Do you need dentures? Deciding on and getting dentures can be a complicated, long process. Much depends on the current state of your teeth, so it’s a decision best made in consultation with your dentist. But, there are things you should know about opting for dentures before you make your choice.
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“Getting and caring for dentures must really be done on a patient-by-patient basis,” says dentist Hadie Rifai, DDS. “There are many things that can be generalized for almost all dentures, but, overall, there really needs to be a dentist evaluation of the specific patient.”
In any situation, he says, you’ll be best served with an assessment by a general dentist or a prosthodontist – a specialist in dental prosthetics.
Why you need dentures
According to Dr. Rifai, you should consider dentures mainly under two circumstances – periodontal disease (also called gingivitis) or extensive dental cavities. In periodontal disease, the bone loss in the jaw is so extensive that teeth can’t be saved and are usually very loose. With dental cavities, the teeth are already so badly decayed that they must be extracted.
How to choose your dentist
When it comes to selecting a dentist to examine your teeth and potentially fit you for dentures, you must be selective, Dr. Rifai says. Concentrate on four main aspects.
- Experience: Choose someone who makes dentures as part of his or her regular practice.
- Prosthodontist: This type of specialist goes through an additional three years of training in dental prosthetics. He or she will be well-versed in removable prosthetics, meaning your dentures will likely fit better and feel more comfortable.
- Convenient location: Getting dentures isn’t a one-appointment process. It can take several visits to make the dentures, and you’ll need regular follow-up. Expect sore spots and needed adjustments during the first few weeks.
- Cost: Don’t price shop and choose the lowest cost for your dentures. Well-made dentures can cost more than $2,000 per arch. Some dental offices advertise dentures for only a few hundred dollars, but those are typically poorly made and won’t fit properly, leading to sores and discomfort.
Pros and cons of dentures
As with nearly any dental procedure, there are positives and negatives to deciding to get dentures. Consider these points when making your choice:
- Pros: If you’re missing some or all of your teeth, dentures can be a more affordable way to replace them instead of choosing implants. In some cases, they can be more attractive and aesthetically pleasing than your natural teeth were or are. And, if built and fitted correctly, they can improve cheek and lip support for a more pleasing profile.
- Cons: Even though dentures can’t get cavities, they can still present challenges to daily life. Chewing food, Dr. Rifai says, isn’t as easy with dentures. In fact, dentures typically have 75 percent less chewing ability than natural teeth. Frequently, patients who wear dentures complain they can’t taste food as well. And, your first denture set won’t be your last – you typically replace them every five years.
Identifying problems with your dentures
A number of problems can arise with your dentures, and you should always consult your dentist to fix them. According to Dr. Rifai, these are the most common issues that arise.
- Ill-fitting dentures. If your dentures don’t stay in place and fall or excessively move around your mouth, they can cause pain or inflammation in the gum tissue. An improper fit also means food can get trapped between the gums and dentures, leading to a potential fungal infection.
- Pain. Discomfort and pain are quite common during the first days after post-denture delivery. Give yourself time to adjust to wearing, inserting and removing them.
- Bad breath. If you don’t properly clean your dentures, they can develop a foul odor.
Taking care of your dentures requires more than dropping them in a glass of water at night, so ask your dentist for any tips about caring for your specific dentures. However, some care instructions are generalized.
- Even if you use an ultrasonic cleaner that dislodges food with sound waves, gently brush daily with a soft-bristled brush made specifically for dentures to remove food and plaque. This also helps prevent permanent stains. Hard-bristled brushes can damage dentures.
- Be sure to rinse your dentures after every meal. If you wear partial dentures, remove and clean them before you clean your natural teeth.
Most over-the-counter cleaning solutions are the same. However, you can choose to clean your dentures in other ways.
- Wash your dentures with hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid. Toothpaste or household cleaners are too rough.
- Never use bleach because it can whiten the pink parts of your dentures.
- When you remove your dentures, stand over a folded towel or a full sink of water to prevent damage if you drop them.
- Place them in cold water – never hot or boiling – when you’re not wearing them to keep them moist and prevent them from changing shape.
Never attempt to repair your dentures by yourself. Bending the clasp or metal attachments can weaken the metal, and over-the-counter repair kits or glues can also cause permanent damage. Instead, take them to your dentist or prosthodontist.