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Denture Basics

Dentures have been an accepted and effective way to replace teeth lost due to illness, injury or gum disease. Most people think dentures replace all the teeth in your mouth, but partial dentures are also used when one or more natural teeth remain. Dentures are an important way to maintain your ability to eat and talk normally and smile naturally. They are made to resemble your natural teeth as closely as possible, and modern technology makes it practically impossible for anyone to know you are wearing dentures when they fit well and are properly maintained.

Deciding to Get Dentures

It may be a tough decision to agree to have all your teeth pulled and replaced with dentures, but generally it comes at a time when you have dental problems that are so serious there is little choice. A severe injury to your face can result is so much damage to your gums and jaw that keeping your natural teeth is not a choice. Severe gum disease, repeated abscessed teeth, and other types of illnesses are also a catalyst for dentures. While it can seem to be an unpleasant choice, once you become accustomed to eating and talking with dentures, having dentures will feel normal and natural.

When You First Get Dentures

The dentist will take measurements of your mouth, as well as impressions of your upper and lower jaw before your teeth are removed. It will take several weeks, usually between 6 and 12 weeks, for your gum tissues to heal and the swelling to go down. Often, temporary dentures are made in advance, called immediate complete dentures, and are inserted into your mouth as soon as your teeth are removed. This will enable you to talk and eat as normally as possible while your mouth is healing. Because their fit will change after the swelling in your gums goes down, these immediate dentures will need to be rebased or relined after the healing period.

An alternative to immediate dentures is to wait until your gums are completely healed and all the swelling and soreness is gone to have your conventional dentures fitted. This insures that they will fit properly from the outset, but you will be without your teeth throughout the healing period. This will make eating and talking more difficult, and many people say they are embarrassed to be seen without their dentures.

How Dentures Are Made

It will take 3 to 6 weeks and a few appointments for the dentist or prosthodondist (a dentist who specializes in the replacement of teeth) to fit and make your dentures. Here are the steps in creating dentures:

1. A series of impressions of your jaw are taken, along with measurements of how your jaws relate to one another and how much space is between them. 2. The denture maker creates a series of models, wax forms, or plastic patterns in the exact shape and position of your denture. The model or form will be fitted into your mouth several times to make small adjustments for fit and shape. The denture’s color, shape, and fit will be analyzed before your denture is finalized or “cast.” 3. The final denture will be made (cast). 4. Your denture will be positioned in your mouth at a separate appointment, and any necessary adjustments will be made to the denture to ensure the best, most comfortable fit.

Getting Used To Your Dentures

It may take you a while to get used to eating and talking with dentures. According to the ADA, your dentures may feel loose while the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep them in place.

You may feel gum irritation or soreness, or find that saliva flow temporarily increases. These problems should be resolved as your mouth adjusts to the dentures. You may need to see the dentist for adjustments to your dentures after you begin wearing them regularly. It’s important to consult your dentist earlier than later if you have any problems, such as irritation, redness, soreness that continue after your adjustment period.

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