Dentures can boost your personal confidence and improve your appearance. Dentures make your face look fuller, and they can even help some of us look younger. Missing teeth can affect your speech and your ability to chew your food thoroughly, so dentures can help you speak more clearly, help others to understand you more clearly, and allow you to eat food items that you may have been avoiding.
But if you’ve just received dentures, or if you’ve chosen to have the procedure, you should know that wearing your dentures – and talking and eating with them – can be somewhat awkward at first. Be patient. If you’re in Southern California, a San Diego dentist can explain what you should expect. Over the course of several weeks, most denture wearers smoothly make the adjustment, and wearing your dentures will become second nature. However, at first, the following tips for new denture wearers might be helpful:
1. MAINTAIN A WELL-BALANCED DIET
Select food items that are easy to chew and swallow, foods like eggs, yogurt, fish, cooked vegetables, and ice cream. Take smaller bites than you would normally take, and avoid biting anything hard. Foods that are extra-chewy in texture should stay off the menu for at least several weeks. But if you stop eating well-balanced meals, it’s likely to very negatively impact your health.
2. AVOID THE HARD-TO-EAT FOODS
Some foods – notably nuts and corn on the cob – will always be a bit difficult for some denture wearers to eat. Obviously, you have to eat, but sticky foods often wind up sticking to your dentures and leading to discoloration and discomfort. When you wear dentures, try to avoid soft, chewy, sticky items like caramel. Instead, go for a smoothie or a healthy snack that won’t remain on your dentures.
3. DON’T STOP BRUSHING
Your new “teeth’ may not be your original teeth, but that doesn’t mean that you can stop brushing. Like original teeth, dentures can stain and develop bacteria and tartar. First, rinse the dentures to remove any trace food particles. Brush your dentures with a soft-bristle brush or a denture brush, a mild hand soap or detergent, and warm water. Avoid using bleaching agents – they damage your dentures. Gently scrub the dentures for one or two minutes, and if you use a denture adhesive, make sure all of the adhesive is removed each time you brush.
4. ELIMINATE BACTERIA AND PLAQUE
Researchers have tied a number of respiratory tract illnesses to oral bacteria and fungal infections in the mouth, so it’s imperative to clean your dentures and your mouth every day. Brush your gums, cheeks, and tongue with toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush every morning before wearing your dentures. You’ll eliminate the bacteria and plaque that cause bad breath and gum irritation.
5. SOAK ‘EM
Experts say that denture wearers should soak dentures daily with a nonabrasive denture cleanser to remove food, plaque, and bacteria. Soaking can also kill the germs that cause bad breath. Directions on the package will tell you how long to let your dentures soak. Never use a denture cleanser in your mouth, and rinse your dentures thoroughly after soaking and before inserting them.
6. TAKE A BREAK
Sleeping without dentures lets the tissues in your mouth rest and heal from any pressure, irritation, or soreness from wearing the dentures. While you sleep – for six to eight hours – soak the dentures in warm – not hot – water (or in a solution approved by your dentist). This prevents dentures from drying out and helps them retain their shape. Always use a towel when handling your dentures. This can sometimes keep dentures from cracking or breaking if they’re dropped on a hard surface.
7. KEEP TALKING
Some people adjust immediately to wearing dentures, but for most people, adjustment take several weeks, and a few people take even a bit longer. “Learning” to talk with dentures can be awkward for a couple of weeks, but one way to help yourself is to read out loud. Practicing all of the different sounds of the language lets your tongue grow accustomed to operating with dentures. It doesn’t matter what you read out loud, but you might want to try Dr. Seuss for his variety of tongue-twisting rhymes and sounds. If you’ve got grandkids, use the opportunity to read aloud to them.
8. ASK ABOUT ADHESIVES
You’ve gone to a great deal of time, effort, and expense to acquire your dentures, but if they do not fit properly, you may feel that all your effort has been wasted. It is imperative for your dentures to fit properly, because if they don’t, you will certainly be uncomfortable, and you might even develop sores and experience pain. For a perfect fit, some denture wearers use adhesives.
In particular, adhesives prevent food particles from getting between your dentures and your gums, and they also hold your dentures tight while you talk and eat. Use denture adhesives only as directed. Also, be aware that some denture adhesives contain zinc, which is reportedly associated with health issues when used excessively. The best advice is to consult with your dentist if you think a denture adhesive will help you.
9. YOU MUST STAY HYDRATED
Denture wearers may occasionally experience dry mouth, which can cause the mouth and gums to feel irritated and may increase the potential for bacterial decay. Dry mouth (or xerostomia) is more than just annoying; it can lead to major health problems if left untreated. Staying hydrated is the way to fight dry mouth. The general rule is to drink at least eight ounces of fluids daily. You may also need to consult with your doctor, because a number of widely-prescribed medications have dry mouth as a side effect.
Everyone experiences thirst, but when the salivary glands don’t function properly, dry mouth can become a serious medical problem. Along with taking certain medications, dry mouth can also be the result of cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy or certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes. If dry mouth is a persistent problem, ask your dentist about saliva substitutes and other potentially helpful remedies.
10. DON’T STOP HAVING REGULAR CHECKUPS
In Southern California, schedule visits with your San Diego dentist on a routine basis to maintain the quality and fit of your dentures. Also have your dentist examine your mouth at that time for gum irritations or fungal infections. Ask your dentist to clean your dentures professionally and to discuss different options for maintaining properly fitted dentures – or to discuss any other denture-related concern that you may have.