Adapting and Aftercare

How Long will it Take to get Used to my Complete Dentures?

For most it takes a few weeks, for some it can even take months, before the dentures feel more natural and comfortable.

It is a matter of the dentist making sure that there are no problems with the actual fit and construction of the denture, adjusting them if there are, and then you persevering with wearing them. I understand it can be a bit discouraging at times, but you will get used to the feel and appearance if you stick with it.

It is important to understand and appreciate that wearing dentures, and eating and speaking with them is very different to doing it with normal teeth. As such, it takes some getting used to. The patients who struggle the most to get on with their full dentures, are those who have the most unrealistic expectations about what they will be like. Often young patients with many problems (needing repeated fillings etc.) say facetiously – “Oh just take them all out doc, that will solve all my problems” … they have no idea.

What Influences your Ability to Adapt to Full Dentures?

Some people are naturally better and quicker at adapting, others take more time. Some factors that influence adapting to dentures are:

  • Previous experience. Those of you who have worn full dentures before, will take less time to adapt to the second set, then the initial one. Those who have worn a poorly fitting acrylic denture before progressing to a full denture, will have likely have been forced into developing a certain amount of control. If you have suffered severe gum disease (periodontal disease) and require an full immediate denture– that is, having all the hopelessly loose teeth extracted and a complete denture put straight in, obviously this is going to be a major shock to the system and require the most getting used to.
  • Age. As we age, our ability to adapt and cope with changes and learn new skills diminishes. This means older patients can find it more difficult to get used to them than younger ones.
  • Soft tissue and hard tissue factors. There are certain times when the anatomy of your mouth is not favourable for complete dentures. For example if the bony ridges on which the denture sits are almost non existent, much more muscle control is going to be needed.
  • Saliva. As we have said, a lack of saliva can be a real problem in achieving good suction. Therefore more muscle control is required.
  • The individual. Full dentures on the top and bottom require far more control than partial dentures since they are only held in by suction. It is easier for cheeks, tongues and lips to dislodge them when they move, so whilst the dentist must make sure the denture is extended just the right amount, learning to control them is the other half of the equation. The lower denture seems to be a particular problem, given that it has the tongue to contend with, and that gravity and pressure often cause the ridges here to resorb significantly more than on the top.

I have had a patient before, who had such good muscle control, that even when the top denture broke in half and was in two completely separate pieces, they were still able to speak and chew as before. That’s muscle control!

If I Wear a Full Denture, how Often Should I Go to the Dentist?

If you have any natural teeth remaining, whether you wear a partial denture) or you don’t, it is important to go to the dentist every six months. If you are wearing a full denture, you know how nice it would be, if you had just a few teeth left there to help support it- so looking after your remaining teeth is incredibly important.

If you have no teeth and wear a full set of dentures, it would be a good idea to see a dentist about once a year. Regular examinations of your mouth and dentures are needed as your gums and underlying jaw bone will slowly change shape. Your dentures will also wear, requiring adjustments to prevent problems further down the track.

A denture reline may be needed every few years and a replacement denture once in a while. Oral pathology and problems such as angelar chelitis, oral thrush, oral cancer, denture stomatitis and other conditions can be picked up at such appointments and treated. Some are obviously more serious than others, and how early they are picked up, can make a big difference to the treatment needed and the ultimate outcome.

What about Wearing Full Dentures?

If your denture is dropping when you speak and chew, try to do so more slowly. Bite down gently and swallow to reposition the dentures- your cheeks, lips and tongue will soon learn to help control the denture.

If the situation doesn’t seem to be improving, there could be factors to do with the dentures themselves that are contributing to them dropping. Make an appointment with a dentist to get this checked out if you are struggling.

If you have full dentures, avoid biting with your front teeth as this will tend to tip the denture forward, breaking the seal and causing them to drop. Instead bite on your back teeth in an up and down motion. If you chew the way we do, when we have natural teeth- that’s a more round and round chewing motion- (think of a horse or a camel chewing for an exaggerated idea), you will rock the denture, disrupt the seal and cause it to lose suction. When biting into (incising) food, such as a sandwhich it is better to use your canine or eye teeth. Sometimes a patient will support the back of the denture by humping up their tongue against the denture when doing this.

Watch out for hot food- since the palate is covered by acrylic, it is not always easy to tell just how hot things are!

Will my New Dentures Affect my Speech?

Your speech might feel a bit funny and be slightly affected to begin with. Most people adapt pretty rapidly and it is hardly noticeable within a few weeks. Certain sounds, that require control of the lips and tongue in relation to your front teeth, tend to be the problem and practicing speaking and reading out loud will help to overcome the issue.

If speech problems persist you need to see the dentist to investigate things- very rarely it can be a problem with the tooth position on the denture. The more teeth on the denture and the less grip and retention your denture has, the more time it will generally take to get used to speaking with them.

When should I Clean my Dentures?

Clean your dentures after every meal (if you can) or at least twice a day. At the very least try to rinse off any food and debris with warm or cold water after you have eaten.

How should I Clean my Complete Dentures?

How to clean your dentures is discussed in our Denture care section, and is absolutely essential reading (and doing!)

Should I Take Them Out at Night?

This is a question I am always getting asked… If you have a new set then I would recommend leaving them in at night for a week or two. This just allows you to get used to the dimensions more quickly and unconsciously whilst you are asleep.

As a rule of thumb though- taking your dentures out at night is recommended. It gives your gums a chance to breath and helps to prevent denture stomatitis. Clenching and grinding can also occur at night and so leaving them out can help reduce wear and prevent occasional fractures, if you have a particularly heavy bite.

When should I Wear them?

The more you wear them, the more you will get used to them, and the more at home and natural they will start to feel. For this reason we recommend wearing them as much as you can during the day and just leaving them out at night.

How should I Store my Dentures?

When you are not wearing your dentures be sure to store them in a safe and moist place. The classic image of dentures in a glass has the right idea but generally I recommend just a simple zip lock bag with a bit of water in. It doesn’t need to be fully immersed just a bit to prevent them from drying out and warping.