Dentures are removable appliances that can replace missing teeth and help restore your smile. If you’ve lost all of your natural teeth, whether from gum disease, tooth decay or injury, replacing missing teeth will benefit your appearance and your health, making it easier to eat and speak properly (things people often take for granted).
In addition, when you lose some or all of your teeth, facial muscles can sag, making you look older. Dentures can help fill out the appearance of your face and profile and can be made to closely resemble your natural teeth so that your appearance does not change much. Dentures may even improve the look of your smile.
What to Expect
In the beginning, your new denture may feel awkward or bulky. This is normal, and you will eventually become accustomed to wearing it. In addition you may notice that the denture feels loose while the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep it in place. It is not unusual to experience minor irritation or soreness after you begin wearing dentures, since saliva flow temporarily increases. As your mouth becomes accustomed to the dentures, these problems should go away.
Follow-up appointments with the dentist are generally needed after a denture is inserted so the fit can be checked and adjusted. If any problem persists, particularly irritation or soreness, be sure to consult your dentist.
If you have been missing some or all of your teeth for a while, eating should become a more pleasant experience with dentures. Start out by eating soft foods that are cut into small pieces, chew foods on both sides of the mouth to keep even pressure on both sides, and avoid foods that are extremely sticky or hard. You may want to avoid chewing gum during the adjustment period.
A denture can also help improve your speech. If you find it difficult to pronounce certain words, practice reading out loud. Repeat the words that give you trouble. With time, you will become accustomed to speaking properly with your denture.
Caring for Your Dentures
After you get dentures it’s important to take good care of them every day to keep them in good condition and prevent infection. Start out by rinsing your dentures to remove any loose food or debris. Next, brush the denture to remove food deposits and plaque and prevent it from becoming permanently stained.
To clean your dentures:
- Use a soft bristle toothbrush and a non-abrasive cleanser to gently brush all the surfaces of the dentures so they don’t get scratched. Avoid using a brush with hard bristles, which can damage the denture.
- Do not use toothpaste since it can be too harsh for cleaning dentures.
- Ask your dentist for recommendations on a denture cleaner, or look for denture cleansers with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
A denture could lose its proper shape if it is not kept moist. When you’re not wearing your dentures, put them in a safe place covered in water to keep them from warping.
Some denture wearers choose to use adhesives. Adhesives come in many forms, including creams, powders, pads/wafers, strips or liquids. If you use one of these products, read the instructions, and use exactly as directed. Your dentist can recommend appropriate cleansers and adhesives, and you can also look for products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance that have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness.
Always thoroughly rinse the denture before placing it in your mouth.
Caring for Your Mouth
Even if you wear full dentures, you still have to practice good dental hygiene. Brush your gums, tongue and roof of your mouth every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert your dentures to stimulate circulation in your tissues and help remove plaque.
As you age your mouth naturally changes, which can affect the fit of the denture, and over time denture adjustments may be necessary. If your bone and gum ridges have begun to recede or shrink and you notice that the fit of your dentures is changing, it’s important to talk to your dentist. Poorly fitting dentures can cause various problems, including sores or infections, and only your dentist will be able to properly adjust them.
Remember: You can do serious harm to your denture and to your health by trying to adjust or repair your denture on your own. Even using a do-it-yourself kit can damage the appliance beyond repair. Glues sold over-the-counter often contain harmful chemicals and should not be used on a denture. If your denture breaks, cracks or chips, or if one of the teeth becomes loose, call your dentist immediately. In many cases, dentists can make necessary adjustments or repairs, or for more complex adjustments he or she may send it to a special dental laboratory.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dentures
How can I whiten my dentures?
- It is not possible to whiten dentures like natural teeth because dentures are made of plastic. To minimize staining, properly clean your dentures daily to remove food and plaque bacteria.
Can I sleep in my dentures?
- It is possible to wear dentures at night, but it is better to remove them. Removing your dentures at night gives your gums and bones a chance to relax from the pressure the denture puts on them during the day. If you need to wear your dentures for social reasons or to prevent your jaws from over closing, you should find time during the day to properly clean your mouth and your prostheses. You should never wear your dentures 24 hours a day without preforming proper oral hygiene.
Can I eat normally with dentures?
- Most patients need to learn how use dentures properly and it takes a little time to get used to them. After a while, you should be able to eat fairly normally, but it may take more time to get comfortable with harder foods or sticky foods. Using a small amount of denture adhesive (no more than three or four pea-sized dabs on each denture) may help stabilize the dentures and help hold them in place while you get comfortable with them.
Can I chew sugarless gum with dentures?
- You should avoid chewing gum, since it typically sticks to the acrylic plastic and may break a seal on the dentures, causing them to loosen. Gum may remain stuck to the denture and eventually harden and discolor.