Dentures are removable false teeth that look like real teeth. If you lose teeth or they’re decayed, you can replace them with either:
- Partial dentures — to replace just one or a few missing teeth
- Complete dentures — a full set to replace all of your upper or lower teeth
Nothing is a perfect substitute for natural teeth, but dentures come very close and can return your mouth to full use. However, preparation for dentures is essential — you should know what to expect before the procedure and be ready for the adjustment period once you’re home with your new dentures.
Before Your Dentures Are Fitted
Long before your dentures are fitted, you’ll attend a dental appointment. Your dentist will examine your supporting bone structure and gums to determine the best treatment plan. This process will include evaluating whether you need dentures at all.
At different stages of the assessment, your dentist will probably take molded impressions inside your mouth. They’ll need these to identify every ridge in the mouth and assess the best way to fit the dentures in with your existing teeth and gums.
Depending on the treatment plan, most patients will need to have teeth removed before dentures can be fitted. Dentists will sometimes also remove bony ridges that could affect the stability of the dentures when in use.
Preparing For Oral Surgery
You can prepare for any surgery carried out before your dentures are fitted to help things run smoother on the day. Here are some tips on how to get ready for oral surgery.
- Know what to expect: Schedule time with your dentist to talk through the procedure and understand why it’s being carried out. Find out any risks of the surgery and bring any questions you have.
- Fast: Check with your dentist for how long you’ll need to abstain from eating or drinking before your surgery. Patience commonly fast from just after midnight on the night before your surgery.
- Make sure you have a ride home: Anesthesia can impair your judgment and coordination, making it unsafe to operate a vehicle. If the dentist plans to use any sedation, you’ll need to take public transport, a taxi, or someone will need to drive you home.
- Wear short sleeves: If you’re going to be sedated for your surgery, bare your arms. This will help the nurse take your vitals, administer your IV, or measure your blood pressure.
After Your Dentures Are Fitted
After your new dentures are fitted, you’ll have to adjust to having a foreign object in your mouth. Your muscles and nerves will need time to adapt to the change. This difference may feel even more noticeable if you had more than a few teeth missing for some time before having the dentures fitted.
Be patient and open as you learn how to thrive in everyday life with your new dentures. The shift takes up to four weeks or longer for most people to function well. There are nuances to be learned and behaviors you can adopt to make the learning curve less steep.
Your first day with dentures
On the day your dentures are fitted, you should go home and relax before you go to bed. If you received sedation, arrange for someone to be nearby for the following six to eight hours. Sudden movement can cause dizziness or lightheadedness. Don’t conduct any professional work on the first day either. Instead, book a full day off if you can.
The first day with new dentures can be especially challenging. Here are some aspects of new dentures to consider.
Apply an ice pack to the sites your extracted teeth were for 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. This should prevent excessive discomfort. After 24 hours, switch to a warm, moist cloth and gently hold it over the injured areas.
Take your prescription medication as directed so that the first few days after surgery are as painless as possible. If you can, take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and swelling. If your dentist prescribed antibiotics, finish the full course of treatment to prevent infection.
At first, you may experience pain, most commonly in your gums, from simply wearing your dentures. Gums and cheeks can feel full or loose, and you may see a small amount of bleeding. Use a saltwater rinse twice a day to clean sores and soothe the pain.
You shouldn’t chew food on the day of surgery, so stick to a liquid diet. However, don’t use straws as the sucking motion can dislodge a blood clot and cause more bleeding. Try out some of these food ideas:
- Protein shakes
- Soups without lumps
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese
- Apple sauce
Chewing may be difficult for seven to 10 days after surgery, as your jaw may stiffen. Try to continue eating as much as possible to keep up your energy reserves for the healing process. Continue to eat soft foods on the day after surgery. Cut them into small pieces and chew slowly with both sides of your mouth. Try to eat chewier types of food as you heal until you’ve returned to your regular diet.
You may feel self-conscious about what you look or sound like when first talking with your dentures. Some words and sounds may be more challenging to create than when you had your natural teeth.
Many speech problems will go away on their own over a few weeks. Just be patient with yourself when you can’t speak clearly.
You can also practice your speech in private. Repeat words you struggle with until you can say them naturally. Read a book aloud, retraining your tongue to make the same noises while accommodating the new dentures. Sing your speech to help your cheeks and tongue get used to the feeling of the dentures.
Adjusting to New Dentures
If your dentures fit correctly, you won’t necessarily need to use denture adhesive. However, over six to 12 months, as your gums and jawbone heal and adapt to the loss of teeth, they’ll often naturally shrink. Applying adhesive may be the only way to help your dentures still fit into place. You can remove the adhesive from the denture at any time with soap and water.
You should regularly remove food deposits from your dentures, as unclean dentures can lead to oral problems. These include bad breath, gum disease, decay of any remaining teeth, and oral thrush. Dentures can break if you drop them, so clean them over a sink filled with water or supply a soft landing surface, like a folded towel.
Treat your dentures like natural teeth and brush them at least twice a day — every morning and night. You may need to wear them all the time at first, but afterward, remove your dentures every night. Soak them in water or mild cleaning solution to:
- Remove food particles, stains, and bacteria
- Stop them from drying out and changing shape
- Give your teeth and gums a rest from the dentures
It is crucial to keep your mouth clean when you wear dentures — so continue to gently brush your natural teeth twice a day.
The Future With Your Dentures
Gums and bones change throughout your lifetime. It’s recommended that you get dentures remade or at least realigned every five to seven years.
For now, take time to get used to your new dentures and be patient with your progress. You should soon be enjoying the foods you love, but having new dentures is still an adjustment process. In the meantime, you can enjoy your wonderful smile from your new dentures.