Dentures (also known as false teeth) are removable prosthetic devices for missing teeth and the surrounding tissues that are inserted in the mouth.

What are Dentures?

Dentures (also known as false teeth) are removable prosthetic devices for missing teeth and the surrounding tissues that are inserted in the mouth and provide support for your cheeks and lips. Most dentures are made of acrylic, and the teeth of plastic, porcelain or a combination of both.

Both complete and partial dentures are available.

Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing, while partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain. Dentures can be used to replace missing teeth on the mandibular arch (lower jaw) or the maxillary arch (upper jaw). An upper denture has acrylic, usually flesh coloured plate that covers the palate (roof of the mouth). A lower denture is shaped like a horseshoe to leave room for your tongue, and is not as successful or as comfortable as an upper denture.

Partial Dentures

Removable partial dentures, or bridges, consist of replacement teeth attached to a gum-coloured plastic base, which is connected by a metal framework that holds it in place in the mouth. These can be used when there are one or more teeth that remain in the jaw. A fixed (permanent) bridge replaces one or more teeth by placing crowns on the teeth on either side of the space and attaching artificial teeth to them. This is then cemented into place. This not only fills in the spaces created by missing teeth, it also prevents the remaining teeth from changing their position.

How long does it take?

The process usually takes between three and six weeks and a few appointments. Once Dr Steyn has decided the best solution for you, he will:

  1. Make a series of impressions of your jaw and take measurements of how your jaws relate to one another and how much space is between them.
  2. Create models, wax forms, and/or plastic patterns in the exact shape and position of the denture to be made. You will “try in” this model several times and the denture will be assessed for colour, shape, and fit before the final denture is processed.

Denture Care

Daily cleaning of dentures is recommended. Plaque and tartar can build up on false teeth, just as they do on natural teeth. Cleaning can be done by chemical or mechanical denture cleaners. Regular dentist examinations are still important for the denture wearer so that the oral tissues can be checked for disease or change.

Benefits of dentures:

  • Chewing ability is improved by replacing gaps with denture teeth.
  • The presence of teeth improve the appearance of the face, as well as providing support for cheeks and lip. A “sunken” appearance can be avoided.
  • Pronunciation of some sounds and general speech is improved.
  • Self-esteem is improved.

Limitations of dentures:

  • New dentures can cause pain as they compress the mucosa (soft tissue) of the mouth. This is usually taken care of by a few adjustments.
  • Gagging is another problem encountered by a minority of patients.
  • Sometimes there could be a gingivitis under the full dentures, which is caused by accumulation of dental plaque.
  • One of the most common problems for new full upper denture wearers is the loss of taste.
  • Dentures over a normal course of time will wear and need to be replaced or relined in order to keep the jaw alignment normal. The alignment will slowly change as the bone and gum ridges recede or shrink due to the extraction of the teeth.

What are the alternatives to dentures?

Dental implants can be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost is usually greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the feel of real teeth.

In addition, implants can be used to support and retain full dentures. This is usually done when cost is a factor and less implants can be used.