Dentures are removable false teeth made of acrylic (plastic), nylon or metal. They fit snugly over the gums to replace missing teeth and eliminate potential problems caused by gaps.
Gaps left by missing teeth can cause problems with eating and speech, and teeth either side of the gap may grow into the space at an angle. Sometimes all the teeth need to be removed and replaced. You may therefore need either:
complete dentures (a full set) – which replace all your upper or lower teeth, or partial dentures – which replace just 1 tooth or a few missing teeth
Dentures may help prevent problems with eating and speech, they may also improve the appearance of your smile and give you confidence. Occasionally, your gums may need to be left to heal and alter in shape for several months before dentures can be fitted.
Making your Denture It will take several visits to complete making your denture. A trial denture will be created from the impressions taken of your mouth. The dentist will try this in your mouth to assess the fit and for you to assess the appearance. The shape and colour may be adjusted before the final denture is produced.
Partial dentures A partial denture is designed to fill in the gaps left by one or more missing teeth. It's a plastic, nylon or metal plate with a number of false teeth attached to it. It usually clips onto some of your natural teeth via metal clasps, which hold it securely in place in your mouth. It can easily be unclipped and removed.
Looking after your dentures Dentures may feel a bit strange to begin with, but you'll soon get used to wearing them. It isn't always necessary to remove your dentures at night, but doing so can allow your gums to rest as you sleep. If you remove your dentures, they should be kept moist – for example, in water or a polythene bag with some dampened cotton wool in it, or in a suitable overnight denture-cleaning solution. This will stop the denture material drying out and changing shape.
Dental hygiene Keeping your mouth clean is just as important when you wear dentures. You should brush your remaining teeth, gums and tongue every morning and evening with fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems.
Cleaning dentures It's important to regularly remove plaque and food deposits from your dentures. This is because unclean dentures can also lead to problems, such as bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay and oral thrush. Clean your dentures as often as you would normal teeth (at least twice a day: every morning and night). You should:
brush your dentures with toothpaste or soap and water before soaking them to remove food particles
soak them in a fizzy solution of denture-cleaning tablets to remove stains and bacteria (follow the manufacturer's instructions)
brush them again as you would your normal teeth (but don't scrub them too hard)
Dentures may break if you drop them, so you should clean them over a bowl or sink filled with water, or something soft like a folded towel. The Oral Health Foundation website has more information on cleaning dentures.
Eating with dentures When you first start wearing dentures, you should eat soft foods cut into small pieces and chew slowly, using both sides of your mouth. Avoid chewing gum and any food that's sticky, hard or has sharp edges. You can gradually start to eat other types of food until you're back to your old diet. Never use toothpicks.
Denture adhesive If your dentures fit properly, you shouldn't necessarily need to use denture fixative (adhesive). But if your jawbone has shrunk significantly, adhesive may be the only way to help retain your dentures. Your dentist or clinical dental technician will advise you if this is the case. At first, some people feel more confident with their dentures if they use adhesive. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and avoid using excessive amounts. Adhesive can be removed from the denture by brushing with soap and water. Remnants of adhesive left in the mouth may need to be removed with some damp kitchen roll or a clean damp flannel. When to see your dentist You should continue to see your dentist regularly if you have dentures (even if you have complete dentures) so they can check for any problems. Your dentures should last several years if you take good care of them. Your gums and jawbone will eventually shrink, which means the dentures may not fit as well as they used to and can become loose, or they may become worn. See your dentist as soon as possible if:
your dentures click when you're talking
your dentures tend to slip, or you feel they no longer fit properly