When patients transition from natural teeth to their first denture, they often focus on the positives. They may be excited to be moving away from chronic tooth pain. They may look forward to restoring a smile that was affected by missing teeth. Or they may be ready to move on from more restorative procedures on their natural teeth. For these patients, dentures can certainly be a game changer.
However, dentures can also pose certain challenges – albeit many temporary – that patients need to be aware of. Here are a few things patients should know before they commit to their first denture.
It takes time to adjust to life with a denture
Functioning with a denture is not the same as functioning with natural teeth. So when you transition to a denture, you will need to give yourself time to adapt to wearing it.
You will first need to adjust to the physical sensation of having a denture in your mouth. It will feel large and bulky and quite foreign at first. You will need to give yourself time to get used to having a denture in your mouth.
Because it takes time and practice to learn how to function properly while wearing a denture, eating can initially be a challenge. Increasing the amount of soft foods in your diet, cutting your food up into smaller pieces than you would normally, and chewing on both sides of your mouth at the same time can make chewing easier and help you adjust to eating with your new dentures.
Speech is something else that new denture wearers often have difficulty with. Rest assured that slightly slurred speech and other difficulties producing crisp, clear sounds are normal during the initial denture adjustment period. In time and with practice, your lips and tongue will adjust to your new denture and your ability to form sounds properly will improve.
You will need periodic adjustments to maintain comfort
As your jawbone and gums heal and change shape, you may find that your denture starts to pinch or rub in spots or your gums become irritated. This can happen due to changes in your mouth that will occur as you heal and recover from extractions.
If you notice any new sore spots, contact your denturist right away. They will be able to make adjustments to your denture to keep you comfortable.
Adjustments are a normal and common part of the process for all new denture wearers.
The fit of your denture will change
Within the first year after extractions, an estimated 50% of the jawbone width will be lost, 30% of which occurs within the first 12 weeks. (Bone loss eventually slows down but will continue year after year.) As your jawbone changes, the gums that cover that bone will also change shape.
However, the shape of your denture will not change as well. This means that as time goes on, your denture will start to feel looser.
Temporary liners (also called tissue conditioners) can be applied to the tissue side of the denture to help refit your denture while your mouth changes. Most patients will need tissue conditioners periodically through their first year of wearing a denture.
You will need a reline approximately one year after extractions
For most patients, the rate of bone loss will taper off at about a year post-extractions. At that time, a reline or a rebase will be needed to refit your denture to the current contours of your mouth.
Relining a denture involves removing some of the existing denture acrylic from the tissue side or fitting surface of your denture and then rebuilding the denture in order to match its shape to that of your mouth.
A rebase is a similar process but more extensive than a reline. With a rebase, we replace all existing denture acrylic. A rebase is performed when a patient has experienced more significant bone loss than can be corrected by a reline.
Relines and rebases will make your denture fit more securely and feel more comfortable.
You will need a new denture every 5-7 years
Unfortunately, a denture will not last forever. In fact, we recommend that you replace your denture every five to seven years on average.
Within five to seven years, your mouth will drastically change. While relines and rebases can restore the fit of your denture, they cannot change the position of your teeth. Over time and as your jawbone changes, the teeth that worked well for you five years ago will no longer be in a functionally supportive position. At that point, a new denture must be made to properly support your changed oral cavity, facial muscles, and jaw function.
Another reason that dentures need to be replaced periodically is that denture teeth are made out of acrylic and over time they will wear down, particularly the biting surfaces. If you start to notice that chewing or biting certain foods has become more challenging, check your teeth for wear. It could indicate that it’s time to replace your denture.
The pink denture acrylic too has a limited lifespan. As the denture acrylic ages, bacteria become trapped in the acrylic. Over time, it becomes more difficult to remove this bacteria by brushing and soaking the denture and the denture becomes more susceptible to stains and breakage. This also increases the potential for bacteria-related health issues.
Annual visits with your denturist will help you determine when the optimal time is for you to replace your denture.