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What Are Permanent Dentures?

An illustration of the parts of a permanent denture, which may be used to replace a missing tooth.
Dentures are prosthetic teeth worn by those who have lost their natural teeth.
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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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Permanent dentures, often called dental implants, are a long-term solution to partial or complete tooth loss. Regular dentures are not fixed in place and they are removable. Dental implants are surgically implanted into the jawbone. While they are made of synthetic material, they are designed to look and feel like natural teeth. Not every patient is a good candidate for permanent dentures, and those who do undergo the surgery will need to practice proper oral hygiene to ensure the long-term health of the implants.

Many people who acquire permanent dentures have already tried wearing regular dentures and found them to be problematic or ill-fitting. Patients who may be good candidates for this procedure are willing to invest time and effort into a long-term solution, have healthy gum tissue, and have enough bone matter in the jaw to support the implants. Those who have a degraded jawbone, due to poor oral health or other medical conditions, may choose to undergo an additional surgery to supplement the bone. People who have uncontrolled diabetes or heart disease, as well as those who smoke or have undergone radiation therapy, may be unable to have this surgery.

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To prepare for surgery for permanent dentures, patients will undergo a comprehensive dental exam, including x-rays. The oral surgeon will decide how to tailor the surgery to each patient's individual needs. Patients must inform the surgeon of all medications and supplements they are taking, as well as any medical conditions they have, including drug allergies. Some people may need to discontinue certain medications prior to the procedure.

An anesthetic is used to prevent the patient from feeling any pain during the surgery. Depending on the patient and his preferences, the surgeon may administer a sedative and local anesthesia, or the patient may be fully unconscious. If general anesthesia is used, the patient must refrain from eating and drinking for a time prior to the surgery.

The surgeon will insert a titanium tooth root implant into each missing tooth's socket. Patients will then return home and allow the jawbone to heal around the implant, which usually takes several months. When the area is healed, the surgeon will insert an abutment, or a connecting post, to the implant. The synthetic tooth is then anchored to the abutment.

A typical recovery time after each procedure for permanent dentures is about five to seven days. During this time, patients may notice facial swelling, minor bleeding, and bruising around the area. Pain can be alleviated with medications. Those who experience worsening or persistent symptoms should contact the surgeon as soon as possible. People should expect to consume only soft foods while they recover.

Some risks are possible with surgery for permanent dentures. These may include an infection or injury to the surrounding area. Patients may rarely experience sinus problems or nerve damage. Artificial teeth require care and maintenance, just like natural teeth, so patients with dental implants must practice good oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups.

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