Not long ago, most people assumed they would need dentures someday. But because of modern dental techniques, dentures are no longer inevitable. Instead, they're an option for people who have lost some or all of their teeth.
While dentures are just one of several options, which include dental implants and permanent bridgework, they're an important option.
Full dentures are complete sets of artificial teeth that replace the teeth in either the upper or lower part of your mouth. Partial dentures, which attach to existing teeth, fill gaps left by missing teeth. Both take some getting used to. But dentures can enhance your life by making you feel better about how you look, by helping to protect the muscles and bones in your face, and by improving your ability to chew foods.
Good fit is key
Most patients adapt well to denture wear. But because you can't predict whether you will have problems, it's important to hold on to as many of your natural teeth as possible, the American Dental Association says.
One of the most important factors in adapting is having dentures that fit well. Well-fitting dentures don't move or rock when you eat or speak without difficulty, and they don't cause gum pain. If you have difficulty eating or speaking with your dentures, go back to your dentist and have them adjusted to fit.
One way to ensure that dentures fit well is to do some homework before having them made:
If your friends are satisfied with their dentures, ask where they were made.
Find a dentist who is experienced at fitting people.
Ask how many sets of dentures the dentist makes each year.
Ask people who got dentures from this dentist if they are satisfied.
Practice makes perfect
For most people, getting used to dentures shouldn't take more than a week or two.
Dentures can change the way food tastes. It may also be difficult to get used to chewing while keeping the dentures in place. Taking smaller bites can help. Placing food on both sides of the mouth when chewing can help keep the dentures balanced.
The tongue's space can also affect the way you pronounce words. One way to get used to the changes is to read out loud and practice the words that are difficult.
Proper care needed
Dentures require daily cleaning, and you should care for your dentures the way you would your natural teeth. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist how to care for dentures.
Regular dental checkups can help ensure your dentures still fit well and don't need repairs. Also, the dentist needs to check your mouth for signs of oral disease, including cancer.
It's never too late
Keeping your own teeth, for most people, is preferable to wearing dentures. The National Institute on Aging offers these tips for good dental health:
Protect against tooth decay by using fluoride toothpaste or fluoride mouth rinse every day and avoiding between-meal snacking on sugary or starchy foods.
Prevent gum disease, a common cause of tooth loss, by brushing and flossing each day.
Regularly check your mouth for signs of disease, such as red, swollen, or bleeding gums.
See your dentist every six to 12 months for routine checkups and cleaning, or immediately if you notice signs of disease.