False teeth


False teeth are an incredibly efficient way to alter a persons appearance because it is both quick and quite cheap compared with foam latex and wigs. The basic technique is very similar to the one used by dental technicians making "real" false teeth. But when you are doing it for the stage or film  you must make some alterations so the actors speech won't be disturbed.

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You start off with casting the actors teeth with the aid of an impression tray filled with alginate or a dental quality silicone putty. Alginate is a soft dental casting material that stays soft after it has solidified.
NEVER make a teeth cast with plaster!
You will damage the actors teeth! Or to be honest they will loose their own teeth and end up in the hospital!
And you will never, ever work again!

I usually let the actor put the tray in by him or herself and then let him bend over a washbasin to drool. After about 3 minutes the alginate has set and you can carefully remove the cast. Sometimes it sticks a little, but that usually depends on a vacuum between the teeth and the cast.
Wiggle it a little and it will eventually come loose. 
Now it is time to make a duplicate of the teeth in plaster and that is done by filling the cast with a special dental plaster. It sets much harder than ordinary plaster. I often use a plaster that is called Moldano and instead of water I use a special hardener that makes the plaster teeth hard like porcelain.
When the plaster has set you remove the alginate and fix all the little defects the cast may have. For this I use a scalpel and a plaster rasp. Remember to compare your plaster teeth with the actors teeth, so you don't cut away too much.

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Now it is time to decide how the new teeth should look. This is done by sculpting the new look in wax or clay.
On a normal set of teeth you just have to cover the front eight teeth for the dental piece to stay in place without any sort of glue.
When you are happy with your sculpture you must make a new mould of it.
The easiest way to do this is with alginate in a small bowl.
When the alginate has set and you have removed the plaster teeth it is time to clean them and apply a special release film.
When this has dried you are ready to fill your mould with dental acrylics. 
Here I am filling the mould with an acrylic that dentists usually use for temporary repairs but for us the hardness and price is quite good.
You fill the mould by taking small amounts of powder into each tooth and then carefully flooding it with the solvent.
This smells very bad and is poisonous so you should not do this if you do not have proper ventilation.
You should mix at least two or three colours to make the colour natural and blend together with the actors own teeth.
When you have filled all the teeth, push the plaster teeth down (not too hard) into the liquid acrylic.
This ensures that only the part where the clay was becomes filled with acrylic and results in a thin set of teeth that will fit perfectly onto the actor.
The drying time is about 15-20 minutes in a pressure pot and about 30 minutes in room temperature.
When all is dry it is time to make the gums. 

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Now I have filed the teeth coloured gum down so I can replace it with red acrylic.
When you have sanded it down completely you once again brush the plaster teeth with release agent and put the appliance back on.
Now you simply drop powder and solvent to form a proper gum of the right thickness and shape.
After this your new teeth are almost ready. The only thing that we have left now is to polish the surface with a sanding tool and toothpaste.
I usually make some discolouring and enhance the edges of the teeth with grease paint too.
The actor must now try his new teeth and I have to make adjustments so that they won't hurt his gums or teeth.
It is very important to make sure that the false set of teeth don't sit too tightly as this can cause the real teeth damage. 

If you now have done everything the right way you now have a pair of perfectly natural looking teeth that can fool just about anyone.

On this page you have a basic introduction on how to make false teeth.
If you want to learn more:
Check out this step by step course

A pair of teeth I made for The hunchback of Notre-Dame

Me as Nosferatu