What are dentures?

Dentures are removable oral appliances that replace missing teeth in your upper jaw, lower jaw or both. Dental technicians craft dentures from materials like acrylic, resin, nylon, metal and porcelain.

Types of dentures

There are many different types of dentures. The option that’s right for you depends on your unique oral health needs.

  • Full dentures

Complete denture, this appliance replaces an entire arch of missing teeth. A full denture rests atop your gums and relies on your palate (the roof of your mouth) or lower jawbone ridge for support. You may need to use denture adhesive (a special type of glue) to keep your appliance firmly in place.

Full dentures are likely what comes to mind when you think about traditional dentures. They consist of artificial teeth and a gum-colored base.

People who wear dentures usually take them out at night to clean them and give their gums a rest.

  • Partial dentures

If you’re missing several or most of your teeth in one or both jaws, partial dentures may be an option. Partial dentures are similar to full dentures, as they also rely on your gums and underlying bone for support. But partial dentures also have special clasps that hook around your remaining natural teeth, providing additional stability.

  • Immediate dentures

Sometimes people need tooth extractions before they can wear dentures. An immediate denture is a device you wear right after extractions.

In some cases, immediate dentures are temporary appliances. Once you’ve healed, your dentist will replace them with your final dentures. In other cases, you might be able to wear your final denture immediately after surgery. Your dentist can tell you what to expect in your situation.

  • Implant-retained dentures

Instead of relying on your jawbone ridge and gums for support, implant-retained dentures attach to dental implants. Dental implants are small, threaded posts that surgeons place in your jawbone to replace missing teeth roots.

Like traditional dentures, implant-retained dentures are removable. You take them out at night to clean and soak them.

Implant-retained dentures typically offer more stability than traditional dentures because they “snap on” to implants embedded in your jaw. You won’t need denture glue to secure them in your mouth. For this reason, some people call them “snap-in dentures.”

  • Implant-supported dentures

Unlike other types of dentures, implant-supported dentures (also called permanent dentures or hybrid dentures) are non-removable. They don’t snap in and out, and only your dentist can remove them.

Dentists recommend implant-supported dentures for people who don’t want removable oral appliances. The downside of a nonremovable denture is that it requires more thorough daily cleaning, including flossing underneath your denture.


What happens during a denture consultation?

A dentist will examine your mouth, including your jaws, gums and any remaining teeth. They’ll also take dental X-rays to check the thickness of your jawbone.

If your dentist determines that you’re eligible for dentures, they’ll discuss your denture options with you. The denture that’s right for you depends on several factors, including:

  • How many teeth you’re missing.
  • How long your teeth have been missing.
  • Whether you prefer a removable or nonremovable appliance.
  • The density and volume of your jawbone.
  • The relationship between your upper and lower jaws.
  • Your personal preferences.

What happens during a denture fitting?

Your dentist will place your new dentures in your mouth and check the fit. They’ll carefully look for any areas that put excess pressure on your gums and make any necessary final adjustments to your denture.

It’s important to know that it usually takes several office visits to achieve the desired fit. This is because the soft tissues in your mouth will need time to adjust to your denture.


What are the benefits of dentures?

Dentures offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Improved chewing function.
  • Enhanced appearance.
  • Improved speech function.
  • Better nutrition (due to improved chewing function).

What are the drawbacks of dentures?

Dentures also have their share of challenges — especially traditional removable dentures. For instance, many traditional denture wearers complain that their appliances shift, wobble or slip out of place when they’re speaking or chewing. In addition, your jawbone gradually shrinks following tooth loss, leading to facial collapse (like sunken-in cheeks).

You should also get a denture reline every one to two years — or whenever you notice changes in the way your denture fits. During this process, your dentist will add material to your denture to ensure a more comfortable fit.

If you have any of the signs mentioned above, it might be time for replacement dentures.


What are some alternatives to dentures?

There are two main alternatives to dentures: dental implants and dental bridges.

Dental implants

Dental implants are the most common alternative to dentures. Dental implants stimulate the nerves in your jaw and halt bone loss (just like natural teeth roots do). Your nerves send signals to your brain, and in return, your brain sends nutrients to your jaw, keeping it strong and healthy.

Dental implants are typically more expensive than dentures, but they can last a lifetime with proper care.

Dental bridges

Dental bridges are an effective alternative if you still have several healthy teeth. Bridges work best for people with one to three missing teeth in a row.

A dental bridge consists of crowns (abutments) with artificial teeth (pontics) in between. A dentist bonds the crowns to your natural teeth on either side of the gap, and the artificial teeth fill in the space to complete your smile.

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