Below is a Frequently Asked Questions section all about dentures:
- Types of dentures and materials
- How long does it take to get used to dentures?
- Immediate vs permanent dentures
- Procedure and recovery time for immediate dentures
- Eating with dentures
- Talking with dentures
- How to clean dentures
- Sleeping with dentures
- What do I do if my denture breaks?
- Further reading
What types of dentures exist and what am I getting?
There are different types of dentures. Partial dentures are, as the name suggests, not designed to replace all teeth, but only some missing teeth. They are usually connected to a gum-coloured plastic base, which may be also be attached to a metal framework for additional stability. In partial dentures, most metal parts are placed behind the teeth, so they are not visible, and visible clasps will look like little more than saliva bubbles to the casual viewer (remember: no one but you will be inspecting your teeth for signs of authenticity!)
Full or complete dentures are designed to replace all the teeth, whether on the upper jaw, or the lower, or both. They are usually made of gum-colored acrylic base, the same as the gum-colored base in partial dentures. The teeth may be made of plastic or porcelain, though porcelain is very rare nowadays. Both kinds of teeth are very resilient.
As to which kind of denture you might be getting, it depends on whether you are getting full extractions (whether on the upper or lower parts of your mouth) or partials. If you are in any doubt at all, please ask your dentist. That is the sort of basic question that they should be able to answer with ease.
What are dentures made of?
Acrylic (strictly poly-bis-guanine-methacrylate). This is the pink or white coloured material which will be familiar to everyone who has seen a denture. Introduced shortly after WW2, it’s an excellent material for denture use. It’s aesthetic, can be made to fit very closely to the tissues, is generally kind to the tissues and is easy to work with.
False denture teeth made from acrylic can look very natural and when the denture is correctly processed, they are chemically bonded to the base structure and won’t “fall out” in use.
It can be adjusted easily and can be polished to a high gloss finish.
It has a few slight disadvantages, firstly it needs to be a certain thickness in order to have enough strength to function in the harsh environment of the mouth, secondly it wears away fairly quickly against natural teeth or against harder foodstuffs and finally it is very slightly porous, it has microscopic holes in its structure which can allow bacteria and fungi to colonise it. It is possible to show allergic symptoms to acrylic, but this is normally due to defective processing, allowing a higher amount of un-polymerised acrylic in the finished denture.
Cobalt Chrome Alloy. CoCr alloys were originally developed for the blades of jet turbines! They are very strong and very light in weight. In dentures they are used either for the base part of the denture, with the teeth and gum parts being added out of acrylic, or they can be used to make clasps (clips) from to help stabilise otherwise all acrylic partial dentures. They can be made to fit very closely to the tissues and are relatively cheap to use.
Their main disadvantage is poor aesthetics, they quite clearly don’t look like natural tissues and some patients can’t accept them in their mouth. They are difficult to adjust because they are so hard and they don’t take kindly to being bent, they become very brittle if they get bent and will almost always break if anyone tries to bend them back into shape! Allergy to Chrome is known but rare.
Stainless Steel. Pretty much superseded by CoCr nowadays, stainless steel was used for denture bases where patients with extremely heavy bites would fracture their dentures regularly. It’s difficult to work with and doesn’t fit particularly closely to the tissues. It’s heavy but due to its strength it can be used to make extremely thin denture bases. Clasps can also be made from stainless steel, where adjustments are easier than with CoCr. Allergy to Nickel can cause issues with this material.
Vulcanite. Used from the 19th century to the beginning of WW2, vulcanite was the first effective denture material, made from processed rubber, it allowed good fitting dentures to be made at reasonable cost. Aesthetically it was poor since it was a sort of orange colour but it was very kind to the tissues and because it was slightly deformable, made for a very comfortable denture. The false teeth used were made of porcelain and would tend to fall out of their location in the denture over time, because they were not actually bonded into place.
Gold. Can be used instead of stainless steel for patients with a history of allergy to Nickel. Very, very rare nowadays and very expensive to make.
If you want to know what your denture will be made of, ask your dentist.
How long does it take to get used to dentures?
That depends on what kind of dentures you are getting. Partial dentures are easier to get used to. Your remaining teeth provide additional stability, and chewing and talking should not be a problem. Even then, not all partial dentures are the same. Someone who gets a partial denture to replace two missing teeth at the front of their mouth may have an easier time than someone who has a partial denture replacing all of the molars on the lower left side. The opposite is also possible. It’s different for everyone.
Many partial dentures will have clasps that attach to your remaining teeth, for stability, and this helps greatly. It may feel disconcerting, and your tongue may feel confused, but with time, you will adjust easily to talking and eating with partial dentures.
For full denture wearers, it is a little harder. If all your teeth have been cleared (whether upper, lower, or both), the denture cannot clasp on. For upper dentures, it is much easier, as it will have a plate that covers some of the roof of your mouth. This creates suction, which gives you good stability. For lower full dentures, this is not an option.
However, there are no dentures that you cannot get used to. They all require varying levels of practice. For upper full dentures, your tongue must adjust to the plastic plate. Dental adhesive can help with looser dentures. It is a harmless but gluey gel that you place along the insides of the denture, and it attaches to your gums and gives you greater suction and stability. For lowers, your tongue must adjust to keeping the denture in place while you talk. This takes practice, but the lowers are the least visible teeth for most people, and you will find it gets easier each day.
Dentures, whether full or immediate, may make you salivate at first, and even give you a slight tummy-ache, because your body thinks the foreign object in your mouth is food. Drinking water and sucking a (preferably sugar-free) candy can help with this.
What are immediate dentures?
Immediate dentures are dentures that are created before your teeth are removed. They are used so that people undergoing extractions do not have to be toothless for long periods of time. In order to make them, your dental professional will make casts of your teeth and gums. For this, they use plastic trays filled with a soft gel that hardens after a few moments. The suction might feel alarming, but this gel is not strong enough to pull out teeth, so don’t be worried. This procedure is not invasive and involves no drilling. It will also not block off the airways in your mouth. If you are especially frightened of having objects placed in your mouth, please talk to your dentist. There are varying sizes of plastic plates they can use, and if you are especially scared, they can try their best to find the smallest size that fits your teeth.
They may also test your bite, using strips of paper that you bite on to create an impression. This is not invasive and doesn’t involve any large objects in your mouth.
Immediate dentures are a guess. No one, not even the best dentist, can know how your gums will settle once your teeth are removed. For this reason, they are often imperfect. They may chafe and cause sores. Don’t be alarmed. This is very normal! It happens to almost everyone. Dentists have special tools that allow them to shave away any parts of the immediate denture that may be causing chafing.
Very, very occasionally, immediate dentures will be a poor fit overall. They may cause jaw issues, or not allow your lips to rest naturally. This is not common. But immediate dentures can be reshaped to fit your mouth and jaw better. If you are having such problems, inform your dentist as soon as you can. If you are close to being fitted for permanent dentures, the dentist may advise you to wait. If not, you deserve something you can use with ease, and do not be afraid to ask for such. Also do not be afraid to seek a second opinion. If your permanent dentures were made at one dental practice, that does not mean another practice cannot adjust or tweak them to fit you better.
What are permanent dentures?
Permanent dentures are made at least 6 months after your extractions, and not before. The dentist will wait until your extraction sites have fully healed, and they will wait for any swelling in your gums to subside. Once your gums have settled, your dentist will take impressions and create entirely new dentures based on them.
Many dental practices will first make pseudo-dentures out of wax, and fit the teeth in those. That way, you can try them on, and take bite impressions, so that the dentist can be sure your teeth are aligning correctly, and that the dentures look natural. Once you and your dentist are satisfied that the teeth are aligned correctly and look natural, the teeth can be set in plastic moulds, and those are your permanent dentures.
Permanent implies that they last forever. They don’t. Your gums will continue to shrink, but at a much lower rate than immediately following your extractions. How quickly you will need replacements is different for everyone. Most people need their dentures replaced between 3 – 8 years.
Your gums will continue to shrink, and so will the bone that previously supported your teeth. This is a very gradual process, but over the years, you may find your dentures becoming looser. Or they may simply become worn from all that eating and talking! It is important that you continue to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups, even though you have lost your natural teeth. Your dentist will check your dentures thoroughly, and your mouth, and will be able to tackle any problems before they arise.
What is the procedure for extractions and immediate dentures?
If you have spoken to your dentist and are sure you are getting immediate dentures following your extractions, then the procedure is simple. Your teeth will be extracted. Often this is done in one sitting. Other people will get their teeth extracted in sections. Sometimes sedative aids will be used, such as sedation or general anaesthesia.
Once your teeth are extracted, your immediate dentures will be fitted immediately, as the name suggests. You may be instructed to keep them on for 24 hours. This is good advice to follow, as it helps protect the extraction sockets in those first hours. Also, you will experience swelling after your extractions, but your dentures will keep this in check. If you take them out, the swelling may increase, and it can be difficult to put the dentures back in. Keeping them in for 24 hours includes wearing them overnight. They may fall out overnight while you’re asleep, but this is not a cause for concern, and it isn’t very common. If they do, put them back on if you can.
After 24 hours, you will need to clean them. Post-extractions, this may be a little bit daunting. They may have gunk in them, clotted blood and such, but that is perfectly normal. Rinse them off under a cool tap, and follow the instructions of your dentist or oral surgeon. You may be given special mouthwash, or instructed to rinse with water with a spoonful of salt in it. You may be advised to soak your dentures. Clean your dentures as per the advice given, don’t look in the mirror (just don’t, it will look alarming no matter what), and put your dentures back in.
After this point, you will be advised to keep them off overnight. This gives your gums time to breath. Keep your dentures clean, and use whatever mouthwash or instructions you were given, and you will be fine.
How long is the recovery time?
This is different for everyone. Extractions are not usually a complicated procedure, even when the teeth are broken below the gum line. Dentists and oral surgeons do not need a visible tooth to “pull” for extractions: they use small, precise tools to work the tooth and roots free. Barring complications, extractions are not especially painful and don’t take too long to heal. Complications such as dry socket (when the protective clot in a fresh extraction site becomes dislodged and exposes the bone) or infections can be very painful, but are easily treated by your dentist. You should be given an appointment a few days after your extractions to check your healing and check your immediate dentures, if you have them. If you end up in pain that painkillers cannot treat, do call your dentist. Treatment is usually simple, like antibiotics for an infection, and packing the empty socket in cases of dry socket.
You may have to eat liquids for a few days. Protein shakes are a good way to keep your calorie intake up while you are recovering. With no complications, you are likely to feel tender rather than in pain. Once the tenderness goes away, it is the perfect time to begin eating more solid foods.
How hard is it to get used to eating with dentures?
It depends on what kind of dentures. If you have partials, you will likely find yourself subconsciously favoring your natural teeth, and it may take some time and practice before you feel comfortable chewing with your partial. It is advised that you try, even if it takes time, because the more you chew with your partial denture, the sooner it will feel a part of your mouth.
If you have full dentures, it will feel very jarring at first. The dentures will feel like a foreign object. You will likely find that everything feels very “clumsy”, and you may not chew enough. As with everything to do with dentures, the solution is to practice! Don’t shy away from food that seems challenging. Some tough foods, like overcooked meat (pork and beef especially) and undercooked pasta, may be very difficult to chew, even once practiced. But things like burgers, rice, well-cooked pasta, meatballs, sandwiches, pizza, potato chips, popcorn, and eventually even crunchy things like cookies, these are all fine to eat with properly fitting dentures. To begin with, soft-solids, like boiled potatoes, mincemeat, and well-steamed veg, are a great place to start out. Sauces and gravies can help soften foods that you are struggling with or are daunted by.
With either partial, immediate, or permanent dentures, if you find food gets stuck in them after eating, this is not a cause for alarm. It is more common if your dentures are loose. You can simply rinse your dentures clean under the tap to get rid of large food particles. Daily denture cleaning will take care of anything else.
How hard is it to talk with dentures in?
With partial dentures, it should quite easy providing they are a good fit. With full dentures, it can be harder, as bottom dentures may seem to shift around as you talk, and the uppers may cover the roof of your mouth, which your tongue uses to make “S” sounds. You may lisp at first, but it will sound far more pronounced to you than to anyone else. Remember that any sounds you make are magnified to your own hearing because they occur inside your own head! So a slight lisp will sound very pronounced to you, but to outside listeners it will be barely noticeable.
Practice talking as often as you can. Sing along to your favourite songs, talk to your significant other, family, pets, even your plants! Do not give up, even if you’re embarrassed. There is no shame in learning how to talk with a new, healthy mouth. Practice counting from 65-70, as this encompasses many of the sounds that denture-wearers struggle with at first. It is different for everyone, but the lisping should pass within a few weeks – for some people it passes within only 1 or 2 weeks.
How do I clean my dentures?
How to clean dentures:
- Clean the dentures in warm water with a detergent, pretty much anything works, washing up liquid is cheap and works well. Use a soft nail brush or a proper denture brush, either works.
- Rinse well afterwards if you’re putting them back in again.
- Once or twice a week the denture needs to be disinfected, so soaking for a minimum of 20 minutes in a weak hypochlorite solution is recommended. Household bleach is perfectly fine for the job. It is possible to use Corsodyl instead but hypochlorite is better and a lot cheaper.
- Normal toothpaste is far too abrasive to use on acrylic dentures, as it has pumice in it and takes the polish off the denture, causing it to stain more readily.
- It is important to clean your denture every single day, as fungal build-up can cause conditions like yeast infections, which make your gums red and sore, and bacteria build-up can contribute to infections.
Do I still need to use toothbrushes?
Yes! You should clean your gums and the inside of your mouth with a soft-bristled brush and some water. Tongue scrapers can also be helpful. This is important to avoid bacterial and fungal overgrowth. Just because you have dentures, doesn’t mean your mouth doesn’t need care and attention.
Can I wear my dentures to sleep every night?
You can, but barring the first night after extractions, this is not advised. It is perfectly fine to wear them overnight occasionally, such as when staying with family or friends, or sharing your bed with someone. Otherwise, it is best to take them out overnight to relieve the pressure on your gums and bones.
If you are wearing them overnight, make sure you are taking them out and cleaning them once a day as usual.
Can dentures break? What do I do if I break mine?
They can, but they are quite tough. If they are particularly old, they may wear down, and prosthetic teeth can fall out. Or, if dropped, they can sustain damage or break in half. Try not to drop them: when taking them out or putting them in, do so over a sink full of water, or place a towel on the surface below you, as this will soften their fall.
If your denture breaks, call your dentist immediately. If it is minor damage, it may seem a good idea to keep wearing them anyway, but be very wary of sharp edges, as this can cut your mouth or allow for bacteria build-up that leads to infections.
Dentures – Information and Support Groups – Links to support groups and other denture information websites.
Kissing with dentures? – from our message boards
The information on this page has been provided by Sevena from the Dental Fear Central Web Team and by Gordon Laurie. Last reviewed by Gordon Laurie BDS on November 15, 2018. We welcome your feedback on our information resources.