I am proud to say that I have all my own teeth at the age of 65. While that may not sound unusual to some people, everyone in my family who is my age or older wears dentures. I always tell people that that flossing is the key to good dental health. I have arthritis in my hands, but I don't let it keep me from flossing every day. My trick is to use those little "flossers" you can buy at the drug store. They have plastic handles floss stretched out on top of the handle. These make flossing easier on days when my arthritis is acting up. I started this blog to let other people know that they can keep their teeth healthy into old age when they take care of them. If you have hand pain, find ways to make flossing easier, like I did.
Most people would rather retain their own teeth into old age than have to rely on dentures -- but that doesn't mean you have to feel depressed, frustrated, or uncomfortable with your new dental appliances. Here are four things you can do to help yourself accept dentures as part of your everyday life.
1. Schedule Adjustments as Needed
Dentures wearers can expect a certain amount of soreness when they first receive their new dentures. If yours cause gum soreness, don't despair. This unpleasantness commonly occurs within the first 60 days of use, especially if you had extractions that initially caused the gums to swell. Your dentist should offer free adjustments during this period to make sure your dentures fit your mouth perfectly.
Your gums may also need to toughen up a bit in response to the dentures. You can speed this process along by wearing your dentures 24 hours a day during the initial "getting acquainted" period, after which you'll want to take the dentures out every night.
2. Re-learn Your Speaking Techniques
Speaking with a removable dental appliance in your mouth can create what amounts to a temporary speech impediment. Even if the dentures fit just fine, your lips and teeth will interact with them slightly differently than they would with permanent teeth. As a result, you may find yourself making some unexpected hissing and clicking sounds when you talk. This tendency can make you reluctant to speak in public -- but you can overcome it.
Lower dentures are particularly tricky because they have to tendency to slide out of position during speech. You can remedy this by learning how to use your cheek muscles, lips, and tongue to anchor the denture as you talk. Biting down and swallowing before your next statement can help you make sure the denture is properly positioned. Last but not least, spend time each day reading aloud to yourself. Over time, your mouth will re-educate itself by finding new ways to make the necessary sounds without all the sound effects.
3. Keep Up Your Dental Appointments
Why do you need to keep seeing your dentist if you no longer have teeth? In addition to catching early-stage gum disease and oral cancer, regular dental evaluations can help you enjoy a much happier relationship with your dentures. Without the presence of tooth roots, your jawbone density will continue to change over time. This means that that dentures may stop fitting perfectly, causing slippage and discomfort. Your dentist can address this problem by either relining the dentures or, in extreme cases, creating a whole new base for the artificial teeth. By keeping up your regular, twice-yearly dental checkups, you can catch these small changes before they grow into large, annoying ones.
4. Think About What You're (Not) Missing
This last tip is more psychological than mental, but it could still make you feel a lot better about your life as a denture wearer. If you lost your natural teeth to decay or periodontal disease, think back to the level of pain you had to cope with on a daily basis, and the frequent, extended sessions in the dentist's chair you had to endure. Many people in such a situation find dentures an immense relief over their previous agonies. The fact that you'll never have another cavity is just a bonus!
If you really want to recapture the feel of your natural teeth, you can have your dentures permanently affixed through surgical implantation. A small number of titanium posts implanted in the jaw hold the denture in place so you never have to worry about slippage, speech difficulties, or special cleaning routines. It's the closest thing to still having your own teeth, and it can help you forget that you even have dentures.
From getting the proper fit to practicing your speech, you have the power to make your denture wearing experience a positive and natural fact of life. Talk to your dentist about what to expect and how to master your dentures.