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Confidence can still be in a smile with dentures

Wearing dentures isn't the end of smiling or eating what one wants.

It is estimated that there are more than 30 million denture wearers in the United States alone. But thanks to improved oral hygiene, the number of new denture wearers continues to decline.

While most people, if given the choice, would prefer to keep their natural teeth, sometimes this is just not possible. Periodontal disease is the culprit behind permanent tooth loss and the need for partial or complete dentures. Periodontal disease causes gums to weaken and healthy or decayed teeth to simply fall out. The best way to prevent the need for dentures later in life is to practice diligent oral care.

A full set of teeth enables a person to speak, eat and, of course, smile properly. Therefore, dentures are an important cosmetic option for those with tooth loss. Advancements in dentistry and science have led to improvements in denture manufacturing, appearance and fit. Today's dentures are more comfortable and natural-looking than ever before.

Here is some information about dentures, courtesy of the American Dental Association (ADA).

Dentures may be referred to as immediate or conventional. Immediate dentures are able to be placed directly after all remaining teeth have been removed from the gums. This is an advantage for those who don't want time to lapse without having teeth. However, during the healing process gums may shrink. So conventional dentures may be fitted later on. Sometimes an "overdenture" is used when some natural teeth can be salvaged and used as anchors for the dentures.

New dentures may take some time to get used to. Just like a new pair of glasses, an adjustment period is to be expected, and there may be some minor soreness. Reacclimate to eating foods by starting with soft foods cut into small pieces. Try to chew equally with both sides of the mouth. Gradually work up to a normal diet as you become used to your dentures.

Denture adhesive can provide additional retention for well-fitting dentures. Denture adhesives are not the solution for old, ill-fitting dentures. A poorly fitting denture, which causes constant irritation over a long period, may contribute to the development of sores. If you do not become used to your dentures or they feel uncomfortable, talk to your dentist to see if the fit can be altered.

Dentures require care just like natural teeth. They are very delicate, however, and should be handled with care. A mild denture cleaner and a soft-bristled toothbrush or special denture brush can be used to clean out any food deposits and plaque from the dentures. Look for denture cleansers with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Use caution when handling dentures, because they may break even if dropped from a small height. You should also brush your gums to stimulate circulation and improve oral health.

Dentures may lose their shape if allowed to dry out. So store them in a safe place in a small amount of cool water or soaking in denture cleaner when not in the mouth. While many people prefer to leave their dentures in around the clock for aesthetic reasons, it is advisable to remove them for periods of time (such as overnight) to allow the gum tissues to rest.

Your appearance and confidence can be dramatically improved with the use of dentures. Most dentures can be made to match your original tooth shape and gum color. Therefore, there may be little change to your appearance except a healthy glow. Pronouncing certain words may require practice. Reading out loud and repeating troublesome words will help. If your dentures "click" while you're talking, speak more slowly. You may find that your dentures occasionally slip when you laugh, cough or smile. Reposition the dentures by gently biting down and swallowing.

If any denture problems persist, consult your dentist.

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