Elderly woman with dentures

Improving or restoring your chewing ability, renewing your smile, and supporting your facial structure are just a few of the benefits of dentures. 

If you have some or total tooth loss, full or partial dentures can be the vehicle for putting artificial teeth in place in your mouth.

If you’re interested in dentures, we will explain below what the denture procedure looks like. 

There are a number of stages, such as tooth extraction, healing time, permanent denture fitting, and adjustment appointments. But you will find the journey is well worth it when you flash your new smile for the first time.

What Are Dentures Used For?

Dentures are used to replace lost or decaying teeth that need to be extracted. This does more than just improving your smile; it also keeps your mouth structurally sound around the cheeks and lips. And of course, dentures help you chew foods and eat a well-rounded diet. 

Full dentures, or complete dentures, replace an entire row of missing teeth. However, if you’re only missing some teeth, not all, you may be able to receive partial dentures, which fasten in place using surrounding natural teeth. Both full and partial dentures are removable. 

There is another kind of dentures called overdentures that can be either removable or fixed in place, and also full or partial. This type incorporates dental implants, or a system of metal posts implanted in the jawbone, to hold it in place. Some patients prefer overdentures to traditional dentures due to their enhanced stability.

Understanding the Dentures Procedure

To determine if dentures are appropriate for you, your dentist will schedule a consultation with you to examine your teeth, jaw, and gums, both visually and with X-rays. 

How many healthy teeth you currently have, whether you want a removable device, the thickness of your jawbone, and other factors will help the dentist narrow down your denture options.

Step 1: Teeth Extraction

Removing teeth is not always necessary, but it is if you have any decayed teeth currently.

If you have no teeth or are just replacing your current dentures, you will proceed to the next stage.

When having one or more teeth extracted, the dentist will provide you with some level of sedation–whether laughing gas, oral, or IV sedation–as well as local anesthetic to numb the area of the tooth. To remove the tooth, he’ll grip it with forceps and gently rock it back and forth to loosen it from the jawbone and ligaments that hold it in place. Sometimes a tooth must be removed in pieces if it will not come out whole.

In the case of full dentures, your teeth extraction may happen in stages, with the removal of the back molars possibly six to eight weeks before fitting the immediate (also called temporary) dentures. This gives the gums time to heal and makes for a better fit. Or, your dentist may elect to extract all the teeth at once immediately before fitting you for immediate dentures. 

Either way, after having your teeth extracted, your immediate dentures will likely need to be adjusted at least once after receiving them as you wait for full healing to take place.

Step 2: Fabricating Immediate Dentures

Immediate dentures can be made for you to wear while waiting on your permanent dentures to be ready. The benefits of this include protection for the sockets where teeth have been extracted, preventing jaw atrophy, and removing the need to spend weeks or months with no teeth. 

Although they’re often called “immediate dentures” because you can wear them out of the dentist’s office on the same day you have teeth extracted, you will need to spend time having them fitted in advance. The dentist will take bite impressions of your mouth and assess your existing tooth shade to assist in the fabrication.

Step 3: Making Impressions

Dentist showing denture impression to patient

Your gums will be given time to heal from any extractions before you’re fitted for your final or permanent dentures. This can take anywhere from four weeks to six months. 

To create the final dentures, the dentist first makes impressions of your jaw and mouth. These are then sent to a lab where a technician uses the impressions to make a wax or stone model of your mouth.

The model is then used to customize your denture out of a variety of materials such as resin or polymer for the base, and acrylic, resin, or porcelain artificial teeth. If it’s a partial denture there will also be a metal framework for securing it to the teeth.

Step 4: Shape and Color Selection

If you’re getting partial dentures, the artificial teeth will need to be color-matched to your existing teeth to avoid looking obviously fake. You may wish to undergo teeth whitening before receiving your new partial dentures so that you can go with a whiter shade. If you’re getting full dentures, you can discuss with the dentist what color you want your new teeth to be. 

Despite what movies and magazines present, natural teeth are not actually pure white. Your complexion can help determine what shade looks best on you. Matching the whites of your eyes is also a good practice. 

The dentist will guide you through the color chart and help you decide if a shade in A, B, C, or D is right for you.

Step 5: Fitting Permanent Dentures

Roughly two to three months after your extractions, the dentist will have you try out your new dentures to check the fit. He will be looking for any areas of excess pressure on the gums and will make adjustments as needed. It’s likely that it will take several office visits before you get the optimal fit.

Adapting to Dentures

Getting used to the feeling of wearing dentures takes time–weeks or even several months–as your tongue and facial muscles adjust to having a foreign object in your mouth. Speaking and even eating can take a little practice before you’re comfortable doing it in front of others, but you will get used to it.

You may have some soreness or irritation from the dentures, as well as swelling from teeth extraction. If you have a sensitive gag reflex, it can be triggered by wearing dentures, moreso with upper dentures than lower dentures. As swelling goes down you may notice improvement with gagging, or the dentures may need to be adjusted. 

Learning to deal with dentures slipping is also important during this time, as it may happen due to a sneeze, cough, or laugh. Biting down on your denture and swallowing should reset it into the right position.

Denture Complications to Be Aware Of

Dentures are overwhelmingly safe, but issues can arise with them if they aren’t properly fitted or maintained. 

If dentures become loose over time–which can happen as the bone and/or gum ridges in your mouth shrink–or if your jaws don’t align properly, you can develop sore spots in your mouth and have difficulty chewing food. 

Ill-fitting dentures have also been linked to mouth infections Yeast infections like cheilitis and stomatitis can arise in moist areas of the mouth when dentures don’t fit correctly. These infections can successfully be treated and overcome with appropriate fitting and denture care.

How Long Can You Expect Your Dentures to Last?

The typical lifespan of a set of dentures is five to 10 years. Of course, they could last longer with good care or they could become damaged and need replacement sooner than that. 

For example, one study found half the partial dentures being worn by study participants were still in use after 10 years. 

A reline can often extend the life of dentures. In this process, material is added to the inside of your dentures to help them adapt better to changes in your jawbone and gum tissue.

Getting Dentures at Bunker Hill Dentistry

Don’t wait to restore your smile. See how we craft dentures for you with maximum comfort, appearance, and reliability.

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