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Dentures (false teeth)

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Dentures (false teeth)

Dentures are removable false teeth made of acrylic (plastic), nylon or metal. They fit snugly over the gums to replace missing teeth and eliminate potential problems caused by gaps.

Gaps left by missing teeth can cause problems with eating and speech, and teeth either side of the gap may grow into the space at an angle.

Sometimes all the teeth need to be removed and replaced.

You may therefore need either:

  • Complete dentures(a full set) – which replace all your upper or lower teeth, or
  • Partial dentures– which replace just 1 tooth or a few missing teeth
  • Dentures may help prevent problems with eating and speech and, if you need complete dentures, they may also improve the appearance of your smile and give you confidence.

This page provides information for anyone who’s considering dentures and advice for those who already wear them.

How dentures are fitted

Complete dentures

Dentist will take measurements and impressions (moulds) of your mouth, and then order your full or partial dentures from a dental technician

A trial denture will be created from the impressions taken of your mouth.

The dentist will try this in your mouth to assess the fit and for you to assess the appearance.

The shape and colour may be adjusted before the final denture is produced.

A full denture will be fitted if all your upper or lower teeth need to be removed or you’re having an old complete denture replaced.

The denture will usually be fitted as soon as your teeth are removed, which means you won’t be without teeth. The denture will fit snugly over your gums and jawbone.

But if you have dentures fitted immediately after the removal of several teeth, the gums and bone will alter in shape fairly quickly and the dentures will probably need relining or remaking after a few months.

Occasionally, your gums may need to be left to heal and alter in shape for several months before dentures can be fitted.

Man inserting dentures

Partial dentures

A partial denture is designed to fill in the gaps left by one or more missing teeth. It’s a plastic, nylon or metal plate with a number of false teeth attached to it.

It usually clips onto some of your natural teeth via metal clasps, which hold it securely in place in your mouth. It can easily be unclipped and removed.

Occasionally, the clips can be made of a tooth- or gum-coloured material, although this type of clip isn’t always suitable because it tends to be more brittle than metal.

Your dentist can measure your mouth and order a partial denture for you.

A fixed bridge or dental implants are alternative to a partial denture and may be suitable for some people.

Partial dentures

Looking after your dentures

Dentures may feel a bit strange to begin with, but you’ll soon get used to wearing them.

At first, you may need to wear your dentures all the time, including while sleeping.

Your dentist will advise you on whether you should remove your dentures before you go to sleep.

It isn’t always necessary to remove your dentures at night, but doing so can allow your gums to rest as you sleep.

If you remove your dentures, they should be kept moist – for example, in water or a polythene bag with some dampened cotton wool in it, or in a suitable overnight denture-cleaning solution.

This will stop the denture material drying out and changing shape.

Cleaning dentures

Dental hygiene

Keeping your mouth clean is just as important when you wear dentures.

You should brush your remaining teeth, gums and tongue every morning and evening with fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems.

Cleaning dentures

It’s important to regularly remove plaque and food deposits from your dentures.

This is because unclean dentures can also lead to problems, such as bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay and oral thrush.

Clean your dentures as often as you would normal teeth (at least twice a day: every morning and night).

You should:

  • brush your dentures with toothpaste or soap and water before soaking them to remove food particles
  • soak them in a fizzy solution of denture-cleaning tablets to remove stains and bacteria (follow the manufacturer’s instructions)
  • brush them again as you would your normal teeth (but don’t scrub them too hard)

Dentures may break if you drop them, so you should clean them over a bowl or sink filled with water or something soft like a folded towel.

Woman holding dentures

Eating with dentures

When you first start wearing dentures, you should eat soft foods cut into small pieces and chew slowly, using both sides of your mouth.

Avoid chewing gum and any food that’s sticky, hard or has sharp edges.

You can gradually start to eat other types of food until you’re back to your old diet. Never use toothpicks.

Woman eating melon with dentures
Man holding dentures

Denture adhesive

If your dentures fit properly, you shouldn’t necessarily need to use denture fixative (adhesive).

But if your jawbone has shrunk significantly, adhesive may be the only way to help retain your dentures.

At first, some people feel more confident with their dentures if they use adhesive. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid using excessive amounts.

Adhesive can be removed from the denture by brushing with soap and water.

Remnants of adhesive left in the mouth may need to be removed with some damp kitchen roll or a clean damp flannel.


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