) or mandibular (lower) arch) or, more commonly, in both arches, upper/maxillary and lower/mandibular alike.
Complete dentures can be either “conventional” or “immediate.” Made after the teeth have been removed and the gum tissue has begun to heal, a conventional denture is ready for placement in the mouth about eight to 12 weeks after the teeth have been removed.
Unlike conventional dentures, immediate dentures are made in advance and can be positioned as soon as the teeth are removed. As a result, the wearer does not have to be without teeth during the healing period. However, bones and gums shrink over time, especially during the healing period following tooth removal. Therefore a disadvantage of immediate dentures compared with conventional dentures is that they require more adjustments to fit properly during the healing process and generally should only be considered a temporary solution until conventional dentures can be made.
How Are Dentures Made?
The denture development process takes a few weeks and several appointments. Once your dentist or prosthodontist (a dentist who specializes in the restoration and replacement of teeth) determines what type of appliance is best for you, the general steps are to:
- Make a series of impressions of your jaw and take measurements of how your jaws relate to one another and how much space is between them.
- Create models, wax forms, and/or plastic patterns in the exact shape and position of the denture to be made. You will “try in” this model several times and the denture will be assessed for color, shape, and fit before the final denture is cast.
- Cast a final denture
- Adjustments will be made as necessary