Dentures, which are removable artificial teeth, can be either partial (replace only a few missing teeth) or complete (replace a full set of missing teeth). There are two types of dentures: conventional dentures, which are placed after the teeth have been removed and the tissues have had time to heal, and immediate dentures, which are placed immediately after the teeth are removed with no healing time. An over-denture is a different kind of denture that fits over a small number of remaining teeth or implants.
When you first get dentures, it takes a little time to get used to them. They may feel awkward or loose until your cheek and tongue muscles learn to hold them in place. When first getting used to dentures, you may notice slipping when you laugh, smile or cough. This is caused by air getting under the base and moving it; you will eventually be able to better control these movements once you get more practice wearing them.
It may be a good idea to secure new dentures with an adhesive when you are just getting used to them. However, with all the recent advances in dentures, you normally do not need to use any type of adhesive with properly fitting dentures. Once you get used to wearing dentures, if you still feel they are loose, this is a sign they do not fit correctly, and you should see your dentist for a fit adjustment.
Eating also can be a challenge in the beginning. Starting with soft foods cut into small pieces and working your way up to returning to your normal diet is a good method to help you become used to chewing with your dentures. Avoid biting down on hard or crunchy foods, like whole apples, hard pretzels or crusty bread, as they can break due to the angle where the denture surface comes into contact with the hard surface. Other than these types of food, biting is limited only by the stability of the dentures themselves. Insufficient bone structure, old or worn dentures, and a dry mouth can decrease stability.
Sometimes dentures may feel sore or irritated, and it is important to see your dentist for regular fit adjustments to relieve this discomfort. Regular visits to your dentist are also important to assess whether your dentures need to be adjusted, relined or remade due to gum or bone shrinkage or normal wear over a period of time.
Should a denture be worn at night?
While you may be advised to wear your denture almost constantly during the first two weeks – even while you sleep – under normal circumstances it is considered best to remove it at night and soak the denture in cleansing solution or water. Research has shown that removing the denture for at least eight hours during either the day or night allows the gum tissue to rest and allows normal stimulation and cleansing by the tongue and saliva. This promotes better long-term health of the gums.
It is important to continue having regular dental checkups so that your dentist can examine oral tissues for signs of disease or cancer. With age, your mouth will continue to change as the bone under your denture shrinks or recedes. To maintain a proper fit over time, it may be necessary to adjust your denture or possibly remake your denture. Never attempt to adjust a denture yourself, and do not use denture adhesives for a prolonged period because this can contribute to bone loss. When in doubt, consult your dentist.
Are there any alternatives to dentures?
Dental implants are a possible alternative to dentures. Implants are artificial tooth roots that are surgically anchored into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. Implants and bridges may resemble the "feel" of real teeth, but they may be more expensive than dentures. Not all patients are good candidates for implants, so be sure to talk to your dentist about which treatment option is best for you.