What are Dentures?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Dentures are prosthetic teeth worn by those who have lost their natural teeth through injury or illness. There are many different types of false teeth, designed to address a variety of dental situations. Dentures may be removable or implanted, and they may replace teeth on the lower mandibular arch or the upper maxillary arch.

Dentures are prosthetic teeth worn by those who have lost their natural teeth.
Dentures are prosthetic teeth worn by those who have lost their natural teeth.

False teeth have been used in some form since at least the 15th century, though they have greatly improved in design since then. Early dentures were made of bone, ivory, or human teeth and, like natural teeth, could rot with extended use. They were attached to existing teeth with metal or silk string and were quite uncomfortable. The first porcelain dentures were constructed in the 1770s, and plastics became the material of choice in the 20th century.

Partial dentures are designed to fill only the gaps left by teeth that have been lost or pulled.
Partial dentures are designed to fill only the gaps left by teeth that have been lost or pulled.

Those who have lost their teeth find both functional and aesthetic benefits from dentures. Well-made prosthetics allow the wearer to enjoy all kinds of food, whereas missing teeth or poor dentures significantly restrict chewing ability. False teeth also support the lips and cheeks, improving the appearance of a patient who has lost his or her natural teeth.

Acrylic dentures are known for causing pain and discomfort.
Acrylic dentures are known for causing pain and discomfort.

Dentures are custom designed to fit each patient's mouth, and skill and patience are required to create an effective pair. Poorly made ones can cause significant discomfort and erode the gums and bones of the jaw, leading to greater dental problems. A combination of implants and removable pieces are often the best option.

Dentures may be worn if a patient's teeth begin to fall out.
Dentures may be worn if a patient's teeth begin to fall out.

Even well-made dentures require some getting used to. At first, the wearer often salivates excessively, as the mouth recognizes the false teeth as a foreign object, similar to food. Sucking on sugar-free candy can help alleviate this problem. The dentures may chafe or otherwise feel uncomfortable, and a few adjustments are typically necessary before they fit perfectly. A person with new dentures will also have to learn to speak and eat naturally with the new teeth.

Dentures must be fitted by dental professionals.
Dentures must be fitted by dental professionals.

Fortunately, most people adjust to dentures well with help from their dentist. While it is common for new teeth to feel awkward and uncomfortable simply because the wearer has not yet adjusted to them, they should not be painful. If the patient feels any pain or chafing from his dentures, he discuss the issue with his dentist immediately so that they can be readjusted.

Wearing ill-fitting dentures can increase air intake and cause flatulence.
Wearing ill-fitting dentures can increase air intake and cause flatulence.
With proper maintenance of oral hygiene, a set of dentures may last for many years.
With proper maintenance of oral hygiene, a set of dentures may last for many years.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments

Ruggercat68

My mother-in-law had to be fitted for dentures, and I had no idea how elaborate the process could be. The dentist takes a lot of measurements and x-rays, then sends all of that information to a denture specialist, who forms molds and handcrafts a set of natural-looking dentures. The teeth in a set of dentures aren't always perfect, since they are trying to make them look as natural as possible.

My mother-in-law told me she enjoyed getting the ability to eat solid foods back. Without her teeth, she had to eat a lot of soft foods and soup, but now she eats steak and raw fruits and pizza. Her speech can be a little affected, but we can still understand her. If the adhesive fails, her dentures slip around and she gets a little self-conscious until she can fix them.

mrwormy

I was hoping to avoid getting dentures, but I developed a serious periodontal disease and most of my natural teeth have decayed as a result. My dentist said that modern dentures feel a lot more natural than those made 30 years ago, but I'm still going to know they aren't my own teeth. He said the important thing was getting a perfect fit and using the right adhesives. Many people have problems with dentures because the plates aren't anchored well.

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