Medically Reviewed by Greg Grillo, D.D.S.
Are you missing teeth? If so, dentures may be right for you. There are two types of dentures available – complete and partial. Complete dentures replace the missing teeth in the upper and lower jaws of the mouth for people with no remaining teeth. A partial denture — either permanently secured in the mouth or one that is removable — also may be used for individuals to replace some missing teeth and is built around existing natural teeth. An overdenture is a removable dental prosthesis that covers and sits on one or more remaining tooth roots.
The overdenture and the removable partial denture could be connected to the remaining tooth roots or remaining natural teeth with anchors made of metal or plastic. These connections improve the stability and retention of both types of dentures.
Unlike the dentures of years past, today’s dentures are comfortable, functional, can be secured with dental implants. They can be designed to look and feel like natural teeth to improve a person’s smile.
Periodontal disease (gum disease), tooth decay or traumatic injury may all may lead to tooth loss and it is important to replace these teeth. Missing teeth can lead to shifting of the remaining teeth, an inability to bite and chew properly (potentially causing TMJ problems) and a saggy facial appearance that makes you look older than you are.
Are You a Candidate?
To determine if you’re a candidate for dentures and which option is right for you, it’s necessary to visit your dentist for an examination of your gums and supporting bone structures. Some people need oral surgery to correct bony ridges and ensure the stability of their dentures, while others may need to have any remaining teeth extracted (wisdom tooth extraction).
In some cases involving tooth extraction, the dentist may provide immediate dentures to enable proper healing of the extraction sites and to serve as a replacement for the natural teeth. The healing process typically takes from six to 12 months, during which time the gums will shrink. Immediate dentures can be adjusted to changing ridge contours during healing until permanent dentures are made or the immediate denture is relined for a better fit.
Once your dentist determines that dentures are the right option for you, an impression of the gums is made to create stone models to guide the design of your denture. Also, dentists use a shade and mold chart to select replacement teeth that best match your natural teeth, which minimizes any significant changes in the look of your smile. If you want to change the appearance of your smile, a new denture may be a good opportunity to do so.
Choosing Your Dentist
Although many general dentists can provide dentures, prosthodontists are specialists with an additional three years of advanced training in restorative dentistry who provide expert care when it comes to dentures. The American College of Prosthodontists provides additional information regarding the training of prosthodontists in the United States.
Caring for and Adapting to Your Dentures
See your dentist 24 hours after receiving your new dentures, and keep in mind that it is normal to experience some initial discomfort. Your new dentures may feel awkward in the mouth at first. Your cheeks, lips and tongue are extremely sensitive tissues that need time to adjust. It’s not uncommon to bite your cheeks and tongue while you adjust to your dentures.
Minor adjustments to the denture can provide comfort and eliminate problems before they develop into something more serious. However, if you experience constant soreness or irritation, you should consult with your dentist.
Denture adhesives may not be necessary after you’ve adapted to your new appliance, especially if your dentures fit well. The lower denture is expected to fit loosely. Keeping your denture in place may take some practice using the muscles of your cheeks and tongue. With practice, it will become second nature.
Learning to eat with your new dentures also will take practice. Begin by slowly chewing on small bits of soft food, using both sides of your mouth at the same time. Once you’re more comfortable and confident, you can progress to larger pieces of food and then to harder foods. You may find that talking while wearing your dentures also may require practice. Certain words may be difficult to pronounce, but the problem can often be overcome within two weeks. It is suggested that you practice reading aloud to adjust more quickly.
Poor dental hygiene increases the risk of developing more serious medical conditions, such as periodontal disease, leukoplakia (thick white, potentially premalignant patches on the mucus membranes, also called smokers tongue) and fungal (denture stomatitis) infections. It’s very important for denture wearers to adopt good oral hygiene habits and maintain a healthy mouth to minimize these risks.
To stimulate the gums and remove plaque buildup, the gum, tongue and palate should be brushed using a soft bristle brush before dentures are inserted and after they have been removed. When removing dentures at night, carefully brush them to remove any loose debris and plaque, then bathe them in a cleansing solution recommended by your dentist. This will help to avoid oral health issues, which may include bad breath. Although some people store their dentures in an ultrasonic cleaner, an ultrasonic cleaner is not a substitute for brushing. When cleaning your dentures, place a towel beneath the denture or clean them over a sink filled with water to avoid breakage if they’re accidently dropped.
Before bedtime, complete dentures, overdentures and removable partial dentures should be removed. Doing so allows your gums to become moistened by saliva, which helps control naturally occurring mouth flora and facilitates maintaining a healthy mouth.
Replacing or Readjusting Dentures
It is important to visit your dentist if your dentures don’t fit well because of mouth irritation, crack, chip, or break. Even though your gums may change shape within the first year, changes in your gums and bone can continue throughout your life. This may result in poor fitting or loose dentures that negatively affect your facial appearance and movement of the dentures that irritates the gums. Complete dentures should be remade or at least relined every five to seven years. If you experience weight loss of 10 pounds or more, you may find your denture becomes loose.
Dentures Cost: Evaluating the Care and Price of Dentures
With a variety of options at your disposal for the replacement of missing teeth, a determining factor may be cost. The price of dentures may be significantly less than the price of dental implants or bridges, especially if you are edentulous. Are dentures the right option for you?
Based on national averages, the cost of dentures can range from as little as $400 up to $8,000. Complete dentures typically will cost less than partial dentures, though depending on the materials used, partial dentures may cost as much if not more than complete dentures.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Dentures
The cost of dentures fluctuates based on a variety of factors unique to each patient. In addition to the complexity of your denture treatment, some of the most obvious factors affecting denture price include:
- Oral Health: If you have hygiene problems like decay or gum disease, you will need to undergo corrective treatment before denture care can be administered.
- Dentist/Practice Location: Dentistry costs fluctuate significantly from one location to the next. Although there is a range of pricing, the cost for dentures in Los Angeles are likely to differ from the cost of dentures in Birmingham.
- Insurance Coverage: A comprehensive could save you a significant amount of money on dentures.
- Denture Materials: Highly cross-linked polymer costs more than conventional plastic denture materials, and the inclusion of various metals used in removable partial dentures also can impact the price.
- Oral Surgery: In order to prep you for denture treatment, additional procedures may be required, which may include tooth extraction or refinement of bony ridges.
- Specialists: If a prosthodontist is involved in your treatment process, the cost of dentures will likely go up.
- Denture Warranty: Your denture warranty may range from a couple years up to a decade or more. A longer warranty may yield a higher cost.
Financing Your Treatment
Although dentures typically cost less than dental implants or dental bridges, it can nonetheless be a significant amount of money you may not be able to afford. Even if you have dental insurance, you may find that coverage is limited to a mere portion of the costs. So, what can you do if you simply can’t afford dentures?
Third-party dental financing is available to help you get access to treatment(s) you currently are unable to afford. The total cost of dentures can be broken down into a monthly payment schedule that best fits your budget. In addition to the various third-party financing companies offering service, your dentist also may offer financing plans through the practice.
During your denture consultation and the discussion of how much denture treatments costs, you should speak with your dentist about your options to determine the best solution for your unique situation.