You only get one set of permanent teeth, but sometimes, accidents, decay or aging can lead to tooth loss before you’re ready to quit smiling. Fortunately, today’s dentures provide all the look and functionality of natural teeth, and are equally as easy to care for.

Dentures are commonly known as false teeth. There are two types of dentures: partial and full. As is indicated by their names, partial dentures replace one or a few missing teeth, while full dentures replace an entire arch or row (upper or lower). Dentures are usually removable, though dental crowns, bridges, and to some extent, implants, are sometimes referred to as fixed partial dentures.

How do dentures work?

With partial dentures, a metal frame attaches to the natural teeth on either side of the denture to hold the artificial teeth in place. These teeth are designed to match the natural teeth as closely as possible, thereby completing the person’s smile.

Full dentures are held in place by a custom-molded acrylic base that fits over the person’s gums and is often held in place with denture adhesive. This base is designed to mimic the appearance of the person’s gums and holds an entire set (upper or lower) of prosthetic teeth.

Who should get dentures?

Anyone who is missing teeth as a result of trauma, decay or age might consider dentures. Depending on the nature and extent of the damage, a dental crown or implant may be a better choice. A dental consultation can determine which dental treatment best suits a patient’s needs.

What do dentures entail?

The process for planning, creating and fitting dentures varies depending on the type of denture and the specific situation. Often, in elderly patients or in cases of advanced tooth decay, the dentist will remove any remaining teeth and fit the patient for a full denture. However, whether the denture is partial or full, it always begins with a mold or impression of the patient’s mouth. This mold is used to custom fit the denture for a secure and comfortable fit.

If the denture is partial, samples may be used to match the color of the patient’s natural teeth. If the denture is full, the dentist might make immediate dentures for the patient to wear until the dentures come from the lab.

When the dentures arrive, the patient will return to the dentist’s office to try them on. Any minor adjustments will be made on site, and it may take a few days or even weeks for the patient to grow accustomed to talking, eating, etc. with the dentures. The dentist may schedule a one- or two-month checkup, or he or she may instruct the patient simply to call if there are any concerns.

Once the natural teeth are gone, the jaw begins to shrink. Therefore, denture wearers usually have to have their dentures relined every year or so to accommodate the shrinkage.

What can and can’t I do with dentures?

What you can’t do with dentures is ignore them. Dentures look and function like natural teeth, and they develop plaque buildup like natural teeth, too. Denture care differs slightly from natural tooth care, but the basic principle is the same: keep them clean.

Soak your denture overnight in a denture cleaner or in a 50-50 mix of warm water and vinegar, then brush and rinse it before putting it in every morning. And don’t forget to brush any remaining natural teeth and / or your gums with a soft toothbrush twice a day. And, of course, don’t forget to see your dentist on a regular basis!

How much do dentures cost?

The cost of dentures depends on the type, the practitioner (for example, prosthodontist versus cosmetic dentist) and the particular needs of the patient. In general, dentures run from several hundred to a couple thousand dollars, but much of this cost may be covered by insurance providers. Check with your dental insurance company before you have any work completed.