What are dentures?
A denture is a removable prosthesis used to replace missing teeth. Commonly referred to as ‘false teeth’, a denture is usually made of acrylic or a combination of acrylic and metal.
A ‘full set’ of dentures is used to replace all of your teeth. A partial denture is fitted to replace some missing teeth.
A good set of dentures helps you to eat, speak, function, and often improves a person’s appearance.
Dentures are custom-made using impressions taken from your gums. They are usually made from metal or plastic.
They are removable so you can clean them, although part dentures can be brushed at the same time as your other teeth. A full set needs to be removed and soaked in a cleaning solution.
Dentures are important if you lose your natural teeth as losing your teeth makes it difficult to chew your food, which will adversely affect your diet and may cause your facial muscles to sag.
What to expect?
New dentures always feel strange when first placed in your mouth. Several days or weeks will be required before you get accustomed to them. Adaptation varies with different persons and often time and experience are essential before dentures can be worn comfortably and function effectively.
Useful suggestions to help you to adapt to the new dentures:
- Eating – Eating will take a little practice. Start with soft foods and foods cut into small pieces will help. Chew slowly using both sides of your mouth at the same time to prevent dentures from tipping. Once you become accustomed to chewing, include other foods until you return to your normal diet.
- Increased salivary flow – You may experience an increase in salivary flow when the dentures are first inserted. This is a natural response of the salivary glands that will return to normal after a few weeks. You can improve the situation by swallowing more often.
- Speech – New dentures may alter your speech initially. Pronouncing certain words may require practice. Reading out loud and repeating troublesome words will speed up the adaptation process. This problem rarely persists beyond two weeks.
- Sore spots – Minor irritation caused by surface irregularities or pressure spots on the denture-bearing areas are quite common. Your dentist will relieve the discomfort by adjusting the denture surface. Stop wearing the denture if the irritation is very painful. Consult your dentist immediately.
Care of your dentures
Like natural teeth, dentures can accumulate plaque and food debris, particularly in areas where the denture is in contact with the remaining teeth and gum. In addition to the usual oral hygiene measures like tooth brushing, dentures should be cleaned regularly.
Poor denture hygiene can result in stains on the denture and a bad odour. If possible, dentures should be removed and cleaned after every meal. When cleaning, remember the following:
- Use a soft hand brush or a special denture brush.
- Avoid very hot water as it may distort the denture.
- Use mild detergent to clean dentures. Avoid using abrasive cleaners that can roughen the polished surface of the denture. Do not use bleach as this may whiten the pink acrylic.
- Hold the denture firmly while cleaning. Accidentally dropping the denture may result in chipped or broken dentures. Always wash your denture over a basin of water.
- Soak the dentures in denture cleanser once a week to remove stains and always rinse them thoroughly before using the dentures again.
- When you are not wearing the dentures, store them in water. Dentures may lose their shape if left to dry out.
How long should you wear your dentures?
During the first few days you are advised to wear them most of the time except when sleeping. Always remove the dentures before going to bed. This will allow your gum tissues to rest and promote oral health. Gentle massaging of the gums with a soft toothbrush is encouraged. Remember to soak the dentures in water to prevent them from drying out.
The next denture review
Your jawbones and gums naturally shrink over time and this can cause the dentures to fit less securely. Ill-fitting dentures can give rise to chewing difficulties, soreness, infections and changes in facial support. It is important that you visit your dentist to have your dentures and oral tissues evaluated yearly. Your dentures may need to be adjusted, relieved or even relined from time to time to ensure an optimal fit. Do not attempt to adjust the denture yourself – seek professional help.
With time and practice you will soon learn to eat, talk and smile with your dentures as you would with your natural teeth.