In one form or another, dentures have been worn for thousands of years. Today, there are around 11 million people in the UK who wear dentures, ranging from a single tooth to a complete mouthful of teeth.
When it comes to the question of ‘how are dentures created’, the answer is a lot more sophisticated now than it was when the first false teeth were made. In fact, the latest innovations in denture technology means that false teeth now perform almost exactly like real teeth. Here’s how false teeth are made.
A Short History of False Teeth
We call them false teeth today but at the dawn of denture development, they weren’t false at all. They were real teeth taken from humans and animals. A 4,500 year-old skeleton excavated from modern-day Mexico was found with what are believed to be ceremonial dentures, made from the fangs of a wolf or a big cat such as a jaguar or panther.
The Etruscans made dentures from human and animal teeth fastened with very thin gold wire around 2,700 years ago, while the Romans followed suit soon after. The first false teeth as we’d recognise them today were from Japan in the sixteenth century.
In the eighteenth century, the question ‘how are dentures made’ required a very impressive answer. Dental technician Nicholas Dubois De Chemant made false teeth in the UK with the porcelain supplied by none other than Josian Wedgewood!
Today, false teeth are made from the latest composite materials that mimic the look and feel of real teeth and natural gums.
How are Dentures Made & Fitted?
The method of how false teeth are made is quite complex and time-consuming, since there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It requires a consultation followed by a number of visits to the dentist for moulds and fittings before they are finished.
The first step in the process of making dentures is the impression. The dentist will fit a mould in the patient’s mouth who will bite down on the soft plastic or wax to form an impression of the mouth and jaw.
Next, the dental technician places the mould in a clamp-like hinged device known as an articulator which imitates the movement of the jaw. The purpose of the articulator is to allow the technician to accurately map the patient’s bite position. When asking ‘how are dentures made today’, the articulation is one of the most important elements of the entire process.
The Wax Mould
The wax model is then meticulously carved and shaped to perfectly mimic the patient’s jaw and teeth. It’s this model that is used to form the finished product.
Once the technician and the dentist are happy with the shaped mould, it’s sent for flasking. This involves setting the wax mould into a metal box known as a flask. The flask is filled with plaster which is left to set solid. To remove the wax, just leaving the plaster mould, the flask is placed into a bath of hot water and it melts away.
‘How are dentures created’ is a very common question and it’s this next stage which goes a long way towards the finished product ready for the patient. Once the wax has melted away, the technician adds a liquid separator to the plaster mould which stops the acrylic from adhering to it. The plaster remains in the flask and to replace the wax, the technician injects polymethylmethacrylate (or PMMA), a liquid acrylic resin, into the flask and leaves it to set.
The Plaster Removal
Using surgical-grade cutting tools, the dental technician carefully removes the plaster mould and submerges the PMMA dentures in an ultrasonic solution to remove any final traces of plaster.
The Finishing Touches
The story of how false teeth are made is a carefully-orchestrated process that requires absolute precision. The last steps are to trim away any excess acrylic from the dentures and finally, they are polished with pumice, an abrasive volcanic rock.
Once the dentures are ready, the patient will be called in for a fitting to ensure they are perfectly aligned. The dentist can make tiny corrections but they should be ready for use. This is the final step in the process of how dentures are made and fitted.