Dentures, also known as false teeth, have enabled people who have lost teeth to eat and smile again. They are removable prosthetic devices made of acrylic (plastic), nylon or metal, that are supported by the tissue around them, or by remaining teeth in the case of partials.  Having a total or partial denture may never replace natural teeth, but it allows the patient to eat, talk and smile with confidence, and today’s dentures are natural looking and more comfortable than ever.

Dentures come in a great variety of sizes, forms, and materials. Most of them are removable, although a few of them are semi-fixed.  Some dentures rely on bonding or clasping onto remaining teeth or implants, while others, like full dentures, are just placed snugly over the jawbone.

Dentures used to replace some or all missing teeth are divided into two categories: the mandibular arch (jaw) and the maxillary arch (upper teeth).  Note that in a few cases, a dentist may have to pull out the remaining natural teeth for the denture to function properly, but the goal is always to save natural teeth because there is no substitute as good.

The process for most dentists is to:

  1. Make a series of impressions of your jaw and take measurements of how your jaws relate to one another and how much space is between them.
  2. Create models, wax forms, and/or plastic patterns in the exact shape and position of the denture to be made. You will “try in” this model several times and the denture will be assessed for color, shape, and fit before the final denture is cast.
  3. Cast a final denture (in-house or off-site lab)
  4. Schedule adjustment visits to remove the cause of any sore spots

Dentures are preferred to other methods of replacing teeth in cases where other alternatives are not available, up-front cost is a major consideration, or the need for replacement teeth is immediate. *  Also, some patients prefer dentures for personal reasons, such as not wanting to go through surgery.

* In some patients, the gums may need to heal for several months before dentures can be fitted.   An “immediate” full denture can be inserted when teeth are removed, and while they offer the benefit of never having to be without your teeth, they will need to be relined in several months because the bone supporting the teeth reshapes as it heals, causing the denture to become loose.

Benefits of Dentures

  • Improved chewing. The main purpose of teeth is chewing. When teeth are missing, chewing becomes difficult and in some cases, it becomes impossible to eat certain foods.
  • Improved speech. Another important function of teeth is as an aid to the speech function. Missing teeth make it hard or impossible to pronounce certain sounds.
  • Improved looks. Teeth are an important part of our face, and when they are missing, especially in the front, we feel very self-conscious.
  • Improved self-esteem. Not being able to eat or speak properly and not being happy with the way that we look can eventually result in low self-esteem. This is especially true if the tooth loss is so severe that we are afraid of smiling or talking in public.
  • They are a good option for those with a very limited budget.

New dentures may be uncomfortable, and/or feel awkward for a few weeks until you become accustomed to them and you get comfortable inserting and removing them.  It will take a while for the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep the dentures in place.  During that time they may feel loose and there may be minor irritation or soreness.  In addition, saliva flow temporarily increases – this happens because the brain senses the appliance and interprets it as ‘food’, sending messages to the salivary glands to produce more saliva and to secrete it at a higher rate. This usually only happens in the first 12 to 24 hours, after which the salivary glands return to their normal output.  Your mouth will become accustomed to the dentures, and all these problems should go away.

When you first start wearing dentures, it’s a good idea to stick to soft foods, or food cut into very small pieces, and to chew slowly, using both sides of your mouth, and then graduate slowly to other types of food until you’re back to your old diet.  You can eat most foods, but you should avoid chewing gum and any food that’s sticky, hard, or has sharp edges.  Note that toothpicks are to be avoided.

Dentures normally last several years if they have been taken good care of.  The average age of full-mouth denture in the United States is 17.6 years, although dental professionals recommend replacing dentures every five to seven years because the gums and jawbone will eventually change shape and shrink, and then the dentures may not fit as well as at first, becoming loose or worn, and that can cause great discomfort and lead to mouth sores, infections or problems eating and speaking.  If your dentures fit correctly, it shouldn’t be necessary to use adhesive (denture fixative), unless your jawbone has shrunk significantly.

You may not need to remove your dentures every night, but it’s a good idea to allow your gums to rest and breathe while you sleep, and it helps to prevent denture stomatitis.  When removed, dentures should be kept moist in order to stop the denture material from drying out and changing shape or cracking.  They can be soaked in warm (not hot) water, or in a 50/50 water to white vinegar solution, or an overnight denture-cleaning solution (important to rinse before reinserting), but strong chemicals like bleach must be avoided if there is a soft lining.  Soaking will help to remove stains, plaque, tartar, and bacteria.  You should never wear your dentures 24 hours a day without cleaning them and preforming proper oral hygiene.

See your dentist as soon as possible if:

  • your dentures click when you’re 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 you think you have ‘bad teeth’ and it might be best to have all of them extracted and replaced with complete dentures, you may wind up regretting it.  You may not know that complete dentures have only 10% of the chewing power of natural teeth.  In addition, it may be difficult to get them fitted satisfactorily, particularly in the mandibular arch.  Especially in the lower jaw, even one natural tooth can contribute significantly to the stability of the denture (the upper arch tends to be very stable).   Dental wisdom says, keep your natural teeth as long as possible, especially the lower ones.

In Costa Rica, you can get a denture that will satisfy your dental needs for a fraction of the price one would expect to pay in the US or Canada. Dentists listed with the Costa Rica Dental Guide offer full or partial dentures made with the most modern materials and with the same quality that you’d expect from a denture manufactured in the United States or Europe.

If you are interested in full dentures in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.