What are Dentures?
Most people have heard of dentures, or “false teeth.” There are both partial and full dentures, depending on whether you’ve lost a few teeth or all of your teeth. A full denture is called a “plate,” and a full set of dentures would include both upper and lower plates. A partial denture can be attached to remaining natural teeth with metal clasps, or with less-noticeable attachments that require crowns on the natural teeth.
Conventional dentures are removable and sit on the gums. They stay in place by being precisely fitted, and by creating a suction seal with a thin layer of saliva between the denture and the gum. Because the upper gums have more surface area than the lower gums, upper dentures can establish stronger suction and tend to stay in better. Adding to this is the fact that the tongue pushes on the lower dentures more, and tends to push them out of place. Particularly for lower dentures, dental implants may be desirable, because they anchor the dentures and help them stay in place.
When you’re considering any dental procedure, it’s important to know the risks and weigh them against the benefits. Once you understand the procedure, then you can make your decision about whether or not to proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of getting dentures at Dentures: Risks and Benefits.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential dental procedure with your own dentist.
How it’s done
If you have any remaining damaged teeth that you’re likely to lose, they should be extracted before you get dentures. After the last teeth are removed, then you’ll need to wait eight weeks to get fitted for your dentures. This allows for healing of the gums and bone tissue. Once you’re ready to be fitted, you’ll come in for an appointment to take impressions of your mouth. You’ll come for another appointment to try in a model, to check the fit. There will then be another appointment to fit your dentures, making any necessary adjustments. Finally, you’ll come in for follow-up appointments to make sure the dentures are fitting and functioning well.
If, despite knowing that there will be adequate pain control, you still feel anxiety about these procedures, sedation dentistry may be an option for you.
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your dentist
You may be able to get your dentures from your regular dentist, or you may need to go to a different dentist with more experience in dentures. This can be a regular dentist, or a specialist called a prosthodontist (think “prosthetic dentist”). More importantly, you want to find out whether this particular dentist has experience performing the procedure you’re interested in. It’s at least as important to find a dentist with whom you feel comfortable, who listens to you, tries to understand your goals, and answers your questions. Referrals from friends and family, especially if they’ve had the particular procedure you’re considering, can be especially valuable.
Planning for the Cost
Of course, you’ll want to know the cost of your procedure, whether insurance will cover it, and how you’ll finance it. For more, visit our Dentures Cost page.
There is generally no recovery needed from denture fitting. There is no pain, and no anesthesia is necessary. However, you should expect the shape of your gums and jaw to change over time after you’ve lost your teeth. Therefore, although your dentures may fit perfectly when you first get them, you may need new dentures re-fitted after a few years.