What are dentures?

The simple answer is false or fake teeth. The more complex answer describes dentures as appliances that are custom made to replace missing teeth, while also restoring the appearance and function of lost teeth. The denture can be either fixed (crowns, bridges, or implants) or removable (complete dentures or partial dentures). Most people think of dentures as removable teeth, and we will discuss removable dentures in this section. Please see Crown and Bridge if you want to know more about fixed dentures.

What are the most common dentures?

A complete denture (full denture) is used when all of a person’s teeth are missing, and a partial denture is used when only some of the teeth are missing. The following provides more detail:

Complete Dentures:

Complete dentures are made of a plastic base that is gum colored, in order to replicate gum tissue, and supports a full set of plastic teeth. The traditional full denture is held in the mouth by forming a seal between the denture and the gums with either saliva or denture adhesive.

Complete dentures can be either “conventional” or “immediate.” A conventional denture is made after the teeth have been removed and the gum tissue has had a chance to heal. The healing process generally requires 6-8 weeks prior to the fabrication of a conventional denture. This means that the patient will be without teeth for an extended period of time, but does allow for an improved fit due to stabilization of supporting gum tissue. An immediate denture is fabricated before the removal of teeth and is ready for placement the day of the extraction of all remaining teeth. The benefits of an immediate denture are that the wearer does not have to be without teeth during the healing period. However, bones and gums shrink over time, especially during the healing period following tooth removal. Therefore, a disadvantage of immediate dentures compared with conventional dentures is that they require more adjustments to fit properly during the healing process and generally should only be considered a temporary solution until conventional dentures can be made.

Another option for complete dentures is to use implants as anchors to help with denture retention as opposed to relying solely on suction. The dental implants are surgically placed in the bone of the jaw, allowed to heal, and then the denture will be fitted with attachments to allow the denture to “snap” onto the embedded implants in the bone. This treatment is much more expensive than the traditional complete denture, but makes a huge difference, especially for the lower jaw.

Partial Denture:

As we know, partial dentures are used to replace only the missing teeth when there are natural teeth remaining. The natural teeth will act as anchors for the denture. Partial dentures can either be made with a plastic base or a metal framework that supports the number of teeth that need to be replaced. It is held in the mouth by using clasps and rests that are carefully adapted around the natural teeth. The metal partial denture uses a metal framework because of the rigidity and strength of the metal. Plastic partial dentures have normally been used as emergency or temporary replacements of missing teeth, allowing the gums and bone to heal before a definitive restorative solution is obtained. Recently, however, other materials have been developed to provide durable, flexible alternatives in certain situations and allow the denture wearer more options for esthetics and comfort.

Dentures tend to be an affordable way to replace missing teeth and are offered in a variety of denture styles that include full and partial dentures. Our dentist can assist you in deciding between the many options available to you and which option will best match your needs.

How are dentures made?

The process starts by taking a series of impressions or molds of the oral tissues that will support the denture. A dental lab will use these impressions to make models of the patient’s mouth. The dentist and laboratory technician will then slowly start building the dentures on these models and set multiple appointments for verification that they fit the patient’s mouth. These steps are taken to ensure proper fit, establish a proper bite, and ensure that the appearance and esthetics of the denture are desirable. Most dentures begin in wax form and slowly take shape with each step. The patient will generally need to be seen by the dentist once per week for about 4 to 5 weeks until the denture is complete. The patient will then need to return occasionally during the first month after the denture is delivered to have adjustments made.

An immediate denture is done differently because this type of denture is made before the teeth are extracted and is put in place the day the teeth are removed. This type of denture is made after one visit and does not require the multiple steps needed with conventional dentures. Because this type of denture doesn’t fit the bone and gum tissue as intimately as a conventional denture, they will usually require more reline and adjustments as the gum and bone tissue stabilizes after extractions. An immediate denture is best used as a temporary appliance until a conventional denture can be made after all of the gum and bone healing is complete.

Are there alternatives to dentures?

There are two other ways missing teeth can be replaced — with bridges and implants.


A bridge is a custom-made replacement for one or more missing teeth. It is a tooth replacement option that literally “bridges the gap” created by the loss of natural teeth. Artificial teeth (known as pontics) are attached to crowns that cover the existing permanent teeth located adjacent to the space created by the missing teeth. A bridge appears to be individual teeth, but in reality, all the teeth of a bridge are connected.

Bridges can be fabricated from the same materials as single tooth crowns. These materials are gold alloys, non-precious alloys, porcelain, or a combination of materials. Porcelain bridges are often bonded to precious or non-precious metals.

With proper care, the lifespan of a bridge is 10-20 years. Typically, two office visits are required to prepare, complete, and fit a permanent bridge.


An implant is a biocompatible titanium post that is inserted into the bone of the upper or lower jaw. The placement of an implant requires a healing period (approx. 6 months) to allow for the bone to integrate into the implant. It sounds uncomfortable, but the placement of an implant is usually quite painless. Once healed properly, the implant (post) is then used to replace a single tooth by attaching a crown to it, or multiple teeth by attaching a bridge to multiple implants. Implants are the most expensive option for tooth replacement, but implants simulate natural teeth better than any of the other options.

Will dentures affect the way I look, feel, eat or speak?

The short answer is yes! But there are a lot of benefits once the dentures settle in and the denture wearer adapts to the new denture.

Dentures can restore or even enhance a person’s appearance and be virtually undetectable. It takes some time to find the best way to insert and take out the dentures, and the gums will be a little sore at first. It is very important to return to the dentist often during the first few weeks to adjust the dentures that are irritating your gums.

Eating with the dentures in place requires some practice. It is best to start with soft foods, chewing food equally on both sides of the mouth and slowly introducing more solid foods as you go. Chewy or sticky foods should be avoided if possible. Once the cheeks and tongue get used to the denture, they will begin to automatically help keep the denture in place.

Speaking also requires practice but will become easier with repetition. With exaggerated movements such as yawning or laughing, the denture may become dislodged at first. If it continues, the denture may need to be adjusted or refit. The denture may cause an increased production of saliva at first, but it will eventually reduce back to normal.

Are dentures worn during the entire day?

Dentures are generally worn during the day and taken out at night to give the oral tissues time to relax. During the first few days after receiving the denture, however, it needs to remain in the mouth even when sleeping to best identify areas that need to be adjusted. This is especially important after receiving an immediate denture, for the gum tissues will swell after the teeth are extracted or lost and then may not permit the denture to be reinserted if taken out.

How do I take care of my dentures?

Dentures must be handled with great care and placed in a container of water or denture cleaner when not being worn. They should never be placed in hot water, for they can be damaged or warped. They must be cleaned daily using a soft toothbrush with soap and water. The mouth should be rinsed daily without the dentures in place to clean off any plaque and reduce the risk of infections like candidiasis (fungus).

There are a lot of different denture products that can be purchased at any pharmacy to help with caring for and cleaning dentures.

Should I use denture adhesive?

That depends on each individual and each individual denture. Some people need it and like it, and others do not. It will really depend on the fit and retentive features of the denture.

Denture adhesive is a paste or glue that helps the denture adhere to the supporting tissues instead of relying on suction or clasps. Sometimes the adhesive is called denture cream. A small amount of denture adhesive can be applied evenly to the clean surface of a denture to enhance stability and retention. It shouldn’t be used to compensate for a poor-fitting denture or as an alternative to visiting the dentist for regular checkups.

How much do dentures cost?

Denture prices vary widely depending on the materials used, insurance coverage, and the type of denture required. One can expect to pay at least a couple thousand dollars for a set of dentures.

Will my dental insurance cover the cost of dentures?

Most dental insurance companies cover some or all of the cost of dentures, making them very affordable. We can help you contact your insurance company to determine the exact amount of coverage.

How long do dentures last?

If cared for properly, dentures should last a minimum of 5 years. However, over time the bone shrinks and causes the denture to become loose. The rate that this happens varies with each individual but can be controlled by visiting a dentist regularly to ensure that the denture is fitting properly. An ill-fitting denture causes the bone to shrink more rapidly. To prolong the life of a denture, a dentist will often use a denture liner to refit the internal surface of the denture to the oral tissues.

Minor fractures in the denture teeth or acrylic base can usually be repaired by a dental lab in 1 to 2 days. Denture repair kits are even sold at most drugstores and online to fix minor cracks or replace loose teeth. Repairing the denture properly can be complicated, however, so if denture problems are noticed, it is best to contact a general dentist as soon as possible to arrange the denture repair.

I’ve been going to OpenCare since 2017 & I wish I would have found them sooner. Hands down, Dr. Martin & all of his staff are the absolute best. Extremely gentle & make an otherwise uncomfortable experience, totally relaxing. I’ve had a lot of work done & no matter what it is, it’s always a wonderful visit. I recently had all of my top teeth extracted. (for a full top denture) It only took an hour & i felt nothing at the time. They even called the next day to check on me. They are the only dental practice I will ever go to. Thank you so much!!!

Jenni T