Dentures, which replace weak or missing teeth, are removable dental appliances that can behave as either a full or partial set of teeth in one or more areas of your mouth. Whereas conventional types of dentures rest on the gum and may be attached to the natural teeth, implant-supported dentures are attached to a foundation that is surgically fixed into the jawbone.
Dentures for replacing a full set of teeth are called full dentures. To replace teeth in the upper jaw, these dentures include a flesh-colored acrylic base that covers the gums and the roof of the mouth, allowing an entire set of false teeth to sit firmly. Full dentures for the lower mouth are similar, but the acrylic base is shaped like a horseshoe to avoid covering the tongue.
Prior to fitting full dentures, the dentist removes any remaining teeth. The jawbone reacts to this process slowly, reshaping over time. For a perfect fit, the dentist may in fact wait several months before measuring the mouth and ordering one's full dentures from the supplier. Because the patient has no teeth during this time, however, the dentist may measure the mouth before removing them and fit an immediate replacement to keep him or her comfortable in the interim. Later, the dentist relines these immediate dentures to fit the reshaped jawbone.
When just a few teeth are missing, partial dentures fill the gap. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), partial dentures can be attached to natural teeth in several ways, the most conventional of which uses metal clasps that grip the natural teeth. Another option the dentist may offer is a partial denture, which adheres with precision attachments that are less noticeable. Partial dentures can also be attached to crowns on the natural teeth. These crowns can actually improve the fit of partial dentures, and are often required with precision attachments.
As the name suggests, implant-supported dentures are attached to implants in the jawbone that extend outward from the gums. A dentist surgically fits these implants over the course of one or more visits, and they remain in place. An advantage to implant-supported dentures is that they are more stable than other types of dentures – especially in the lower jaw, where conventional dentures are most likely to slip out of place. The implants are usually fitted at the front of the jaw.
Implant-supported dentures can be bar-retained and ball-retained. With the former, a thin metal bar attaches to two to five implants in the jawbone. Clips or similar types of attachments fix the denture to this bar. Ball-retained dentures, also called stud-attachment dentures, usually contain sockets that fit onto ball-shaped connectors on the implants – though sometimes these connectors slot into sockets within the implants.
Candidates for implant-supported dentures should have healthy gums, good oral care routines and sufficient jawbone, though bone can be rebuilt to a certain degree if needed.
Caring for Dentures
All types of dentures need regular cleaning and care to avoid future dental health problems and prolong the lives of the dentures themselves. Removing and cleaning your dentures every day – while brushing the tongue, gums and palate with a toothbrush as soft as Colgate® 360°® Sensitive Pro-Relief™ – helps to keep dentures clean and your mouth fresh.
With a wide range of dentures available, you need not suffer difficulty chewing or feel self-conscious about the appearance of your mouth. A dentist can advise you on the best restoration to meet your needs. With careful cleaning and maintenance, your dentures will last for many years.