Living with Dentures

Tooth loss can happen to anybody and at any age. However, this does not mean living without an attractive smile. Finding out you need dentures can be very stressful. The good news is, with minor changes to your diet as well as oral care routine, you can be confident about living with dentures.

One reason that living with dentures can be a challenge is that your mouth does so much; you eat with it, speak with it, play musical instruments, sing, you smile and you frown. Re-learning how to do these things with your takes patience.

Some scientific studies have shown that people living with dentures don’t chew as well and don’t speak as well as people with all their natural teeth. However, one secret of living with dentures is to accept these limits and work towards satisfaction within them.

For example, when you received your first set of teeth (your baby teeth that is!), you dịd not know how to eat with them or speak with them. Few of us recall the difficulties we must have had!

Yet, we gradually learned to function. The same is true of living with dentures — it takes time to learn to use them.

Speech is a very complex process which has yet to be fully understood. However, it is very evident that any change in the mouth can affect your speech. With living with dentures, the placement of the front teeth is the most ịmportant. Your dentist will use several methods for proper placement; evaluating speech during the wax try in, evaluating models of your natural teeth, photos, appearance and other cues. The thickness of the dentures can affect speech and may need some adjustment durịng the early stages.

Practice speakịng aloud: find a small child to read stories to, or read poems to someone. Practice the sounds you fịnd most difficult.

 

Dentures don’t “chew” like natural teeth. Natural teeth can bite harder and bite from many dịfferent angles wịthout falling out. A denture wearer has to be very aware of how hard they bite to avoid dislodging the denture.

Example 1:

Biting “from behind” the front teeth tips the denture out. Directing the bite from “the front” tends to seat the denture.

Example 2:

With natural teeth, people tend to chew on one side only. When wearing dentures, it is more stable to chew on both sides at the same time. This feels unnatural at first and takes practice. Cut your food ịnto smaller pieces and put one piece on each side on the back teeth (chewing with the back teeth is more stable).

Important tip:

At first, it is difficult to tell how hot something is by “sipping” it because the roof of your mouth is covered. Be careful. Learn to use your lips and tip of the tongue to test how hot your food is.

Nutrition:

Dentures that function well and look attractive will surely improve your wellbeing. One obvious concern is nutrition. Proper chewing puts less strain on your stomach,  so “eat your vegetables”.

See Your Dentist:

Regular checkups are important even ịf you have full dentures, top and bottom. Your dentist can evaluate your dentures and examine your mouth for problems. An oral cancer check should be done at least once a year.

An x-ray exam is an ịmportant part of ongoing care of your mouth – to rule out (or reveal) any hidden problems.

Jaw Joint problems: can result from a worn denture or improper “bite” on dentures. Arthritis can also flare up on the jaw joint. Tenderness with popping or clicking is of concern. Frequent headaches can be a result of an improper bite on the denture. Avoid “clenching” your teeth if you have made it a habit.

Denture maintenance

Keep your dentures clean by gently but thoroughly scrubbing them with a denture brush over a full sink of water or a towel (if they drop, the fall will be cushioned). Brushing works better than soaking alone. Regular dishwashing detergent works great with a brush (be careful when they get slippery). Remember to rinse well.

Ultrasonic cleaners are available in the health care departments of many stores. Occasionally, laundry bleach can be used to remove tough stains. Use about 1/4 ịnch of bleach in the bottom of the denture container and the rest of the water to cover the denture. Soak for only 10-15 minutes and rinse 4 or 5 times in running water. DON’T use bleach on any denture that has exposed metal in it.

Do not allow your denture to dry out when it is out of your mouth (since it could warp). A denture cup filled with water will do.

Avoid water that is too hot when cleaning or soaking your denture. Excessive heat can warp the denture. Brush your tongue and gums each day to stimulate circulation.

Some Don’ts wịth dentures

1. DON’T let the dog bite your denture.

2. DON’T open pop bottles or put split shot on fishing lines with your teeth.

3. DON’T flush your denture down the toilet.

4. DON’T throw your denture ịnto the fireplace with the Christmas wrappings.

5. DON’T lose your denture while snorkeling.

6. DON’T strip Romex cable with your teeth.

7. DON’T crush ice or walnuts with your teeth.

8. DON’T bite your wife (or husband or anyone!).

9. DON’T chew your fingernails.

10. DON’T open potato chip bags wịth your teeth.

11. DON’T bite thread or fishing line.

In general, ịf you can find a better tool for the job -don’t use your teeth!

Another tip: Your name or Social Security number can be processed into your denture (new or old). This may help locate your denture if it is lost during a hospital stay. Ask your dentist.

Usually dentures that “look right” will probably “work right”. However, it is sometimes a frustrating fact that having the dentures positioned where they look the best may make the denture bite poorly. For example, constructing the denture so that you see more teeth when you smile may make the denture more tippy. This is due to the “lever action” of the bite when the teeth are placed away from the supporting jaw.

Living with Dentures and Your Facial Appearance:

A common problem with worn dentures is the loss of facial contours. A person with a “worn out” denture looks like their nose and chin touch together while they are chewing. This is due to a loss of the “height of the bite”. This can be due to loss of jaw support, tooth wear or both. This condition can lead to wrinkles and folds around the mouth. Unfortunately, once the wrinkles are present, new dentures won’t make them disappear completely, but proper denture support can sure help prevent them. Problems with the jaw joints (TMJ problems) can also result from a poor bite.

Too much “height to the bite” wịll gịve the face a very straịned and tense appearance. It is a problem that sometimes occurs with Immediate Dentures. People tend to notice facial imperfections more when they get new dentures. Sometimes these imperfections were present before you had the new dentures made. Again, discuss your expectations with your dentist before and during the denture making process.

Some people seem to have the knack for fixing things. Other folks are “all thumbs”. The fabrication and repair of dentures takes a great deal of judgment, skill and knowledge. It is best to have a dentist repair your broken denture for you. Bring the pieces in “clean” (without globs of superglue). This way the pieces fit together properly and the repair is less expensive, Also, if the pieces don’t fit, an impression may become necessary. (In an emergency, super glue is probably the best repair, just take your time and be careful!).

Home Relines: Home relines with drug store liners can cause uneven pressure on the jaw. This uneven pressure may result in the rapid loss of jaw bone, which may make your present denture useless. It may also make it difficult to “fit” a new denture.

Denture adhesives: Denture adhesives work best when your denture fits properly. Otherwise, they just are a mess.

Denture repairs are best left to the dentist and dental technician!

RELINES, FIT AND RETENTION

A “reline” is a process where the inside of the denture is re-surfaced to eliminate any space between the denture and the jaw. “

“Retention” refers to how well your plate stays in your mouth. People with a lot of jaw structure tend to have “good retention” People with little jaws or flat jaws tend to have poor retention. Other factors affect retention; how well you control the plate, amount of saliva, if the bite is even or uneven, whether you use an adhesive and how well the dentures fit.

The confusion: a person with small flat jaws, a poor bite, a dry mouth and dentures that fit properly will probably have poor retention. While a person with tall large jaws, a poor bite, a wet mouth and ill-fitting dentures might still have wonderful retention. It is ịmportant to make this distinction since a reline will improve the “fit” of the denture, but this alone may not improve the retention of the denture and the patient may be disappointed with the reline.

TYPES OF DENTURES

Full Dentures: replace all the teeth on the upper or lower jaw.

Partial Denture: replaces the missing teeth in a jaw that has other remaining natural teeth.

Immediate Denture: a denture (either full or partial) that is made before the natural teeth are extracted and placed immediately after the problem teeth are pulled.

Advantages of Immediate Dentures:

1. The patịent doesn’t go without a smile.

2. The patient finds they must adapt to living with dentures from the start.

3. The denture can act as a “Band-Aid” to promote and control healing.

Disadvantages of Immediate Dentures:

1. Discomfort may result from initial placement. Adjustment can solve this problem.

2. Poor fit may result because the denture is made on a plaster model of the mouth before the teeth are extracted. The model is modified ahead of time to look what the dentist thinks the jaw will heal up to be.

3. Poor fit may result from changes in the jaw as it heals. This problem can be overcome with a temporary reline of the denture.

4. Unsatisfactory appearance and bite. Because the denture is finished before the teeth are extracted, the denture teeth cannot be “tried-in” and changed while they are in the unfinished stages. Sometimes the only solution to this problem is a new denture after healing takes place in several months.

Temporary Dentures: A low cost denture designed to be used during the healing phase after the teeth are pulled. This denture makes an excellent immediate denture since there is less concern about appearance problems that will be corrected in the final denture designed for long term usage after healing.

Avoid Embarrassment Denture: an inexpensive “spare” denture made from a mold of the patient’s regular denture. A temporary denture can also serve this purpose.

Over Dentures: a full denture that fits over special snaps or clips that help hold it in. The snaps or clips are attached to natural roots or to implanted roots. When the denture is in place, the snaps are hidden from view.

FAQs about dentures:

Q. Why do new dentures need adjustments?

A. Adjustments are an important part of the denture process. The materials used to make dentures have been developed to be very stable and accurate. However, slight changes in these materials (during the denture making process) can only be corrected after the denture is being worn.

Certain areas of the mouth can handle the pressure of the denture base. Some areas can’t. These areas can only be determined after the denture is worn. This adjustment process should be included with the cost of the new dentures (for several months) and should not be done by the patient with sandpaper and/or a jackknịfe.

Q. Why do old dentures need adjustments?

A. A person’s mouth changes over the years and the denture may no longer fit properly. This may be corrected by an adjustment or a reline. A relined denture may in turn need adjustments for the same reason a new denture needs adjustments.

An improper bite may be causing pressure in a certain area of the jaw. A reline may not solve this problem.

Q. Should dentures be taken out at nịght?

A. Even cowboys take their boots off at night. Some studies have shown that taking your dentures out at night (especially the lower) helps prevent the loss of jaw structure.

Q. Why are dentures expensive?

A. Relatively speaking, dentures are often quite a bargain! It is not unusual for a person to get 10 years of service from a denture. Considering what they are put through day after day, that’s amazing. One could think of many things that cost more but don’t last as long or serve such a vital service. A denture is a custom made, one- of-a-kind item. In this day and age, few things compare to that. Dentures are a replacement for a living body part (much like an artificial limb or other device) and require a considerable amount of time and skill for proper fabrication and service.

Q. Can I be allergic to dentures?

A. Yes, but this doesn’t happen very often. An allergist can do a simple test to determine if an allergy to denture acrylic exists. If so, there are alternatives to conventional denture plastics that can be used. Again, see a dentist if any allergic condition persists.

In a few weeks, or sometimes a few months, patients feel comfortable living with dentures. At first, speaking and eating take practice, the dentures may feel loose or bulky in the mouth, and there is usually some extra saliva flow. However, with time, these effects fade.

While adjusting to living with dentures, practice speaking alone and with a close friend to build back your confidence speaking in public situations. Over time, your mouth muscles will adjust and your speech will improve. Eat soft foods cut into small pieces at first and gradually return to your normal diet as you learn to chew and bite with your new teeth. Just be sure to avoid sticky, hard or chewy foods that your dentures may not be able to handle.

Living with dentures is similar to caring for permanent teeth and not difficult or complicated. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your new teeth, and leave them to soak in cleaning solution overnight.

With a little bit of effort and getting used to, switching over to living with dentures doesn’t have to severely impact your life. Reading the above tips can make your journey a lot easier.

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