Are flexible dentures right for you? If you're looking to replace one or more teeth, there are lots of options and it can be tricky trying to balance cost with aesthetics, comfort and durability. Flexible Valplast dentures and other brands have certain advantages, but also disadvantages, so it's good you're doing some research before deciding.
In this article we're going to look at how flexible partial dentures compare to other types of false teeth, and answer questions including:
- What do flexible dentures cost in the UK?
- Can you get them on the NHS?
- Are Valplast dentures the best brand?
- How long do they last?
- How do you clean and look after them?
We'll also explain some other missing teeth options so you can figure out what's best for you.
Table of contents
What are flexible dentures?
Traditionally, dentures feature a metal or plastic base plate with acrylic gums and porcelain or acrylic fake teeth. These dentures are completely rigid and can be bulky to wear. But more recently, a new option has been developed to offer better comfort and aesthetics. Valplast were the first company to introduce flexible dentures, and they still dominate the UK market, so some people talk about ‘Valplast dentures' when really they mean any brand.
But what exactly are flexible dentures, and how do they compare to traditional styles?
As the name suggests, flexible dentures are made from a thermoplastic resin material which allows them to bend slightly. Specifically, Valplast dentures and most other brands are made from nylon. This is biocompatible, meaning it won't induce an allergic reaction.
The resin material is gum-coloured and translucent, which helps it blend well with the natural gums. False teeth are shaped and positioned to replace the patient's missing teeth, and tooth-coloured clasps hook around existing teeth to hold the denture in place.
Flexible partial dentures vs traditional
For a long time dentures have been made from acrylic, sometimes combined with metal. This type is still widely available, and you can choose from different levels of quality. Here are some of the problems people can experience with acrylic dentures, especially the cheaper types:
- Can look artificial
- May have visible metal clasps
- Break easily
- Cause mouth sores if not a perfect fit
- May need denture adhesive to stay in place
- Can feel bulky in the mouth
On the plus side, they are quite affordable, available on the NHS, and simple to adjust if needed. You can also get immediate acrylic dentures after an extraction to fill any gaps on the same day.
Flexible dentures address all of these potential problems. They have no metal components and the lightweight resin material flexes to fit the exact contours of your mouth. This ensures a better and more comfortable fit.
Valplast dentures shouldn't experience any deterioration through normal wear and tear, and they come with a lifetime guarantee. However, your mouth will change shape as you get older – plus you may lose more teeth – and your dentures will need to be adjusted or relined. One flexible denture disadvantage is that sometimes only limited modifications can be made. They also have a higher starting price than acrylic.
Here's a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of flexible dentures vs acrylic and metal:
Valplast is by far the most popular brand of flexible partial denture in the UK, but some others you might come across are Flexite, TCS and SunFlex. There is not a great deal of variation in terms of price and aesthetics, but your dentist will explain why they recommend a particular brand and you can decide whether to go with their recommendation. One notable difference is that SunFlex offer combination metal and flexible dentures, so you can have a rigid frame with the softer base.
The video below shows what to expect if you get Valplast dentures in the UK, but the experience will be much the same whichever brand you choose:
Can you get flexible full dentures?
Flexible dentures are usually only offered as a partial denture, for people who still have some natural teeth. Flexible full dentures are available in the UK but not very common. However, there is a lot of innovation going on in this area, with companies developing better materials for different solutions.
How much do flexible dentures cost in the UK?
In the UK, flexible dentures cost between £400 and £600 as a starting price per arch. Some practices charge closer to £1,000 per arch, meaning you'll pay around £2,000 for an upper and lower set.
Flexible denture costs depend on a number of factors including the dentist you go to, the brand they use, and how many teeth you need to replace. They are typically more expensive than basic acrylic dentures but more affordable than some premium options.
Semi-flexible full dentures cost a similar amount, again with prices varying according to the materials used.
Can you get flexible dentures on the NHS?
You can't get flexible dentures on the NHS as standard, but they may be offered to patients who can't wear traditional dentures, perhaps because of allergies. You'll need to discuss this with your dentist; ultimately they will decide which type you are eligible for on the NHS.
Since NHS dental fees mean you'll pay £200 to £300 for your dentures anyway, depending on where you live in the UK, you may decide it's worth paying that bit extra for the benefits of flexible dentures.
Caring for flexible dentures
After forking out that much money, you'll want to make sure you clean and maintain your false teeth properly. Even if they have a lifetime guarantee, this is likely with the caveat that you clean them according to the manufacturer's instructions.
One great thing about flexible dentures is that, unlike acrylic, they shouldn't break if you drop them or sit on them or your toddler somehow gets hold of them. The main care instruction, then, is to use your dentist's recommended flexible denture cleaner to clean your appliance every day. This prevents plaque build-up and staining, keeping your mouth healthy and your dentures good as new. Of course, you still need to brush and floss your teeth properly, too.
Val-Clean is the recommended Valplast denture cleaner. This box of Val-Clean contains a 12-month supply. Note that unlike other types of denture cleaning tablet, you make up a batch using 1/4 of a sachet and 250ml of water, and this can be used 7-10 times before needing to be replaced. This means that one sachet lasts around a month.
You can also buy this kit which contains a year's supply of Val-Clean, a soft silicone toothbrush approved for cleaning flexible dentures, and a sonic denture cleaner.
Other cleaning products may be recommended for other brands, so check with your dentist. The following general rules also apply:
- Remove your denture before brushing your teeth, as it can be damaged by an abrasive toothpaste and toothbrush
- Hold it under running water to remove any food particles, or use a sonic cleaner
- Soak for 10-15 minutes daily, and overnight 3 times a week
- Keep it in water or cleaning solution when not wearing it
Other tooth replacement options
Dentures are usually the cheapest ways to replace missing teeth, but there are other options to consider. You may want a more permanent solution that isn't removed for cleaning, for example a dental bridge, which is fixed to the adjacent teeth and can last 10 or more years.
The problem with both bridges and dentures is that they don't replace the tooth root, and over time the jaw bone will deteriorate. Dental implants solve this problem, but they are also very expensive; the average dental implant in the UK costs £2,000 or more. For this reason, many Brits travel to get cheaper dental implants abroad.
Flexible dentures are made from a soft and, of course, flexible thermoplastic material. They are touted for their various benefits, like being more comfortable than normal dentures, being harder to break, and being suitable for people who are allergic to traditional denture materials.
As with any restorative dentistry solution, they have their disadvantages as well, namely their higher price and the fact that they can't be adjusted as easily. Any kind of denture also has disadvantages compared to implants. Ultimately, your dentist will be able to advise you if this is the best option for your oral health. You can also check some flexible dentures reviews to find out more about what it's like wearing them.