By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell
Why would anyone want temporary dentures? Why not make the final dentures straight away and be done with it? It looks like short-term dentures could take up more time and cost more money!
Well, you're right on the first point - they DO take up more time.
But they offer us a way of getting a much better long-term result! So you have to be willing to trade some of your time in the shape of extra visits to the dentist's office. This process lets both you and the dentist try out a possible design, and refine it.
As far as extra cost goes, yes, they DO cost a little extra. But I think the final results make it a very worthwhile investment.
What are the situations where temporary dentures might be useful? And what are these dentures like?
As the name implies, temporary dentures are temporary. They are not intended to last for long. For this reason, they are usually made of a less expensive grade of acrylic, and rarely involve expensive metal alloys. Also, they usually have a more economical grade of teeth on them, rather than very expensive "designer" acrylic teeth.
Because of these things, the denture is less expensive to make. It won't last as long as a normal denture, but that's OK because they only have to last a few months!
When might your dentist recommend a temporary denture?
There are basically 3 situations;
1. Waiting for something to heal. You may have had one or more teeth extracted, or a dental implant put in. If it is a front tooth, you will want to get a new front tooth in that gap as quickly as possible! These dentures can also be called immediate dentures, because they are put in at the same appointment as your tooth or teeth are removed.
When you have had a tooth or teeth extracted, it is better to hold off before making the final long-term teeth. If the dentist thinks that the gum is going to shrink or change shape, for example, he may recommend making temporary dentures first, to give you replacement teeth while the healing takes place.
By giving the gum time to heal up and reach it's final shape, the final denture or bridge will be a much better fit. That means it will last much longer before it has to be replaced. When you have had several teeth out, it usually takes around 6 months for the jaw bone and gum to heal and reach a stable shape.
If you have had an implant put in, the dentist is waiting for the bone around the implant to heal firmly, to support the implant. It literally becomes fused to the bone.You can read more about this at Dental Implant Healing.
2. Trial denture; This can be very useful if you want to get new dentures that are significantly different from the ones you already have, and are used to. For example, you may want to have the front teeth longer, if they have become very worn down.
But changing the length or position of teeth on a denture when you have become used to the old dentures can take quite a bit of getting used to. The new teeth will feel very strange at first, and it may take months before you adapt and become comfortable.
It is quite risky to go straight ahead and make brand new permanent dentures to a new shape and look that is significantly different to your old dentures. So the answer is to do a "trial run" of the new design with cheaper acrylic and teeth.
Trying out a particular look or a special shape of denture, especially in problem cases such as severely shrunken jaw bone, is best done with temporary dentures. You get the chance to try out the new look and new arrangement for a fraction of the cost of the final dentures.
3. Modifying an existing denture. This sounds the same as the previous situation, but there is one big difference; we are not making a new denture. We want to modify a recent denture, in a fairly major way, to improve on a particular fault or problem. And we want to have a test run first, to make sure the modification will be successful, before attacking the existing denture!
I had a case like this recently. A very pleasant lady came to me for the first time, with a story of severe jaw aches and headaches since having a new denture made 3 years before. She felt that the denture was slightly too big and did not sit correctly in her mouth.
After checking the denture, I had to agree with her. But correcting the problem would mean sending her denture to the laboratory to be completely stripped down and re-built with new teeth. A big step, as the denture had cost her thousands!
Here is the recent, expensive, denture. It is supported by 4 metal crowns on the inside. But it is too big and does not fit correctly.
Before sending the existing and very expensive denture to the laboratory for complete strip-down and re-setting with new teeth, I wanted to be sure that such a big undertaking would actually solve the problems the patient was having.
So I decided to make up a temporary denture to test my theories - a very simple and cheap denture which included the changes we wanted to make to her existing expensive denture. Here is the temporary denture below.
I used much smaller teeth on the denture,so that when she bit her teeth together, her jaws were not being held so far apart. She could bite down "more", so that her nose tip and chin tip were 2mm closer than before.
The teeth were so small that they couldn't cover the tops of the 4 crowns in her mouth, so they poked through a bit and were visible.
You can see that we had to make the temporary denture smaller, so the metal crowns are visible at this time. Remember, this is a trial run!
She wore it for 2 months, and all her pain went away. This told us that the new shape was correct, and we could go ahead and modify the recent (and expensive) denture to the same shape.
So, temporary dentures can be very useful! They can buy us some time while things are healing, they can let us try out a radically new design for a planned new denture, or they can let us try out a complicated modification to an existing denture. Definitely great reasons to consider a temporary denture, in the right situation.