One in every two Americans struggles with the problem of missing teeth. Having no restoration can lead to severe consequences concerning both oral and general health, not to mention your appearance. Dentures are one of the most popular solutions.

These are removable appliances that can cover a whole arch or just individual teeth. Read our guide to find out which you can get the fastest, what materials are available, and what the pros and cons of dentures include.

Types of dentures

The most common way to classify dentures is by whether they are full or partial. The two kinds have different delivery times and are recommended in different cases.

Partial denture

Different types of partial dentures

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

A partial denture can replace a number of teeth if not all of the dentition is lost. It is a removable plate that can contain one or more teeth, not necessarily next to each other.

A partial denture may replace only the front and/or back teeth, as needed. Precision attachments might be added for extra support and sturdiness.

Namrita Harchandani

Namrita Harchandani, DMD

Traditional partial dentures are much cheaper than permanent options. However, they may get loose over time and sometimes have a metal clasp that may show through when you smile.

There are several options to choose from depending on the condition of your mouth:

Not everyone is a candidate for each type. You may also want to consider a dental bridge as an alternative if you are only missing a tooth or two. Bridges can replace up to two adjacent teeth.

Full dentures

Full upper and lower dentures profile

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

If you are fully toothless, you will need a full denture. If you have some teeth remaining, it is up to your dentist to decide whether to create a partial or to extract the remaining dentition and fit a full prosthesis anyway. It all depends on how much stability your teeth give you.

Full dentures include 12 to 14 teeth per arch. Some end at the first molar, but a second molar is sometimes added for sturdiness. The determining factors are the space available and presence of opposing teeth.

The choice is between:

  • immediate

  • same-day,

  • interim,

  • overdentures, or 

  • conventional dentures.

Immediate prostheses are fashioned before remaining teeth are removed. Same-day dentures are made in 24 hours, including necessary extractions. Interim ones may be worn while you are awaiting implant-retained or conventional dentures.

In conventional dentures, the upper arch covers the whole roof of the mouth and may be attached by suction. It may take a few weeks to produce one.

Implant-retained, or overdentures, provide the most support. In addition, they help reduce bone loss which means the state of the mouth won’t continue to deteriorate. You will, however, need surgery.

How are dentures made?

Most dentures take anywhere from 6 weeks up to 3 months to land in your mouth. The process includes several visits to the prosthodontist or dentist. This is to ensure the best fit and durability possible.

The process is more complicated if there are dental implants involved. The whole thing might take up to 2 years.

Initial consultation

It’s a good idea to ask about dentures during a periodic exam with your dentist. He or she will propose a treatment plan and schedule possible extractions. The type of denture will also be determined. This includes the materials and whether the prosthesis is to be full or partial.

Impressions

Taking impressions is a necessary step to determine the shape of the denture. It needs to mimic the surface of your jaws exactly. In the case of an immediate denture, this might take place before teeth are removed.

The dentist will place a soft putty in your mouth after cleaning it. This might be done twice if you need a denture for both the top and bottom arches.

Lab technicians use such models to make a dental cast and then the denture. This stage can take a few weeks.

Adjustments

Patients often come in several times at this stage to make adjustments. It rarely happens that a prosthesis will fit perfectly straight away. It might be thickened in some spaces if the denture is loose.

Getting your denture

When you finally get your denture, the dentist will instruct you on how to best take care of it. Make sure to follow their tips and advice exactly for best results.

Follow-up appointments are common, as are relines every year or so. It’s important to visit your dentist regularly to make sure your denture fits properly. If it doesn’t, it could cause irritation and lesions which can lead to denture stomatitis.

Pros and cons of dentures

  • Can make eating and speaking easier

  • Cost-effective compared to alternatives

  • Custom-made to fit your mouth

  • Often feel awkward for a few weeks

  • Must be kept in water when not in the mouth

  • Separate denture and mouth maintenance

  • Saliva flow temporarily increases

  • Fit must be regularly checked and adjusted

  • Relines are needed every year or so

  • Denture adhesive is often necessary

  • Patients should avoid hard, sticky, and chewy foods

  • Have to be taken out when you go to bed

  • You may have to go without teeth for a while

  • Replacements are needed after a few years

Dentures facts and statistics

  • Over 36 million Americans are toothless.

  • 90% of toothless Americans have dentures.

  • Each year roughly 15% of those who are toothless get dentures.

  • 80% of full denture wearers avoid eating vegetables.

  • The first dentures were made in the 7th century BC.

  • In the early 16th century dentures were made from wood and beeswax. The first porcelain dentures were made near the end of the 18th century.

FAQ

What dental specialists can make dentures?

If you want to go to a specialist, you can reach out to a prosthodontist. A large majority of dentures, however, are made by general dentists.

How long should you wear dentures each day?

Wear your denture for at least a few hours every day. You have it for a reason. A break of no more than 6-8 hours per night is recommended. Make sure to store it properly during that time.

References

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  3. Flexible Thermoplastic Denture Base Materials for Aesthetical Removable Partial Denture Framework - NCBI
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  10. Polyamide as a Denture Base Material: A Literature Review - NCBI
  11. Achieving a good bond in acrylic resin denture teeth - Nature
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  17. Taste buds: cells, signals and synapses - NCBI
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  19. Edentulous patients’ knowledge of dental hygiene and care of prostheses - ResearchGate
  20. Denture Care and Maintenance - ADA
  21. Prosthodontics: Facts & Figures - ACP
  22. Digital Dentures: Achieving Precision and Aesthetics - DentistryToday
  23. Impact of Denture Usage Patterns on Dietary Quality and Food Avoidance among Older Adults - NCBI
  24. The Use of Gold in Dentistry - Springer
  25. The dawn of modern dentistry in Japan: The transfer of knowledge and skills from foreign dentists to Japanese counterparts in the Yokohama Foreign Settlement - ScienceDirect