Due to the increased use of fluoride as well as modern dental options like bridges or tooth implants, many Americans today have been able to forget about the dental experience many of our grandparents had: getting dentures. More people are getting to middle and even old age with the majority of their teeth, but for some, dentures are still a solution to a problem. What exactly are dentures?


You may have heard them referred to as false teeth or plates. Dentures are removable dental appliances that look and act like real teeth. They are created specially for people and can be partial (when some teeth remain) or whole (when tooth loss is complete). It’s simpler for both the dentist and the patient when at least a few teeth remain to anchor the plate and help hold the jaw’s shape.

Historically, dentures have been made out of a variety of materials: human or animal teeth, wood, ivory, and porcelain and Vulcanite. Modern dentures are made of acrylic resin and other plastics. Typically, a dentist will take multiple impressions of a patient’s mouth so the denture will have the best and most comfortable fit possible. These impressions are sent off to a dental laboratory where a custom denture will be made for the patient.

While it may be a little challenging to get used to wearing a full or partial plate, over time patients find that dentures have a number of advantages. Dentures are an inexpensive way to replace numerous lost teeth (the alternative being bridges or tooth implants). They also help to hold up both the facial and lip muscles that will otherwise give a hollowed look to the face of a person missing many teeth. They make eating and talking easier, and they are much more attractive than damaged teeth or large tooth gaps.

How are dentures held in place? Partial plates can be attached to the remaining teeth in the mouth by clasp. Full plates are designed to hold themselves in place either by suction (the upper plate) or by the tongue  and the muscles in the lips and cheeks (the lower plate). Sometimes patients choose to have implant procedures done so that their complete plates will have something to attach to. Over the counter adhesives can also be applied to help hold dentures where they are supposed to be.

Dentures do periodically need to be replaced in order to maintain comfort and performance. Biting and chewing will wear down a denture over time, and the jaw, minus multiple teeth, also tends to shift. Tell your dentist if you dentures are becoming loose, uncomfortable, hard to clean, or worn down.

If you have experienced tooth loss and want to talk about which dental options might be best for you, including dentures, please call us at Dental Associates of West Michigan. We would to help direct you to your best options for a better and healthier smile.

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