Dentures are removable false teeth made of acrylic (plastic) or metal. They fit snugly over the gums to replace missing teeth and eliminate potential problems caused by gaps.
Gaps left by missing teeth can cause problems with eating and speech, and teeth either side of the gap can grow into the space at an angle. Sometimes, all the teeth need to be removed and replaced.
You may therefore need either:
- complete dentures (a full set), which replace all your upper or lower teeth, or
- partial dentures, which replace just one or a few missing teeth
Dentures can prevent the above problems and, if complete dentures are needed, can improve the appearance of your smile, fill out your face and give you confidence.
This page offers information for anyone who is considering dentures, and advice for those who already wear them. It explains:
How dentures are fitted
A full denture will be fitted if all your upper or lower teeth need to be removed or you are having an old complete denture replaced. Usually, the denture is fitted as soon as your teeth are removed, which means you won't ever be without teeth. The denture fits snugly over your gums and jawbone.
Occasionally, however, your gums may need to heal for several months before dentures can be fitted.
You can see either see a dentist or a qualified clinical dental technician to have your dentures made and fitted:
- A dentist will take measurements and impressions (moulds) of your mouth, then order your full or partial dentures from a dental technician.
- A clinical dental technician will provide a full set of dentures directly to you, without you having to see your dentist (although you should still have regular check-ups with your dentist).
A trial denture will be created from the impressions that are taken of your mouth, which you can try to see if it is a comfortable fit. The colour and shape may be adjusted before the final denture is produced.
A partial denture is designed to fill in the gaps left by a few missing teeth. It is either a plastic or metal plate with a number of false teeth attached to it. This clips onto your natural teeth via metal clasps, which hold it securely in place in your mouth. It can easily be unclipped and removed.
Your dentist will be able to take measurements of your mouth and order this for you, or you can see a qualified clinical dental technician, who can provide a partial denture to you directly after you have first seen your dentist for a treatment plan and certificate of oral health.
Read the British Dental Health Foundation leaflet about partial dentures, including which type of denture (metal or plastic) is best for you and information on a more permanent alternative (a fixed bridge).
Looking after your dentures
Dentures may feel a bit strange to begin with, but you'll soon get used to wearing them.
At first, you may need to wear your dentures all of the time, including while sleeping. Eventually, you will get into a routine of removing them before sleep (if necessary) and soaking them in water, allowing your gums to rest as you sleep. Your dentist or clinical dental technician will advise you on this.
Keeping your mouth clean is just as important as ever when you wear dentures. You should brush your remaining teeth, gums and tongue every morning and evening with fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. Read our teeth cleaning guide.
It's important to regularly remove plaque from your dentures, as unclean dentures can also lead to problems such as bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay and oral thrush.
Clean your dentures as often as you would normal teeth (at least every morning and night), by:
- brushing them with paste before soaking, to remove food particles
- soaking the dentures in a fizzy solution of denture-cleaning tablets to remove stains and bacteria – follow the manufacturer's instructions and do not soak them overnight
- brushing them again, as you would your normal teeth (but don't scrub too hard)
For more information, read the British Dental Health Foundation leaflet about denture cleaning.
Eating with dentures
When you first start wearing dentures you should eat soft foods cut into small pieces, and chew slowly using both sides of your mouth. Avoid chewing gum and any food that is very sticky, hard or sharp-edged.
You can gradually start to eat other types of food until you are back to your old diet. Never use toothpicks.
You should not need to use denture fixative (adhesive) if the dentures fit properly. However, if your jawbone has shrunk a lot, adhesive may be the only way to help retain them.
Adhesive should only be used for a short period of time if your dentures have become loose, just while you wait for your replacement dentures. Ask your dentist for advice.
When to see your dentist
Dentures should last for several years if you take good care of them. However, your gums and jawbone will eventually shrink and the dentures may not fit as well as they used to and become loose, or they may become worn.
You should see your dentist as soon as possible if:
- your dentures click when you are talking
- your dentures tend to slip, or you feel they no longer fit properly
- your dentures feel uncomfortable
- your dentures are visibly worn
- you have signs of gum disease or tooth decay, such as bleeding gums or bad breath
If poorly fitting or worn dentures are not replaced, they can cause great discomfort and lead to mouth sores, infections or problems with eating and speech.