the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Oct 15, 2021
Fact Checked

Our teeth have a significant impact on the way we live our life. They influence our quality of life, including our appearance, how we speak and eat, as well as self-esteem and confidence.

If missing some, or all our teeth, our oral health-related quality of life can be affected. One alternative to replacing lost or missing teeth is to have dentures manufactured and fitted by your dentist.

Your dentist can create dentures that are natural looking and help you eat, speak and smile comfortably and with confidence.  

An effective tooth replacement option

Dentures are a cost-effective replacement option for teeth lost due conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease, or trauma. If you have lost some or all your teeth, it is likely your dentist may talk to you about dentures to replace these teeth.

Dentures are artificial substitutes for missing natural teeth and adjacent soft tissues. They can be either a temporary or permanent tooth replacement option for people of all ages. They are typically made of acrylic resin (plastic) or a lightweight metal (mainly cobalt chrome) and are designed to look like your natural teeth.

Types of dentures

 
Full denture
A full denture is worn by patients who have lost all their teeth in either the upper or lower jaws, or both. The denture will replace missing natural teeth and sit on the gum ridges, providing support to the lips and cheeks as well as maintaining the distance between your nose, mouth and chin. By choosing not to replace the missing teeth, the distance between your nose, mouth and chin can become smaller over time.
 
Full upper and lower denture. Getty Images. 

 
Partial denture
A partial denture is used when a person still has one or more natural teeth remaining. The denture will replace the missing teeth and is usually held in place in the mouth by clasps that surround and hold on to the remaining teeth. These dentures may have an acrylic resin (plastic) or metallic cobalt-chrome base. Your dentist may discuss these material options with you when planning for a denture. 
 

Upper and lower partial cobalt-chrome dentures. Getty Images

 
Implant-retained denture
A removable implant-retained denture is an alternative to the standard full dentures. These dentures can be used to replace all missing upper or lower teeth. They are partially supported and held in place by dental implants that are retained within the jawbone and partially supported by the gums. This denture can still be removed from the mouth by the person wearing it.
 



An example of a lower full denture held in place by two dental implants. 

Custom made 

Dentures are custom-made to fit your mouth. However, as with a new pair of shoes, even the best made denture/s can still feel a little irritating at first as you adjust to how they fit and feel within your mouth. You may need to return to your dentist or dental prosthetist for minor adjustments to the denture until it can be worn comfortably.

If you are having teeth removed and need a denture, your dentist may suggest waiting a few months after the teeth have been removed so that your gums can heal. By doing this, it can help to minimise the number of adjustments required for the denture.

However, if you need a denture immediately after a tooth is removed, an 'immediate' denture may be created and fitted during the same appointment that your tooth is extracted. An 'immediate' denture may require more follow-up appointments for it to be adjusted and may need to be replaced sooner.
 

What are they made of?

Depending on your needs and budget, there are different materials that your denture may be made from. Two of the main materials used are acrylic resin (plastic) and cobalt-chrome (metal). These materials each have their own benefits which your dentist will discuss with you when providing treatment. Dentures may be made from acrylic resin only or a minture of acrylic resin and cobalt-chrome. 

Caring for your dentures

There are four simple steps to follow to care for your dentures.
 

Brush your dentures morning and night

Just like natural teeth, dentures should be brushed morning and night. Remove the denture from the mouth prior to cleaning it. Use a spare toothbrush or a denture cleaning brush and a non-abrasive cleaning agent, such as liquid hand soap. Toothpaste should not be used to clean your denture. Be careful not to drop your denture while cleaning it as it can fracture or break. Try cleaning over a towel or bowl filled with water just in case. 


 

Soak your dentures daily

Use a denture cleaning solution to soak dentures to remove plaque (bacteria) and disinfect them. Denture cleaning tablets can be purchased from supermarkets and pharmacies. Follow the directions included with the product purchased. 
 

Leave your dentures out at night

Whilst sleeping, dentures should be removed from the mouth and placed in a safe location. The current recommendation is to store dentures in a dry, safe location. However, storing them in water is an option. Removing dentures from the mouth at night helps to allow areas of discomfort within the mouth to heal and prevent infection in the gums beneath the denture. If dentures continue to cause discomfort, it is best to make an appointment with your dentist or dental prosthetist.
 

Visit your dentist regularly

Return to your dentist or prosthetist for denture adjustments until you find your dentures comfortable to wear. It is important to continue to see your dentist regularly for general check-ups, even if no natural teeth remain. Over time, the shape of the mouth can change causing a denture to no longer fit well or function properly. Dentures may need to be altered where more denture material is added to help the denture fit securely again. In some cases, new dentures may be required. 

Denture adhesives

If you are having trouble keeping your denture in place within you mouth, your dentist may suggest using a denture adhesive. This can include creams, pastes, strips and powders that help to keep the denture in place when eating and speaking. Denture adhesive can be bought from supermarkets and pharmacies.

Adhesives help to increase the retention and stability of dentures in the mouth, which can make them more comfortable to wear. The denture adhesive can reduce the pressure and friction transmitted from the denture to the underlying gums and soft tissues of the mouth.

Be sure to clean any adhesive off the denture at the end of every day before placing new adhesive on the inside surface at the beginning of the next day. 

Beware, these products may not work well if you have a dry mouth. Saliva is very important in helping dentures to stay in place.

Keeping your mouth healthy

Even though your dentures are comfortable to wear, or you may no longer have your natural teeth, it is still important to visit your dentist regularly. They will check that your dentures continue to fit well and remain beneficial to your oral health. As well, your dentist will examine the soft tissues such as the floor of the mouth, tongue, gums and roof of the mouth, known as the palate, for signs of oral cancer or other conditions that can develop due to denture wearing, such as oral thrush. This appointment allows you to discuss any concerns you may have about your general oral health.

Summary

Dentures are an effective option for replacing one or more missing teeth to help you eat, speak and smile. Before having a denture made, your dentist will discuss the types of materials your denture can be made from to get the best result for you.