Dealing with dentures

Millions of North Americans wear dentures and this number is expected to rise as the Baby Boomers continue to age. Periodontal disease is the usual culprit behind permanent tooth loss and the eventual need for partial or complete dentures.

Unlike old-fashioned dentures (who can forget all the jokes about George Washington and his wooden teeth), modern dental technology allows false teeth to appear completely natural. They can be customized not only for fit, but also for shape and colour.

While high quality dentures can allow people to look and feel younger, and allow them to enjoy many of their favourite foods, some people still worry about the embarrassment caused by slipping or clacking dentures.

But with proper care, and a little patience, you can live confidently and comfortably with dentures. Here are some tips on how to wear your dentures free of anxiety.

WORRY #1: Stains or odours.

Just like natural teeth, partial or full dentures require care. But when it comes to dentures, put away the toothpaste! Because denture acrylic is softer than tooth enamel, abrasives like those found in toothpaste can produce microscopic scratches, creating more places for bacteria to hide. Instead of using toothpaste, use a cleanser designed for dentures and a soft-bristled toothbrush (or special denture brush) to remove any food deposits and plaque from the dentures. Note: For good oral hygiene, you should also massage and brush your gums to stimulate circulation.

While many people prefer to wear their dentures 24/7 for aesthetic reasons, experts advise removing them for periods of time (such as overnight) to allow the gum tissues to rest. When you’re not wearing your dentures, store them in a small amount of cool water or a denture cleaner to keep them from drying out.

Tender-loving care for your dentures:

* Make cleaning your dentures a daily ritual. Just like with natural teeth, plaque and tartar can build up on dentures. Don’t use toothpaste, but a cleanser made specifically for dentures.

* Remove your dentures at night before you go to sleep. Brush your teeth and gums with a soft toothbrush. If using a toothbrush is painful, run it under warm water to make it softer or try using your finger wrapped in a clean, damp cloth.

* Soaking dentures overnight in a special denture cleaner will loosen odour-causing plaque and tarter. It will also help to eliminate tough stains such as tea, coffee, blueberry and tobacco stains.

WORRY #2: Difficulty speaking.

Speaking clearly involves subtle interactions between your tongue, teeth, lips, cheeks and the roof of your mouth. While a properly fitted denture allows for these components to work together effectively, pronouncing some words — particularly “s” and “f” sounds — still may require practice.

Also, some people may find that their dentures slip when laughing, coughing or smiling. If this happens, you can reposition your dentures by gently biting down and swallowing.

Here are some tips to help you speak clearly with dentures.

* Practice speaking aloud, preferably in front of a mirror, while wearing your dentures. Consider reading aloud from a book or magazine. Repeat words you find difficult to pronounce.

* Before you speak, gently bite down and swallow. This will “set” your dentures in place.

* If your dentures slip or “click” while you’re talking, try speaking more slowly.

WORRY #3: Slipping or clacking dentures.

Properly made dentures are designed to fit precisely and may not require regular use of an adhesive for comfort. Having said that, however, many people still opt to use an adhesive product for the extra security and peace of mind it can bring, particularly for special occasions.

“Denture adhesive may make it easier for patients to use dentures,” Donald Sadowsky, a professor of dentistry at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, was quoted in an article on

“Even if a denture fits well, some people, especially new denture wearers, find it difficult to get used to having it in their mouth and are concerned that it may slip or fall out. Using a denture adhesive can alleviate some of these worries and increase a person’s confidence about wearing dentures,” he added.

However, adhesives should not be used to compensate for dentures that do not fit properly. If dentures become loose or cause discomfort, you should consult your dentist immediately.

WORRY #4: Difficulty eating certain foods.

While not all denture-wearers can eat everything they’d like, many have few restrictions to their diets. The key is to take it gradually.

* Start with soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Examples include fish, eggs, cheese, cooked vegetables, chopped meat, apple sauce and ice-cream.

* Take small bites and chew slowly and thoroughly.

* After you feel more confident, move on to harder-to-chew foods such as vegetables, meat and fruits.

* Consider using a denture adhesive to hold your denture more securely in place.

Remember, if you’re new to dentures, it’s perfectly normal to experience some discomfort at first. For example, your dentures may feel too large for your mouth or you may experience an increased amount of saliva or at times, a gag reaction. But many denture-wearers find that after a period of adjustment and the right denture-wear, living with dentures has never been easier.

Sources: National Institutes of Health; National Library of Health; Columbia University Medical School; Canadian Dental Association; American Dental Association;;

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