Being faced with prospect of living out your years with dentures can be quite daunting, not to mention stressful and emotional. There are so many unknowns swirling around in your brain. How much do they cost? How do I take care of them? Are there different kinds of dentures out there? Will I ever get used to them? And will I ever be able to eat corn-on-the-cob again?
This article will help you make some informed decisions while providing you with peace of mind. So, read on and relax! You’re not the first, nor will you be the last, to lose your teeth.
11 Terms You Might Hear and Wonder What They Mean
The word edentulous means lacking teeth. The loss of some teeth results in partial edentulism. The loss of all teeth would be referred to as complete edentulism.
According to the American Dental Association, “prosthodontics is the dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance, and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.” In short, a prosthodontist is a dentist who specializes in dental prosthesis and the restoration or replacement of teeth. A prosthodontist typically has three extra years of training.
After a while, your dentures may start to feel loose or less comfortable. This is not an uncommon occurrence and there is a relatively easy and affordable fix. Denture relining is the reshaping of the underside of the denture to make it fit better against your gums. Relining affects only the fit of the dentures, not the appearance.
A rebase of your dentures is similar to a reline. A rebase replaces the pink acrylic denture base material but the teeth remain exactly where they were.
5. Denture Stomatitis
Stomatitis is a term used for an inflamed or sore mouth. So, even if you don’t have dentures, it’s possible (and probable) that you’ll experience this to some degree in your lifetime. Stomatitis is more likely to occur if dentures are not kept clean or are kept in the mouth rather than removing them to sleep. Stomatitis is often painless and asymptomatic other than the red appearance in your mouth, but always keep an eye on what’s going on inside your mouth and ask your dentist if you have concerns.
Thrush is a fungal infection that is often said to resemble the appearance of cottage cheese. Improper care and cleaning of your dentures can cause this fairly common condition.
Mastication is the act of chewing.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue that may or may not lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is gum disease that leads to the progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth which can result in tooth loss.
Occlusion is the contact between the teeth. This is also called the bite, or how the upper and lower teeth align.
11. Dental Adhesive
There are many over-the-counter brands of dental adhesive which are used to help with stability, bite, and confidence. Your dentist will give his or her opinion on the best adhesive and under which circumstances you should or shouldn’t use it.
How much will my dentures cost?
There are so many variables that I hesitate to even begin to quote a price. Like anything else relating to your health, the cost will depend on your individual circumstances, your health provider, and what type of treatment you get. In this case, if you have natural teeth that can be saved, you will most likely be getting partial dentures. If most of your teeth are gone or need to be extracted, you will probably be getting a full set of dentures. Costs differ considerably depending on which procedure and which dentures you and your dentist choose.
Keep in mind, too, that the quality of dentures can vary. You will want the best dentures you can afford, which means finding a reputable dentist whom you trust.
For a full set of dentures – remember, this is just a ballpark figure – you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 for a full set. Premium dentures can run closer to $8,000 and you can expect partial dentures to range from $500 to $1,500.
Along with the cost of the dentures, you will have to pay for any necessary extractions which can run $75 to $450 a tooth.
Will my insurance cover dentures?
Again, it all depends. There are so many different insurance policies out there that I can’t possibly tell you how much if anything will be covered. My best advice is this: before you do anything, check with your insurance company! Find out exactly how much will be covered, if you need supplemental insurance, and make sure the dentist or prosthodontist you choose takes your insurance.
If I don’t have great insurance coverage, how can I possibly afford dentures?
There are a couple things you can do to help make the cost of your dentures more affordable. Oftentimes you can get dental treatment for a fraction of the cost by seeking treatment through a dental school. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) provides a list of participating schools.
Most dentists will work with you to come up with a reasonable payment plan for your dentures.
Also, look into supplemental dental insurance before you begin the process.
Will Medicare cover dentures?
Medicare does not cover most dental care procedures, including dentures.
I didn’t know I had to pay for THAT, too!
Always get a written estimate for any major dental work before you agree to the procedure. Make sure your dentist lists all extras for which you may be charged. And, it’s always a good idea to bring someone along with you to your consultation for moral support and so you have an extra pair of ears!
I saw an ad for really cheap dentures! Should I call?
We are inundated with ads – on the internet, on television, in magazines, in newspapers, and on the side of buses. They scream low-cost! One-day service! Money-back guarantee! It’s hard not to get excited over claims like these when you’re facing expensive dental work. But, you know what they say: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do your homework and make sure you get personal references before you commit to a dentist.
Next, let’s answer 12 common questions about dentures:
1. I have to do something about my missing tooth (or teeth!). Where do I begin?
Always start with a dentist you know and trust. He or she will give you an initial assessment and steer you in the right direction. You will discuss options, cost estimates, time frames, and you may be referred to a specialist (prosthodontist) if your dentist feels it’s necessary.
2. No one I know has dentures! How can I get a first-hand report?
It may seem like you’re the only person out there with a toothless smile, but according to the American College of Prosthodontics, there are 35 million Americans with NO teeth and 178 million who are missing at least one tooth! However, if your friends and family still have all their choppers, ask your dentist for a personal reference. There is no better way to get the inside scoop than from an experienced denture-wearer!
3. Will my dentures ever feel normal?
Yes! While dentures can never replace the natural feel of your real teeth, you just have to get used to a new normal. In the beginning, they may feel a little bit awkward, but your mouth will soon learn to compensate and you will learn to hold your dentures in place through suction as well as with the muscles of your cheeks, tongue, and lips.
4. How long will my dentures last?
Just like any other prosthesis, it all depends on your individual circumstances, your health provider’s expertise, the type of treatment, and your follow-up care. But, you should certainly expect your dentures to last at least five years, with some dentists projecting more like ten. Your dentist may recommend changing them out after five or seven years, but, again, it all depends on your mouth and your specific dentures. No matter what, it’s important to see your dentist regularly for early signs of wear.
5. Will everyone be able to tell that I have false teeth?
Dental prosthetics have come a long way since the days of George Washington! While his teeth may not have been wooden after all, they certainly didn’t look like the dentures of today! Your teeth will look great – they’ll be nice and straight and your dentist will make sure they are as realistic as possible.
6. My uncle got dentures and had to go for weeks without teeth! Do I have to be toothless, too?
Before you get yourself all worked up, talk to your dentist! He or she will explain the entire procedure and tell you exactly what to expect. It is possible that you can go home with “immediate dentures.” However, some dentists would rather see the gums completely heal before outfitting you with dentures. If you have some natural teeth remaining, you may be able to go home with a partial denture. Remember, the success and comfort of your dentures ultimately depends on your individual case. The healing process is a very important part of the procedure and it will be up to your dentist to prescribe the treatment that is best for you.
7. Am I going to be slurring my words and lisping when I get dentures?
You may find that some words and sounds may be more problematic than they were with your natural teeth. But, as you get used to your dentures, many of these speech problems will go away on their own. You can also practice the words with which you have difficulty over and over until you become more used to speaking with your dentures.
8. Will I be able to eat with dentures?
Of course you will! It will definitely take a bit of getting used to but don’t worry, you’re not going to starve! In the beginning, one of your biggest problems will be getting over the fear of your dentures slipping while you are eating. Start out with easy, soft foods and gradually introduce chewier ones. Eventually, if you want to eat something like corn-on-the-cob – give it a go. Try using a bit of denture adhesive to secure your teeth. And, rest assured, your dentist will give you lots of tips for eating with your new teeth.
9. I’ve heard that top dentures feel like they fit better than bottom ones. Why is that and does it mean the bottom ones will be sloshing around?
Upper dentures are usually more stable than lower ones because of the suction that can be gained from the roof of the mouth. However, the muscles in your mouth, your gums, tongue, and surrounding tissues will all work together to hold both sets in place. It may take longer to get used to the lower denture, but if that does not happen, you may be a candidate for a “clip denture” that clips onto 2-4 implants and will hold it in place.
10. Are dentures the best replacement for my teeth?
Nothing can replace natural teeth. Implants come pretty close and bridges can be very successful as well, but dentures are never going to take the place of what you were born with. You will get used to your dentures and figure out ways to eat the foods you love, but it’s important that you are aware of some of the differences you’ll likely experience before you even get started. Your dentist should go over every step of the process in depth, including what to expect from your new teeth. If he or she is not as forthcoming or detailed as you would like, do not hesitate to visit another dentist for a second opinion! And don’t forget to ask lots and lots of questions!
11. Can I sleep in my dentures?
Yes, you can. However, most dentists will probably advise against sleeping with your dentures on a regular basis. Your gums and mouth need to have a chance to relax and will be able to do so only when you remove your dentures. Also, it is absolutely imperative that you clean and care for them regularly. So, go ahead and take a nap, but take your teeth out at night! And clean them!
12. Is there anything positive you can say about getting dentures?
Yes! You will have teeth again. Your smile will be bright and beautiful! And it’s the most affordable way to replace teeth that have decayed beyond repair or are missing. Millions of people have dentures. You are not alone and you will get used to them.
What Are the Different Types of Dentures?
Conventional, or complete, dentures are what most people visualize when they think of dentures. These are put in the mouth after the remaining teeth have been removed and the surrounding gums and tissues have healed. This process may take several months. Conventional dentures are fully removable.
Immediate dentures are just that – dentures that can be worn out of the dentist’s office after your remaining teeth have been extracted. While you don’t have to be without teeth during the healing process, keep in mind that you may have to have the dentures relined or remade once your mouth and jaw have healed.
An impression will be taken a few weeks before your extractions so that your immediate dentures are ready when you are. The disadvantage to immediate dentures is that they often require more adjustments since bones and gums can shrink during the healing process.
An overdenture is used when you have some teeth that can be saved. The overdenture fits over the natural teeth that are left.
Full dentures are comprised of both an upper and lower set and replace all the teeth.
Partial dentures fill in the spaces between missing teeth and natural teeth that don’t need to be extracted. Partial dentures can be removed unless they are fixed partial dentures which are more commonly referred to as bridges. They are kept in place with metal clasps and or attached to crowns.
Fixed dentures refer to those that are surgically fixed and cannot be easily removed. These include bridges and implants.
A fixed bridge replaces missing teeth by the cementing of an artificial tooth to the remaining natural teeth on either side.
A dental implant is essentially an artificial tooth root that is surgically placed into the jawbone. After the gums and jawbone heal, it is topped with a replacement tooth.
Implant-Supported Fixed Dentures
Implant-supported fixed dentures are a type of overdenture that are attached to implants, whereas a regular denture rests directly on the gum.
Should I get implants or dentures?
Implants replicate the root of the tooth and look and feel much more like natural teeth. However, not everyone is a candidate for implants. They are way more expensive than dentures and the gum and jawbone need to be in good condition to even consider them as an option. Your dentist will recommend the best treatment for your individual circumstances. Check out our post on dental implants for lots of detailed information.
What are my dentures made of?
The teeth themselves are usually made of some sort of resin or porcelain.
Porcelain is somewhat translucent and takes on the appearance of natural enamel. Porcelain teeth feel a lot like natural teeth and the process with which they are made results in nice, hard surfaces. However, because they’re so hard, they are breakable if dropped on a hard surface and can wear down any natural teeth left in the mouth. Porcelain is often used in full dentures rather than partials because of this. However, one of the cons of porcelain dentures is that they make a rather obvious clicking sound when the teeth come together. For this reason, many patients decide to go with acrylic resin for their denture material.
Acrylic resin has become a very popular material for teeth. Acrylic adheres better to the base of the dentures and it is easier to form the proper occlusion than with porcelain teeth. Acrylic is cheaper and lighter in weight than porcelain. The downside of acrylic teeth is that they will wear out faster than porcelain and will need to be replaced more often.
The plate or the basic framework is made from a rigid acrylic resin or a flexible nylon polymer or from chrome cobalt metal.
The acrylic resin plates work well for those who need an artificial gum line because it can be tinted to match the patient’s natural gum color. Metal plates are sturdier, less likely to break and usually offer a better fit. Metal is usually used for partial plates because they can be hidden behind the remaining natural teeth and covered with plastic.
What’s the Procedure Like?
First, your dentist will give you a full assessment and recommendations based on the condition of your teeth, mouth, and gums.
Once you both agree that traditional dentures are the way to go, this is what will likely happen:
- Impressions will be taken.
- Your bite will be measured to see how your jaw lines up.
- You will have denture teeth set in wax so you get an idea of the general appearance and fit.
- You will have at least one tooth “try-on” appointment for fit.
- Your dentures will be inserted after several weeks.
If you both agree on immediate dentures, here is most likely how the process will go:
- Impressions will be taken before extractions.
- Dentures will be created from a model of your current state.
- Dentures are delivered immediately following your teeth extractions.
- You will probably need several follow-up appointments for tweaking the fit because your mouth will change during the healing process.
How will I know when to replace my dentures?
You should continue to see your dentist regularly even after you get your dentures, but here are some things you could experience that may indicate that it’s getting to be time for new dentures, a rebase, or a reline:
- Your dentures start to feel looser
- You are experiencing any discomfort or pain
- There are any signs of infection or irritation
- Your dentures appear to be wearing down
- Your face looks like it’s beginning to sink in
How do I clean my dentures?
It is just as important to clean your dentures as it is to clean your natural teeth! Keeping them free of tartar and plaque will lessen your chances of getting thrush or stomatitis. Your dentist will give you specific directions on how to care for your dentures, but, in general, this is what you should do to keep your dentures clean:
- Clean your teeth twice a day – before you put them in in the morning and after you take them out at night. It’s also a good idea to take them out and rinse them off after you eat to remove food particles.
- Brush every part of your dentures and make sure you remove any residual adhesive from the teeth.
- Remember that dentures can crack or break. Most people clean their dentures in a bathroom which has many hard surfaces. Get into the practice of lining your cleaning surface with a towel in case they slip out of your hands.
- Clean your mouth every time you clean your dentures. Use a soft toothbrush on any remaining natural teeth and also clean the roof of your mouth, your tongue, and your cheeks.
- Don’t ever let your dentures dry out. Keep them in water or in your denture cleansing solution when they’re not in your mouth. Don’t ever use hot water because it can warp the dentures.
- Soak your dentures overnight in a solution recommended by your dentist. Always rinse them off before putting them back in your mouth. And consider alternative cleaners like castile soap and baking soda (Arm & Hammer or any drugstore version works just fine, nothing fancy needed) as described in my previous post, The Disturbing Ingredient Hidden In Your Denture Cleanser.
- Don’t use toothpaste or whitening products as they may be abrasive to your dentures.
- Do not use bleach on your dentures.
- Do not use toothbrushes with stiff bristles.
- Never use hot or boiling water or put your dentures in the dishwasher.
While losing your natural teeth is not something anyone looks forward to, the good news is that dental care has come a long, long way and is continually making new strides. Today’s dentures are more comfortable, better looking, and more durable than those of the past. And, with a reputable dentist and proper care on your part, you’ll soon consider your dentures a happy addition to your mouth!
I hope this article helped to give you peace of mind about getting dentures. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!
Dr. Mark Burhenne