Problem Solving

I have Problems with my Complete Dentures what should I do?

Your dentist is the only person who can help diagnose and solve the problem- so make an appointment to see them and get your issues investigated.

Sometimes the issue is obvious and easy to correct, and other times it may be a matter of trying a number of different approaches.

Wearing complete dentures successfully depends on your ability to control them. This muscular control is learned by practice and perseverance with your dentures over many years. The older you get, the more difficult it becomes to adapt to a new set.

If you are having problems with a new set and you have previously worn a full set of dentures, you will know that this part of the course. In the Denture review– we discuss how a couple of adjustments will nearly always be needed, that a period of adaptation is required and how best to go about this. The more the new set differs from your old set, the more time required to get used to them.

For this reason, where possible, replacement dentures should closely resemble the current set (obviously correcting any of problems that made a remake necessary). Copy denture techniques have been developed to help do this. Moulds of the old dentures are taken and the dentist decides which features they would like to keep and which they would like to change- such as the size and shape of the dentures, the position and height of the teeth etc. Aside of this technique, simply copying a few features from your old set, will help with your adaptation.

If this is your first time with a complete set of dentures, it is going to be that bit harder to get used to them. Perhaps you have had a partial denture for a long time and the remaining teeth for one reason or another, required extraction e.g. dental caries or periodontal disease. The full denture doesn’t have a couple of teeth to support it, and as we have seen, relies totally on suction and muscle control which takes time to develop. If you have implants for your denture and attachments made to hold your denture in place, this period of adaption will be far quicker.

What can the Dentist Do?

The solution depends on the problem.

  • If you have a sore spot or pain in one area

Sometimes it may just be a matter of applying something called Fitchecker (or equivalent)- a special paste that highlights any parts of the underside of the denture, that may be too high and need relieving.

Fit checker (or pressure indicating paste) is first mixed and put on the inside of your denture. It is then sat in the mouth whilst your cheeks are moulded by the dentist, before being asked to bite together and stay together, while the material sets. This will show any high spots or over extended areas that need to be adjusted.

Sometimes a special pencil is used to apply a bit of dye to the ulcer or area of redness and when the denture is placed in, the dye transfers to the denture showing the corresponding part that is causing the problem.

After the area is adjusted – assuming the dentist gets the right spot, you should feel some instant relief. The area is still going to be sore, especially if there is a nasty ulcer, until some healing has taken place. It is best to leave out the denture as much as you can and do some warm, hot salt rinses to speed your recovery.

The dentist will want to recheck you in 1-2 weeks and further adjustment may be needed if you haven’t fully healed. Areas of denture hyperplasia (gum growth) may take up to 6 weeks to subside, after which, if they haven’t fully some minor surgery may be needed to remove them.

  • If the bite is incorrect

Then it may be a matter of just adjusting your denture teeth a little bit at a time. Here, we will use some articulating or ‘bite’ paper (a very thin inky paper) that marks your teeth when you tap down on it and ask you to bite together and scrunch your teeth around.

It is the same process for checking the bite after a filling. Adjustments will be made until your teeth meet more evenly at the back on both sides, and your bite feels comfortable.

  • If your denture is loose

It depends on the cause of the looseness- in cases where an excellent denture is made but the issues stem from ‘you factors’ such as unfavourable anatomy (e.g. a lack of ridge form) or absence of much needed saliva then denture fixative may be required or implants into which the denture can be attached and held in place. If the looseness comes from resorbtion of the ridges and the denture no longer fitting closely against your gums then a denture reline can be performed.

There are far too many possibilities to cover here; I wanted to just give you a couple of examples to help you appreciate the relm of complete dentures.

If you have had a series of unsuccessful dentures, it suggests that your case may be a little more tricky and in these cases, instead of having a regular dentist add to the collection, it may be advisable to see a specialist- at least for an opinion. This may be a prosthodontist, or at a teaching facility if you can get in. Sometimes, it is more about appreciating the limitations of your situation, than it is about getting a ‘decent’ set of dentures made. Perhaps a dentist may modify an old denture to see if they can improve things first somewhat before going ahead and making a new one.

Do I need a New Set of Dentures?

That depends on if the issue or issues are solvable by other means… often adjustments can be made and problems repaired. The main adjustments that can be made to complete dentures are discussed in Denture repairs and relines.

If the issue cannot be solved such as:

  • Your current bite is too far away from being correct
  • The colour or position of the teeth is wrong
  • There is inadequate freeway space (space in your mouth at rest).

Or you have multiple issues going on, such as very worn teeth and a poor fitting denture, then a new set would be a sensible option.

As mentioned previously, 8-10 years is the average lifespan of a complete denture, so you can use this as a rough guide for whether a new set may be required. This lifespan does vary and each case should be judged individually. I see some patients who have a mouth that undergoes a rapid change and with their bite and lack of care, can make a 3 year old denture look like a 30 year old! Others, have dentures which despite been worn for 15 years, fit well and look relatively new. In these circumstances, making a new denture wouldn’t really be worth it, unless you decide you want a spare set, incase anything should happen to your current ones.

Your dentist can advise you on the best course of action after examining your mouth, your set of dentures and asking you some questions.

Some of the things they will ask and look at include:

  • How old is the denture?
  • How worn are the teeth? Are the teeth flat or do they still have a pattern on the top?
  • Does it still have good suction?
  • How is the bite?
  • Your facial height- has it changed?
  • Does the denture still fit your gums closely? Or have your ridges resorbed?
  • How are the aesthetics? Is the appearance still good and natural? Are you happy with how they look?
  • How do you get on with them- eating, speaking etc?
  • Are they still as good as they were?
  • What are your main concerns and issues?

All the factors that affect a successful denture will be looked at.