From full dentures to partial dentures, there are a few different denture options to help you address missing teeth.
Over time, we might lose teeth because of problems like gum disease or sports injuries. Sometimes called “false teeth,” dentures can be one way to replace missing teeth.
A dentist should be able to give you a recommendation based on your circumstances, but here are a few things to know if you’re considering dentures.
Many dentists will tell you they want you to keep your natural teeth for as long as possible. That’s why so many of them tend to emphasise preventive care and say things like, “prevention is better than cure.” Often, they just want to help you avoid corrective treatment in the first place.
But sometimes a natural tooth can become too damaged to save, and a dentist may recommend pulling the tooth (or “extracting” the tooth)*. Not all tooth loss is planned, though — it’s possible to lose a natural adult tooth to decay, gum disease, injuries or accidents.
Regardless of the cause behind a missing tooth, gaps in your teeth can affect a lot more than just the look of your smile. For instance, your ability to chew food might impact your general health and overall quality of life.1,2
Dentures can be one way to address missing teeth, but the type of denture will depend on your needs and preferences.
Types of dentures
Full dentures: If you need a full set of replacement teeth on the entire upper or lower jaw (or both), a dentist might recommend full dentures (sometimes called “complete dentures”). Dentists tend to install these as a complete set, rather than individually.
Partial dentures: Partial dentures replace an individual tooth or a small number of teeth instead of the entire upper or lower row. A partial denture wearer has replacement teeth that attach to nearby natural teeth via clasps.
Implant-supported dentures:* Also called “implant-retained dentures” or “permanent dentures,” this may be a kind of partial denture. But instead of using clasps that attach the appliance to nearby teeth, a practitioner will use a dental implant or implants* to support the denture. It relies on attachments that snap onto parts of the implant, and many are fitted for the lower jaw (where regular dentures may be looser or less stable).
Immediate dentures: Sometimes a dentist will give you a denture immediately after extracting* natural teeth. In this case, they’ll take measurements before removing any existing teeth. They’re also called “temporary dentures,” with permanent replacements fitted during later appointments. This route may involve more follow-up appointments and adjustments than other approaches.
Generally, a dentist will provide your full or partial dentures several weeks after extracting any natural teeth. This allows time for your gums to heal and settle first, and it can help your dentist ensure a better long-term fit.
Are dentures removable?
Yes, usually. In fact, you shouldn’t keep your dentures in your mouth while sleeping.
This is different from other missing teeth solutions, like dental implants*, which you can’t put in or take out of your mouth yourself. That’s why those solutions are sometimes called “fixed solutions.”
What are dentures made from?
Different dentures are made from different materials — this depends on the denture type. Typically, full dentures are made from plastic, like acrylic and resin. Partial dentures might be made from a combination of plastic and metal; the clasps that hold partial dentures in place are usually metal.
Can you eat and drink after your dentures are fitted?
In some ways, dentures function a lot like natural teeth. You can eat most foods, but this might take some getting used to. When your dentures are new, try sticking with easy-to-eat foods, like soups, and work up to soft foods chopped into small pieces.
Usually, you can work your way back to your normal diet, but a few extra-chewy foods might be more trouble than they’re worth. Be sure to talk to your dentist about your specific circumstances, your dentures and anything you should keep in mind before eating.
Risks and potential complications of wearing dentures
There can be complications or side effects associated with wearing dentures. Consulting with a dentist can help you understand any risks or issues to watch, as well as whether you might be at higher risk of certain problems.
Some discomfort is normal when you’re still adjusting to a new denture or set of dentures, but you should see a professional if the discomfort isn’t going away. Speak to your dentist if you spend more than 2 weeks experiencing:
- pain or sensitivity
- a feeling that your dentures aren’t fitting your mouth
- soreness or dry skin on your lips or around your mouth
- ulcers or sores
- bad breath.
You should speak to your dentist right away if you experience:
- loose teeth
- gum abscesses (these usually show up as pus-filled sores on your gums).
Be wary of sales pitches or advertisements that tell you dentures will restore your teeth to exactly how they were before or give you a “perfect” smile in a single appointment. For starters, “perfect” is a big word. It’s also common to need follow-up adjustments to make sure you’ve got the right fit.
How to clean denturesJust like with your natural teeth, it's important to clean dentures every day to remove plaque and prevent build up. A specialised denture brush helps remove food particles. You should clean your dentures with with soap and water, rather than toothpaste, which can be too harsh. But your dentist or hygienist should be able to give you more specific instructions based on your denture type.
Caring for dentures
Remove your dentures at night or — for the night owls — whenever you end up going to sleep. You can keep them in a container of clean water or let them air dry. Removing your dentures gives your gums a bit of a break and helps minimise your risk of unnecessary damage. This is especially true if you grind your teeth when you sleep. While many dentists can spot signs of teeth grinding in an oral exam, be sure to tell your dentist about any teeth grinding or clenching habits.
Lastly, oral hygiene is important no matter how many teeth you have. Gently brush your gums but be careful with the exposed tissue that’s usually covered by your dentures.
And you should brush and floss any remaining teeth as normal.
Questions about dentures?
If you have questions about getting dentures or dentures that you already have, find a dental clinic near you.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
1 Brennan DS Spencer AJ Roberts-Thomson KF. Tooth loss, chewing ability and quality of life. Qual Life Res. 2008; 17(2): 227–35.
2 Gerritsen AE Allen PF Witter DJ Bronkhorst EM Creugers NH. Tooth loss and oral health-related quality of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2010; 8: 126.
The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.