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What Are Your Dentures Made Of?

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Dentures offer us the charm of a natural-looking smile, and preserve the natural functions of our mouths, like speech and the support of our facial muscles. 

But it’s not just the look that’s important. Having too many missing teeth can lead to chewing and jaw problems, and it can actually warp a patient’s face. Your ancestors sought the best available solutions, and that’s something that hasn’t changed.

The engineering and materials of dentures have varied widely, but making dentures nowadays comes with knowing the pros and cons of available materials. The choice of material can make a difference for any denture, but especially so for complete dentures. 

Complete dentures take up so much more of your mouth, so the materials needed differ from partial dentures. Our denturist team has some experience helping new patients navigate the world of complete dentures.

Early Days & in Modern Times

Dentures have been around for thousands of years in some form or another. Gold wires holding real and false teeth together, resembling partial dentures, have been discovered in Italy — dating back to the 7th century BCE. 

Near the turn of the 19th century, US President George Washington wore a set of complete dentures using lead and gold as the base. On that, he mounted his own teeth, cows’ teeth, and carved elephant ivory.

Times have changed, thankfully. Lead is not something you want to keep in your mouth for any length of time. Modern dentures use synthetic materials, but each option comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Teeth

The teeth aren’t always the same material since it depends on your needs. The choice of teeth material may also depend on the denture type. Your denturist will have to consider whether overdentures, partial, complete, partial-on-implant, or all-on-4 dentures would help.

Porcelain

The teeth can come in porcelain or a special acrylic resin. Porcelain looks natural. It has a translucent quality under sunlight, and a similar mouth-feel to natural teeth as well. But this material isn’t so flexible that it can withstand a fall when dropped from waist or chest height. Porcelain wears down faster than natural teeth, so acrylic resin usually takes the place of porcelain in partial dentures.

Acrylic Resin

This material isn’t so brittle, but it doesn’t look as natural as porcelain. On the other hand, they adhere to the denture base very well. They adjust to a natural bite more than the rigid and inflexible porcelain kind. They also weigh less, meaning they’re less noticeable to the wearer or anyone else.

Complete Denture Bases

smiling woman in a chair looks at new dentures in a blue plastic mirror

To invest the denture, in other words, to form a base on which the false teeth go — denturists manually form wax to create a mould to simulate the gumline. Like building a snowman, we form wax onto a cast of your gum impression, which holds the denture’s synthetic teeth in place for a natural bite. 

But the wax isn’t going to work as a base. We just use it to mould a space where we’ll fill it with base materials. With that mould, we melt the wax, pour it out, and refill the void with a base material of choice. Generally, the options fall into 3 categories: metal, acrylate, or newer flexible materials.

Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA)

This material has been the old standby for decades. It’s a little hard and brittle, but it works well, and it looks like a natural gum line. It’s a little fragile if you drop a denture set made of PMMA, but it’s soft enough that you can wear it without too much discomfort. It can also host bacteria, so hygiene becomes really important in keeping your mouth clean with these dentures.

Metal

These days, a chrome cobalt alloy has become the standard metal base for those who want to avoid acrylate. Gold, lead, or gold alloys were used in the past, but chrome cobalt provides advantages. It’s more stable, and better fit due to its rigidity. It has a more natural feeling with heat, and it doesn’t absorb bacteria so efficiently.

Flexible Nylon Materials

Nylon-like materials are on the rise, with names like Velplast and Flexite getting good self-reported results in a 2011 study. Study patients trying out nylon bases in new dentures reported some great benefits. They experienced far less bad breath, more comfortable insertion and removal, less irritation, and found that these bases don’t break nearly as much with regular use.

Choosing a Denture Material

The material chosen requires almost as much strategic thought as forming a new bite with synthetic teeth. Your denturist will work with you to determine the right denture materials for you. Prices can vary, though, so it’s best to arrange a consultation. If we work together, we’ve got this!

Written by Wade Klimpke

Wade Klimpke is a past President and long-standing member of the College of Alberta Denturists. Wade leads a number of industry working groups which help advance and monitor old, current, and new industry developments. This has allowed him to gain a number of industry relationships with implant dentistry suppliers in Canada and the United States.
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