What are dentures?

A prosthesis is an artificial replacement of a limb, tooth or other part of the body.  So a denture is a type of prosthesis, as it is an artificial replacement for one or more missing teeth and adjacent tissues.

Prosthetics is a general term since it refers to replacement of any part of the human body. 

Prosthodontics is a more specific term since it refers to the branch of Professional Dentistry, which constructs replacements for missing teeth and adjacent tissues with artificial substitutes.

Dental prosthetists in Australia are dental technicians that undergo further training and education, which enables them to become registered to deal directly with the public. They supply and fit a range of full and partial dentures.

The prosthodontist is the dental practitioner who specialises in the practice of prosthodontics. The prosthodontist has completed an advanced education program at a dental school to qualify to practice as a prosthodontist.

Different types of dentures

Complete Dentures

When you picture the word "denture," you're probably thinking about Complete Dentures. Complete dentures replace all of your teeth, or all of your upper or lower teeth. The comfort of complete dentures depends on muscle, bones, tongue, and saliva. You'll typically begin wearing conventional dentures after your gums heal following tooth extraction.You can also have full upper and/or lower dentures. These are also known as “full” dentures.

Partial Dentures

Partial Dentures are designed to correct the gaps in your smile when only some of your teeth are missing. Metal attachments anchor the dentures to your natural teeth. Partial Dentures maintain tooth alignment by preventing your remaining teeth from shifting. In general, partial dentures fit into one or two denture type categories depending on the material of which they are made.

Plastic: These partial dentures are made from a plastic material called acrylic. The plastic forms a plate, which covers the whole of the roof of the mouth in the upper arch or the whole of the mouth in the upper arch or the whole of the lingual surface in the lower arch. Such dentures may have metal clasps fitted to some of the standing teeth to help retention, or may have to rely solely on a close adaptation to the mucous membrane and teeth to hold the denture in place.

Metal: The metal used in partial dentures is chrome cobalt. This is a very strong rigid material, even in quite thin sections. A metal denture usually only covers part of the oral mucosa and can be quite complex in design. Rather than full plates, they usually consist of thin straps or bars, which must have clasps around the standing teeth to hold the denture in place. They are easier to tolerate and more comfortable to wear. Unfortunately, they are also more expensive to make.

Immediate Dentures

Immediate Dentures are put into place immediately after tooth extraction and may serve as a temporary set while your complete dentures or partial dentures are being finished. It may take some time for your bone and tissue to stabilise after tooth extractions, and that may mean that your immediate dentures will require periodic adjustments while you heal.

Upper Dentures

Upper Dentures are made of the same materials as a Complete Denture, but are designed to provide you with upper teeth only.

Over Dentures

Over Dentures are a type of conventional denture similar to Complete Dentures. The difference is that not all teeth are extracted and one or more natural teeth are used for support. This type of denture provides greater stabilisation during chewing. Over Dentures cost more and typically require more dental appointments until the procedure is fully complete.

Denture pros and cons: some denture facts

Dentures can certainly be a good thing in many ways:

Replacing missing teeth will benefit your appearance and your health. Replacing missing teeth will stop the remaining teeth migrating, realigning a person’s bite and smile. Dentures help keep facial muscles from sagging, which can make a person look older.

You'll be able to eat and speak - things that people often take for granted until their natural teeth are lost. And if you've had trouble with your natural teeth for a number of years, you might not have been able to eat the foods you want or speak comfortably for quite a while.

You can smile again. We know denture wearers who've said that simply being able to smile again really helped their outlook on life.

But dentures can take a bit of getting used to:

There is some daily maintenance involved.

Mouth irritation or sores may occur, but are usually caused by poor dental hygiene or not removing your dentures to allow your mouth to rest.

It is common that your mouth will change shape over the life of your dentures, so even though dentures typically last five to ten years, they may need to be adjusted or replaced to achieve a better fit before they are worn out.

In the beginning, you won't be able to chew as well with dentures as you could with healthy natural teeth. It may also take a little practice speaking with a new denture.

In the case of full upper dentures, the roof of your mouth is covered, which can reduce the ability to taste foods you're chewing.

To help you reduce any discomfort Polident.com.au has plenty of information on denture care and denture products. 

Alternatives to dentures

If your Dental Professional has told you that you need complete or partial dentures, you may want to ask your Dental Professional about whether these denture alternatives are right for you.

Bridges

A bridge may be one denture alternative, to replace a missing tooth or teeth. A bridge uses at least one tooth on either side of the bridge area as an anchor. The healthy teeth are prepared for crowns, and a false tooth is cemented to the two crowns. The whole bridge piece is then cemented into place. Unlike a partial denture, you can't remove a bridge to clean it, but there are special cleaning aids available to keep the area around and under the bridge clean.

Dental implants

Another denture alternative is dental implants which, simply put, are artificial teeth permanently attached to your jawbone to replace one, many, or all of your teeth. To do this, your original teeth are removed and special metal posts are inserted into your jawbone. After the metal posts are allowed to bond with the jawbone and the site is fully healed, they can be used as the stable support for the replacement of one or more teeth.

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