Adjusting to Dentures
Most new dentures require a “breaking in” period before they become comfortable. You must show patience and perseverance in order to master wearing a denture. This can only be done by keeping the dentures in the mouth versus not wearing the dentures.
You must first learn what is necessary to keep them in place. New dentures will feel awkward and bulky in your mouth, especially because they create a feeling of fullness of the lips and cheeks. This is the case even for a patient who has previously worn dentures. They may have become very used to a previous set of dentures for many years. But, just as someone who is wearing dentures for the first time, they must become accustomed to and adjust to new dentures. A great deal of control of complete dentures results from manipulations of the tongue, cheeks, and lips. Salivary flow may be excessive for several days until the glands in the mouth adjust to the presence of the new dentures.
It is also important to note that the lower denture is almost always much harder to become accustomed to versus the upper denture. This is because the bony ridge support of the lower denture is usually not as good as that of the upper denture. Also, the lower denture does not normally have the suctioning that helps with retention of the upper denture, and tongue movements usually affect retention of the lower denture more so than the upper denture.
Although great effort is involved in constructing dentures that are compatible with the surrounding tissues, the dentures move on the tissues. Soreness, or “sore spots” will usually develop at different locations in the mouth as a result of uneven pressure on the gums. You must have these sore spots in the mouth corrected. They are best corrected by wearing the dentures at least 3 to 6 hours before returning to the office for an adjustment appointment. This allows for a more precise detection of the sore areas inside the denture which will be corrected by trimming.
Patients should never attempt to adjust the dentures themselves. The tissues surrounding the dentures will function and conform more naturally after the dentures have been adjusted and have been worn for several weeks.
- Speaking normally with dentures requires practice and patience but is usually not a major problem. Reading aloud is an excellent way to learn to enunciate distinctly and you should repeat any words or phrases that are not clear or difficult to pronounce. Effort should be made to try to avoid movements of the lips and tongue that tend to cause the dentures to click or become displaced. You should also try to learn to position the tongue farther forward so that it rests on the back of the lower front teeth. This positioning of the tongue helps to develop stability for the lower denture.
- Learning to chew well with dentures normally requires at least 1 to 2 months. You should begin chewing relatively soft foods. Take small bites and chew slowly. Do not try to chew with the front teeth. Try to keep the food distributed evenly on both sides and chew on the back teeth. If chewing can be done on both sides simultaneously, the tendency of the dentures to tip or “rock” will be lessened. When biting with dentures, the food should be placed between the back teeth to break it apart rather than pulling downward and outward as one would do with natural teeth. This will produce an inward and upward force, which tends to seat the dentures on their bony ridges rather than to displace them.
- Harder or more difficult foods will require a gradual learning curve. Initially, you should not attempt to eat sticky or adhesive foods.
- Do not use denture adhesives under ill-fitting dentures. They should only be used in well-adapted and satisfactory dentures. These adhesives should be applied in small pea-sized increments on the denture base as needed, preferably prior to meals. The adhesive may require 2 or 3 re-applications throughout the day.
- Dentures should be taken out of the mouth at night to give the supporting tissues adequate rest and to allow normal blood flow to return to the bony ridges for about 8 hours a day. This prevents resorption (bone loss) from becoming greater than normal.
- Dentures should be removed from the mouth and thoroughly brushed after every meal with a denture brush using denture toothpaste or liquid hand soap. Regular toothpaste is too abrasive for dentures and can dull the acrylic finish of dentures.
- When dentures are left out at night, they should be placed in water at room temperature to prevent drying and possible dimensional changes. Denture cleansers, such as Polident effervescent denture tablets, can be used in the storage water with the dentures in place.
- Patients who had teeth extracted or oral surgery on the same day that their dentures were delivered should not remove their dentures from the mouth for the first 48 hours. Removal of the dentures in the first 48 hours may cause too much swelling, which will not allow the patient to replace the dentures. Also, for these patients, their dentures may feel loose due to the gum and bone shrinkage that takes place during the healing process. Complete healing of the gums and the underlying bone takes from 3 to 6 months. During this time, the dentures can be temporarily re-lined to help with retention. Once healing is complete, the dentures can then be permanently re-lined, and in some cases, may need to be re-done.
- You should never go back to using old dentures because you will not get used to your new dentures, and the tissues will not adapt to the new dentures.
- Patients who wear dentures still require routine dental examinations. Dentures become ill-fitting and can damage the supporting tissue without the patient being aware that anything is wrong because it occurs over an extended period of time. Lesions can develop in the oral cavity that may or may not be associated with dentures. Patients should have a dental examination at least once a year.
- Dentures are not meant to be permanent. They will become worn over time and lose their fit due to changes in the bony ridge. A replacement should be considered approximately every 7 to 10 years and a re-line may be occasionally necessary (an average of every 2 to 3 years).
- If you wear a partial denture, it is important to remove it from your mouth using the clasps only. Do not try to take the denture out of your mouth by pulling on the denture teeth or the acrylic as this may cause breakage of the teeth or the denture. Use your fingernails to push up on the clasps or pull the clasps off the teeth. In time, the clasps can lose some of their retention causing the partial denture to feel loose. Do not try to adjust the clasps on your own because they can break.