Dentures are removable replacements for missing teeth and surrounding tissue. Complete dentures replace all teeth, and partial dentures fill the gaps between the missing and the natural teeth.
Complete dentures are either conventional or immediate, and the distinction pertains to their how soon they are placed after tooth loss or extraction.
Conventional dentures are ideal for patients who have had missing teeth for some time. In these cases, the gums are completely healed and will not change dramatically.
Immediate dentures can be placed the same day as the teeth are extracted and can provide immediate esthetic and functional replacement of your existing teeth. Due to the complexity immediate dentures are more time intensive and more expensive, they will require more trips to the dentist for adjustments. Immediate dentures allow the patient to not have to go without teeth, but are temporary. After tooth extraction, the bone and gums undergo many changes while healing. Immediate dentures are designed to be used during the healing period as a transitional denture. Often, immediate dentures will require a reline and will eventually need to be replaced with conventional dentures after a few years.
A partial denture is a removable appliance that replaces one or more teeth. Partial dentures are used when natural teeth remain in the upper or lower jaw. The replacement teeth are attached to a gum-colored base connected by a metal framework to hold the partial in place. The partial serves two purposes: 1) to fill the space created by missing teeth; and 2) to prevent the remaining, natural teeth from changing position and moving into the gap.
Your dentist will create models, wax forms and plastic patterns for impressions of your gum tissue. After several fittings and a final measurement, the denture is cast. There may be several short appointments for adjustments to obtain the perfect fit for your dentures.
Some patients prefer to not replace missing teeth with a removable appliance. In these instances, there are often multiple other options to replace these teeth. Most often, implants and bridges are used as a fixed alternative. Your dentists will consult you to see if these options are right for you.