It’s been a long time since tooth loss was managed using animal teeth and pieces of bone in their place. George Washington famously sported a set of dentures made from lead, human teeth, cow teeth and elephant ivory. Dentures are custom-made replacements for missing teeth and can be taken out and put back into your mouth. While dentures take some getting used to and will never feel exactly the same as natural teeth, today’s dentures are natural looking and more comfortable than ever. What are dentures made of in the 21st century, and what are the oral benefits of this technology? We take a look into dentures and see what makes up what’s in your mouth.
What are the teeth made of?
The teeth of a denture are typically made from various types of resin or porcelain. The latter was traditionally the preferred material because it was stronger and more durable. Porcelain is still used in some instances and has a number of advantages:
- A glass-like ceramic material, porcelain has the same translucent appearance as natural tooth enamel and can be color-matched closely with other teeth in the patient’s mouth.
- Porcelain teeth feel similar to natural teeth. This makes them easier to adapt to than other materials.
- The heating process used to make them causes the dentures to become considerably harder, which means they last longer.
The main disadvantages of porcelain dentures, however, are that they’re breakable if dropped on a hard floor and they can wear down natural teeth if they bite against them. Porcelain is better used in full dentures than in partials for this reason. More recently, however, acrylic resin has become the go-to material for denture teeth. Having the correct bite, and alignment of teeth with dentures can be crucial for comfortable wear and use; the way our teeth come together is called occlusion. Acrylic adheres more securely to the denture base and is easier to adjust to achieve the correct occlusion than harder porcelain teeth. It’s also significantly less expensive than porcelain, and much lighter in weight. The disadvantage of teeth made from acrylic resin is that they wear faster than porcelain teeth, which causes changes the occlusion. Dentures made from acrylic resin teeth may need to be replaced every five to eight years as a result, but they are still far stronger than the plastic items used in the past.
What is the framework made of?
Dentures require a framework to support them, which is usually called a full or partial plate. This plate can be made from rigid acrylic resin or a type of flexible (nylon) polymer. Or it can be molded from chrome cobalt metal. The dentist takes an impression of the patient’s gums, which is used to create a mold. This mold is then used as the basis of a wax model to which the teeth are added. The model is tested in the patient’s mouth to confirm it will be suitable in size and color, and for the formation of a plate that fits snugly in the mouth. Plates made from acrylic resin are compatible with dentures that require an artificial gumline because the material can be tinted to resemble the patient’s natural gum color. Metal plates, however, carry less risk of breaking. They are also stronger and provide a better fit. This makes metal ideal for partial plates that are fully hidden behind the remaining natural teeth.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your dentures can tell you how long you can expect them to last. The lifespan of a denture also depends on your oral hygiene regimen, so it’s essential to clean them daily. Above all, take care of your natural gums to keep them healthy enough to wear dentures, using dental rinse to prevent the bacteria that causes painful gingivitis and bleeding.
No matter what materials make up your dentures, it is always important to keep these helpful tips in mind:
- Don’t let dentures dry out: place them in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in plain water when you’re not wearing them. Never use hot water, which can cause dentures to warp.
- Brush your dentures: brushing dentures daily will remove food and dental plaque and help prevent them from becoming stained.
- Take care of your mouth: brush your gums, tongue and palate every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert dentures. This stimulates circulation in your tissues and helps remove plaque.
- Consult your dentist: see your dentist if dentures break, chip, crack or become loose. Don’t be tempted to adjust them yourself — this can damage them beyond repair.
Do you have any questions about what your dentures are made of? Call Westermeier Martin Dental Care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.