Dentures & Partials Abington & Jenkintown, PA

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Full and Partial Dentures

Missing teeth are more than a cosmetic problem. Sure, their absence may make a person avoid smiling when in public situations. Even regular conversation can be guarded to avoid opening the mouth or whistling when pronouncing certain consonants. But beyond the cosmetic issues, missing teeth can lead to nutritional deficiencies, changes in bite alignment, speech problems, and jawbone deterioration.

For people who have all of their teeth, it may be a surprise to know that one quarter of all Americans over 65 have lost all of their natural teeth. Many others have lost multiple teeth.

Full or partial dentures from Dr. McDowell and our team can give you back your smile and your confidence.


What are dentures?

A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and surrounding tissues. They can be full (replacing all the teeth on either the upper or lower jaw) or partial. Partial dentures are sometimes called bridges. Complete dentures are called conventional, which actually could be called “permanent,” and are placed from two to three months after tooth extraction. Another term you may have heard is “immediate dentures,” but those are simply temporary dentures that are used while your gums heal and your conventional dentures are being fabricated.


denturesWhat are dentures used for?

Some people wonder just what dentures would do for them beyond being able to chew harder foods. Well-fit dentures with Dr. McDowell go beyond those benefits. They…

  • Improve the ability to chew and bite properly.
  • Allow the patient to again eat healthy hard foods such as nuts and fruit.
  • Improve the wearer’s self-confidence and self-image.
  • End the slurred consonant sounds created by missing teeth.
  • Improve the wearer’s facial structure.
  • Keep remaining teeth from moving (partial dentures).

Full vs. partial dentures

Obviously, if you’re already missing all your teeth a full denture is in order. Full dentures replace the entire span of teeth. Often if poor hygiene and gum disease have run their course, a person missing most of his or her teeth has to have the remaining teeth extracted due to decay within those teeth. When this is the case, the gums are allowed to heal before the full dentures are fabricated and placed. Full dentures are held in place through pressure provided by the tongue and cheeks, and suction created onto the gums. Some people use adhesive to add stability, but Dr. McDowell believes expertly fit dentures shouldn’t require that.

If you have any remaining teeth that are healthy enough to be saved, partial dentures offer a better solution. This is because we can use those natural teeth as anchor points for the partial dentures. Partial dentures are commonly referred to as “bridges,” and can be fixed or removable. They consist of replacement teeth attached to a pink, gum-colored plastic base. In a removable partial, the denture is connected to metal framework that holds the denture in place, but also allows it to be removed. When fixed, the partial denture is anchored permanently to crowns on the adjacent natural teeth.


How are dentures made?

The entire process of getting dentures, particularly full dentures, usually takes from two to three months. This involves many fittings. In many cases, the first step in the denture process is to remove badly decayed teeth. So that you’re able to chew while your gums heal, Dr. McDowell makes an immediate denture.


After your gums have healed, this is the process:

Your jaws are measured for the relationship between the upper and lower jaw and the space between. A series of impressions are taken.
From those impressions we make what you could think of as “demo dentures” out of wax or plastic. These are made in the exact shape and position of your conventional dentures, but are used to check color, shape, thickness, fit, and function.
Once Dr. McDowell and you agree that you like the fit and structure, final impressions are made for your final denture. These are sent to the dental lab for fabrication.
When the dentures are finished we test them for fit and make further adjustments. From there, we will probably make a few more minute adjustments as you get used to wearing your new dentures.

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How long does it take to get used to dentures

dentures and partial denturesNew dentures do take getting used to. At first they will feel loose, possibly feeling as if they could fall out. But your muscles in the cheeks and tongue soon adjust, as do your gums. Sometimes your gums can become irritated as they adjust.

Eating and speaking will take some practice. In the beginning, you’ll need to eat soft foods cut into small pieces. As you get the hang of eating with your dentures you can return to a normal diet, but you should avoid extremely sticky and hard foods. Speech will also be an adjustment; the best way to practice is to simply read aloud.

Of course, these are all issues with full dentures, not partials. There is little adjustment needed with partial dentures, although avoiding sticky foods is a must.


How long do dentures last?

Complete dentures usually last from five to seven years. At some point, full dentures usually need to be relined, rebased, or remade. This is because your underlying gum tissues and jawbone change over time. Dr. McDowell will have the denture base refit, or a new base may be created using the existing false teeth.

The lifespan of partial dentures is highly variable depending on location in the mouth and care of the appliance.


How to properly clean dentures

With the exception of fixed partial dentures, dentures are not meant to be worn 24 hours a day. Removing them allows your gum tissues to rest and allows normal stimulation and cleansing by the tongue and your saliva.

You brush dentures, but not with toothpaste, as it is too abrasive and can create microscopic scratches that allow food and plaque to build up. Brushing removes stains and any food or plaque build-up. When brushing is complete, your dentures need to stay moist so they need to be put in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in water.


Can I sleep in my dentures?

You should not sleep in your dentures. Your gums need time to rest and this happens while you sleep. Place your dentures in cleanser solution or water overnight and let your gums take it easy.


Do dentures causes health problems?

Dentures can actually improve a patient’s health by enabling the person to eat a well-rounded diet again. When a person is missing most of his or her teeth or has severely damaged teeth they can avoid eating many fruits and vegetables because they are hard and require lots of chewing. With dentures, most of these foods can be eaten again, improving the diet.

The only real problem with dentures is jawbone erosion. When we have all or most of our natural teeth, chewing creates a tremendous amount of bite force energy. This energy is transferred through the teeth down into the jawbone. This energy continually signals the jaw to shed old bone cells and create new cells. This is how the jawbone stays healthy.

With dentures the teeth don’t deliver his energy down into the jawbone because the dentures sit atop the gums but they don’t have any roots. As a person wears dentures, their jawbone tends to deteriorate. That’s why dentures need to be refit periodically to account for additional bone loss.

That’s one reason why Dr. McDowell likes to anchor dentures with dental implants, if possible. Usually four to six dental implants are placed on each arch, but instead of attaching to a single artificial tooth atop the implant base, there is a post with a ball. The dentures then have sockets that allow the full arch of artificial teeth to snap down onto the implants. This has two benefits. First, it gives the dentures full stability and keeps them from slipping. Second, the implants can send bite energy down into the jawbone, helping limit or eliminate bone loss.

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Can I eat normally with dentures?

You can eat a complete diet with dentures. You’ll want to avoid certain foods that can either stick to your dentures or possibly make they slip. Really hard foods aren’t a good idea either. Corn on the cob, taffy and caramel, hard peanut brittle, and similar foods should be avoided. These decisions are up to you.


Dentures vs. Denture Implants

Dentures and dental implants are completely different. Dental implants are individual replacements for missing teeth. Each implant consists of a titanium implant that is screwed down into the jawbone in the hole occupied by the former tooth root. The jawbone then grows around the implant, making it a part of the jawbone. A post and false tooth is then attached to the implant. Implants behave exactly like a natural tooth.

In contrast, full dentures are not rooted into the jawbone, sitting atop the gums instead.

Implants are not a practical solution for replacing most or all of a person’s teeth, however. They are too expensive. Implants are great as anchors for dentures. That process is described above. Implants add stability and confidence when wearing full dentures, but they do add to the overall cost.


Every situation is different but if you would like to find out more about implants and dentures please call (215) 885-0555 today to set up a consultation at McDowell Dental Group in Abington, Jenkintown, Horsham, Willow Grove, and Philadelphia, PA.

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