Knowing that you need dentures can be scary. You wonder if your smile will look natural. You’re concerned about whether you’ll be able to eat your favorite foods, speak normally and whether people will be able to tell you have dentures.
The good news is that life with dentures is probably going to be just fine, especially if you’ve been embarrassed about your decayed, loose or missing teeth. And most of the issues that most commonly bother denture-wearers are easily fixable. Here’s what you need to know.
Types of Dentures
Full dentures are the most common type of dentures, and they may be fixed or removable.
Bargain-priced removable dentures ($400-$1000+ per plate) are pre-made and then slightly altered to fit the wearer’s mouth. Custom-made dentures (about $2500 per plate) are made to fit perfectly on the bony ridge of the jaw, where the teeth used to be, and are primarily held in place by suction. A good pair of properly-fitting dentures doesn’t require globs of dental glue to stay in place.
Removable full dentures are the least expensive method of tooth replacement, and when made well look natural and function similarly to natural teeth. But removable dentures tend to accelerate bone loss, and will will need to be relined or re-made periodically.
Fixed dentures are held in place by four to six dental implants. Fixed dentures feel very natural to a wearer, and help to ward off bone loss. The implant system is more costly, but you won’t need to have dentures remade every few years or so. Not everyone is a good candidate for dental implants, and sometimes the body rejects the implants. And the implant process takes some time to complete – usually a few months. Temporary replacement teeth may be needed in this period, adding to the expense.
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Adjusting To Dentures
It takes about a month to get accustomed to wearing new dentures. If your dentures are more than slightly uncomfortable, or if the discomfort lasts for more than a few days or you develop red spots or sores, your dentures may need to be readjusted for a perfect fit.
You may have problems pronouncing certain words at first If so take 20 minutes once or twice a day and read out loud to yourself. You’ll be speaking more clearly very quickly.
Your body may think your new dentures are food, and produce more saliva in response. Or you may experience dry mouth. These issues tend to clear up within a week or two.
A few people find that they gag on their removable dentures. This is often at its worst in the first week of wearing dentures. If you’re still having gagging issues after the first 5-7 days, see your dentist – you may need to have the dentures shaved down a bit so they don’t trigger your gag response.
Life with Dentures
Keeping your dentures and your mouth clean and healthy will require a change in your dental hygiene routine. Standard toothpaste and toothbrushes are too abrasive for dentures. Use products that are made for denture care. And take your time when cleaning them, dropping them just a few inches onto a hard surface can easily chip or crack your dentures. Fill your sink with water first, if you drop your dentures the water will cushion their fall.
If you don’t have fixed dentures, your dentist will advise you to remove your dentures at night, clean them and store them in water or a denture cleanser. Otherwise they may dry out, become brittle and breakable. Note that if you would simply rather remove your dentures during the day, that’s fine. You just want to have your dentures out for 6-8 hours every 24 hours, to keep your mouth and gums healthy and decrease the chance of bone loss.
Dentures That Fit
Your removable dentures will almost certainly need to be refitted (“relined”) or remade after a few years. Check in with your dentist as soon as possible if your dentures start to feel loose or as if they suddenly seem to be the wrong size – too big or too small – for your mouth. You’ll be far more comfortable and confident when your dentures fit properly, plus you’ll avoid the gum irritation and abrasions that loose-fitting dentures can cause.
Do not try to adjust your own dentures, no matter how skilled you are at tinkering. You’ll almost certainly end up spending more money to get them fixed after you’ve messed them up than you would have spent to get them adjusted in the first place.
Buying and maintaining dentures
Sadly, Medicaid doesn’t cover dentures. And if your dental insurance does offer coverage, it will be limited to your dental insurance’s annual spending cap, which is typically $1000-$1500 a year. Dentures start at $2,500 for an upper OR a lower plate, so insurance won’t get you far.
Dental saving plans are often the most effective way to save on dentures, as there are no waiting periods or annual spending limits.