Dentures

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What are dentures?

Dentures are oral appliances that replace lost or missing teeth. Complete or full dentures replace all of your natural teeth. Full dentures have a flesh-colored base that sits on the gums. Partial dentures only replace some missing teeth. This appliance has a similar base, but it clips in by attaching to healthy teeth. Partial dentures can replace multiple missing teeth that are not close to each other, unlike a bridge. A bridge can only replace teeth that are between two healthy teeth.

Most dentures require a multi-visit process. However, some people may be candidates for immediate dentures. In this process, there is no waiting period between removal of any teeth and delivery of the denture.

What are the different types of dentures and what do they look like?

There are three basic types of dentures:

  • Conventional dentures: These appliances are the traditional denture appliance. They rest on the gums and are removable. They have been around for centuries and are an affordable way to replace missing teeth. However, there are several limitations to them, including instability and resorption, or loss of jawbone. You can have full or partial dentures.

    Full denture:

    model of dentures
    Getty

    Partial denture:

    partial removable denture of the lower jaw
    Getty

  • Overdentures, or implant-retained dentures: These appliances attach to dental implants—or screws—in the jawbone. This increases their stability because they do not simply sit on the gums. They are removable, which makes these dentures cost moderately more than conventional ones. 
    mandibular removable prosthesis supported by two implants with ball attachments. Medically accurate dental 3D illustration
    Getty
  • Permanent or fixed implant-supported dentures: These appliances also attach to dental implants, but you cannot take them out. Only a dentist can remove these dentures. They are the priciest option because they require more implants than overdentures. They are also the most natural looking, feeling and functioning dentures. 
    Mandibular prosthesis All on 6 system supported by implants. Medically accurate 3D illustration of human teeth and dentures concept
    Getty

How much do dentures cost?

Depending on the exact materials and construction, conventional, non-supported dentures cost $600 to $8,000 for a full set of removable dentures. A partial denture ranges from $700 to $1,800, but can cost up to $4,000 with precision attachments to existing teeth. In general, the more natural looking the teeth and gums, the higher the price. Higher-end dentures include a longer warranty than a basic set of dentures.

Permanent (fixed) implant-supported dentures are much more expensive than conventional dentures. A full set of upper and lower implants (six screws) and dentures costs $30,000 to $50,000. A more economical option is overdentures.

The average cost of overdentures, retained by two screws, is $6,300, according to a 2013 survey from the American Dental Association published in Clinicians Report. There are many factors that affect the cost of overdentures, such as the type and number of screws implanted and the materials for manufacturing the dentures. Some providers may be able to retrofit an existing denture for the implants, which brings down the cost.

Denture cost does not typically include the cost to extract teeth. A single surgical extraction can cost $500 or more. However, dental implant practices may offer a package price that includes all extractions, implants, dentures and visits.

Denture costs also vary widely by location, both within the United States and internationally.

Why are dentures necessary?

Dentures replace missing natural teeth. There are several reasons to use dentures and not leave your mouth with missing teeth. There is an obvious cosmetic issue with missing teeth. Dentures can restore your smile and confidence in this regard. Dentures also fill out your face because missing teeth allow your facial muscles to sag, which makes you look older.

There are also several health and functional advantages to getting dentures. Dentures help you speak better than you do without teeth. They make it easier to chew and eat, as well. This is important because many people with missing teeth avoid certain foods that are hard to chew, such as meat. Eliminating foods can eventually affect your nutrition. Chewing is also the first step in digestion. It breaks down food and mixes it with enzymes in saliva.

Finally, with dental implants, it is possible to preserve the jawbone. Normally, the bone will slowly break down and get reabsorbed into the bloodstream after the loss of natural teeth. This process continues with conventional dentures. However, dental implants support the bone to help keep it healthy.

Who performs the placement of dentures?

General dentists usually offer denture services. But there are specialists you may want to consult about your options for dentures. This includes prosthodontists and periodontists. Prosthodontists specialize in restoring missing teeth and jaw structures. They use various methods to do this, including dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and implants. Periodontists are experts in the structures that support your teeth, including the gums and bone. They offer dental implant services.

How are dentures made and placed?

Getting dentures usually takes several appointments over the course of a few months. For conventional dentures, it may be necessary to remove teeth first. The gums need time to heal afterwards. Then, you will have several appointments to complete the following steps:

  • Casting or molding of the mouth to make perfect impressions of the gum surface

  • Measuring and alignment to make sure the new teeth will be the right length and the upper and lower jaws and teeth will relate to each other correctly

  • Creating models or wax forms that you try in your mouth so your dentist can make adjustments before casting

  • Delivery of the final set of fully-made dentures

With time, the muscles in the tongue and mouth will “learn” how to hold the dentures in place. Until then, the dentures may feel loose or rub against your cheek. If this does not resolve, your dentist may adjust the fit. Some people use adhesives to keep the dentures in place.

With immediate dentures, your dentist takes the molds and measurements and makes the models before removing your teeth. This lets you get your dentures right after tooth removal so you are never without teeth. However, your jaw may change during healing, which would require adjustment of the dentures or a whole new set of dentures.

For implant-retained or implant-supported dentures, your dentist must first place the dental implants and allow the bone to heal around them. The dentist places 2 to 4 implants for retained dentures (overdentures) and 6 to 8 implants for fixed and supported dentures (full fixed arch denture). During this time, you will wear a temporary set of teeth. Once the implants are fully bonded to the bone, your dentist will create full dentures that attach to them. Some implants are one-stage systems and others require an intermediate step to attach extensions that connect to the dentures.

What are the risks and potential complications of getting dentures?

All invasive procedures carry risk. This includes having teeth extractions for dentures and getting dental implants. While these procedures are usually successful, potential problems include:

  • Bleeding

  • Damage to nearby structures, such as healthy teeth, jawbone, nerves or sinuses

  • Dry socket after an extraction, which is exposure of bone after loss of the clot, causing pain and other potential complications (dry socket is treatable)

  • Infection of the extraction socket or implant site

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce your risk of certain complications by:

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before your procedure and during recovery

  • Informing your doctor if you are nursing or if there is any possibility of pregnancy

  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, or increase in pain

  • Taking your medications exactly as directed 

  • Telling all members of your care team if you have allergies

How do I prepare for dentures?

You can prepare for getting dentures by following your dentist’s recommendations. Perhaps the most important step in preparation for dentures is having a full dental exam. This will include X-rays to evaluate your underlying bone structure and health. This vital step lets your dentist identify any potential problems that need to be addressed before proceeding with dentures. Your dentist will also review your medical history, including your medical conditions and medications.

Questions to ask your doctor

There are several questions you may want to ask your dentist as you are preparing for dentures including:

  • Am I a candidate for dentures?

  • What type of denture is best for me and why?

  • What results can I expect cosmetically and functionally?

  • How many appointments and how much time will it take to complete the entire process?

  • Are there alternatives to the plan you are recommending?

  • Am I a candidate for dental implants? If so, which type is best for me, fixed or removable?

  • How much will the entire process cost? Do you have payment plans? What parts of the procedure are covered by my insurance?

What can I expect after getting dentures?

Knowing what to expect makes it easier to plan and prepare for a successful recovery and life with dentures.

How long will it take to recover?

For conventional dentures, it can take some time to recover after tooth extractions. The gum tissue must heal before your mouth is ready for the final set of dentures. In general, final delivery of conventional dentures can take up to 12 weeks. You get immediate dentures the same day. However, your jaw and gums still need to heal and can change during the process. So, it may be necessary to adjust your dentures after a few months.

For dental implants, the longest part of recovery is allowing the bone to heal and bond to the implant. This process can take up to six months.

Will I feel pain?

You will have some degree of pain with tooth extractions and dental implants. The pain may last for several weeks. Be sure to tell your dentist about any change in your pain or if your pain worsens. This could be a sign of a complication, such as a dry socket or infection.

After getting dentures, you may feel discomfort or soreness for a period of time. If you had teeth extracted, those areas can be especially prone to irritation. Once healing is complete, dentures should not be painful. If soreness or irritation persists, consult your dentist. Your dentures may need adjustment.

When should I call my doctor?

Keep your follow-up appointments after getting your dentures. Call the dentist promptly if you have:

  • Damage to your dentures

  • Excess saliva due to your lips being unable to close completely

  • Looseness, clicking or popping of your dentures

  • Problems with the dentures rubbing your cheeks or you constantly bite your cheeks

How might dentures affect my everyday life?

Dentures can improve your smile and facial appearance from changes due to missing teeth. This can be life-changing for many people who suffer from a lack of confidence over their teeth. Dentures can also help you enjoy foods you may have given up due to missing teeth.

It is important to continue to see your dentist regularly to evaluate and maintain your dentures. With time, dentures may no longer fit the way they did at first. This can happen due to wear and tear on the appliance or from changes in your jaw. Your dentist may need to reline or remake your dentures to accommodate these changes. Continuing to practice good oral hygiene and care for your dentures will help them last.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 26
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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