Learning a new skill takes time, practice, and patience.
I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to teach my youngest son how to ride his bicycle. His big brother and sister whiz right past him as he struggles to hold the bike still enough to hop on without tipping over. Everything feels foreign to him. Even with the seat on the lowest setting, his tippy toes barely hit the ground. He wobbles around trying to get his feet into position to give himself a push and before you know it, he’s walked the length of our street just trying to get onto the bike.
Remember when you were learning how to ride a bike? Eventually, you got used to it. What once was such a stressful, mentally exhausting process, became second nature. You eventually reached the point where you didn’t even have to put a lot of conscious effort into it, it just worked.
Learning any new skill takes time, practice, and a lot of patience. Learning to eat with dentures is no different. I believe many people that get dentures tend to think they can chew the same way they did with their natural teeth then end up becoming discouraged and frustrated when that’s not the case. Many just kind of give up and resort to a soft food diet, convinced that the days of eating corn on the cob and steak are long gone. And, much like a child learning how to ride a bike and watching all the other kids speed by, effortlessly, they are convinced that it’s just too difficult for them and they’ll never get the hang of it.
Assuming you have a set of dentures that are of good quality and a good fit, you can learn to eat with them.
Dentures are not the same as natural teeth.
Eating with dentures is more than likely going to feel very unnatural, if not impossible, in the beginning. Dentures look like teeth but, make no mistake about it, they are not teeth. They are big chunks of acrylic which your brain perceives as a foreign object. Your brain is not going to recognize these chunks of acrylic as teeth until you train it to do so. As far as your brain knows, you just put a child’s toy in your mouth. It does not know the difference.
Dealing with the sensation of having a “full mouth”.
If you received immediate dentures, you have another issue to contend with. The swelling, along with the feeling of hockey pucks in your mouth, is going to make it seem like your mouth is at capacity and cannot fit anything else in there; especially not a fork full of food. This feeling does not last. The swelling goes down, your gums begin to shrink and your mouth will be able to better accommodate the dentures. I also experienced the “full mouth” feeling, as do most people who are new to dentures, and it did go away.
This tastes funny!
As a new denture wearer, you may discover that your sense of taste has changed. Food may seem to have lost its flavor. This is because your body is still adjusting to this new appliance in your mouth. Remember, as far as your brain goes, this is a foreign object. Imagine trying to eat lasagna with a golf ball in your mouth. It’s as if your brain says, “There may be food in there but something doesn’t seem right and I have to figure this out.” As your body adjusts, this new appliance will be accepted as something that is typically there, and your sense of taste should return to a more normal level.
Ensure your food is cool enough to eat before putting it into your mouth.
Since your dentures will be covering up your gum tissue, it’s easy to get burned by hot foods and beverages. It may not seem too hot when it hits the denture but if it is, in fact, too hot, your tongue and the rest of your mouth will know it, soon enough. Make sure that you have given these foods and beverages plenty of time to cool before putting them into your mouth.
Start with small bites of soft food.
If you were able to eat ribs on day one with your dentures, you need to start lecturing and charging money to share your secrets with the rest of us. The best bet is to start off with soft foods. Mashed potatoes, eggs, overcooked vegetables and pasta, these are typically the easiest foods to start out with. Once you master these easier foods, you can move up to something more challenging. Challenge yourself incrementally so you don’t become overwhelmed.
One thing you may run into is when your dentures lift on the opposite side that you’re chewing on. To prevent this from happening, try to chew your food on each side so that the pressure is evenly distributed. This should help prevent the problem of teeter tottering dentures. Also, when biting into something like a hotdog or sandwich, it may be easier to bite slightly to the side, rather than biting into it straight on. I found that when I attempted to bite straight into something, my dentures would pop up in the back of my mouth. There also isn’t a lot of bite force in the front as there is on the sides and in the back. So, try biting more towards your canines, as opposed to your central incisors. The closer to the back of your mouth you can get, the easier it will be to really bite into more challenging foods.
Try to avoid denture adhesive as much as possible.
I tend to compare denture adhesive to training wheels. Sure, it makes things easier, but who wants to rely on training wheels forever? Training wheels do help keep the bike in position so that you can focus on riding but, if you just take them off and give yourself a chance to learn how to balance on your own, you’ll find that you don’t really need them. Yes, adhesive makes things a lot easier, but you’re really robbing yourself of the opportunity to adapt to dentures on your own. For the first several months as a new denture wearer, applying adhesive was a part of my daily routine. It got to the point, however, that I just got tired of having to reapply it. I started to not like the spongy feeling it gave after several hours. I began to practice eating food without it and, trust me, it was a challenge. But after enough practice, I mastered the art of eating without denture adhesive. The dentures will shift around, depending on what you eat, but eventually you will train your muscles to keep them in place. Denture adhesive isn’t just an additional, unnecessary step, but it’s also an added expense that can be avoided. It’s fine to reserve the adhesive for special occasions but give yourself the chance to learn how to function without it.
Make sure your dentures are fitting properly.
Don’t assume that just because you no longer have teeth that you can forego those necessary dental appointments. When you lose your teeth, your mouth changes. Without the presence of teeth, your jaw bone and the surrounding tissues begin to shrink. Eventually, your dentures will become loose because of this change and you’ll need to see your dentist for a reline. A reline is where material is added to the denture so that they fit and accommodate the changes that have taken place in your mouth. In the beginning stages, you may need several relines in the first year. After the first year, you’ll generally want to get a reline every two to four years. Eating with loose fitting dentures is not only very difficult but also puts your dentures at risk of fracturing. The dentures should make perfect contact with your gums to help absorb the shock of your bite force. Dentures are also not meant to last forever. It is recommended that they are replaced every three to eight years. The exact timeframe for relines and replacements will always vary from person to person, which is why it is extremely important that you keep up with your regular dental appointments to monitor where you’re at in this process.
Invest in a good quality set of dentures.
Investing in a set of dentures made from good quality materials really can make a big difference in your ability to eat. Economy denture teeth are typically very dull, making biting into challenging foods such as steak, salads, and certain bread, much more difficult. The edge of the teeth is usually very flat and rounded off, whereas, a high quality tooth, such as the Phonares II teeth by Ivoclar Vivadent, mimic the sharpness of a natural tooth, which makes biting into challenging foods a lot easier. Equally as important as the teeth would be the actual denture base material. Ivoclar uses an injection system called Ivobase when processing their dentures. This injection system makes for a denture that is more dense than conventionally processed dentures, which makes for a better fit and a more durable material which is better able to withstand everyday wear and tear. Poorly made dentures are also more susceptible to fractures and broken teeth. Click here to visit Ivoclar Vivadent’s website and learn more about the Phonares II teeth and how they can help improve your quality of life and overall experience as a denture wearer.
Practice makes perfect.
As you introduce more difficult foods into your diet, it might seem that you aren’t making a lot of progress. Don’t think that way. Eating something like eggs is going to be a lot easier than eating corn on the cob, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. You may attempt and fail several times before you begin to get the hang of it but, if you stick to it, you will get used to it. The more you practice, the more you learn what works and what doesn’t. A lot of it has to do with muscle memory. Think of a person who is a master at playing the guitar. They close their eyes and strum the notes in perfect succession. They’re so good at it, it seems that they could play in their sleep. The thing is, anyone can learn to play. It takes hours and hours of repeating the action over and over until you instinctively know where to position your hands. Eating with dentures is much the same. The more you practice, and sometimes fail, the more you train your facial muscles to instinctively know exactly how to eat different foods. Many people feel that if they fail, it means there is no hope. They give up and stick to easy foods, never even realizing that if they had only allowed themselves more time and practice, they could be enjoying a much wider variety of foods with relative ease. Don’t give up just because it doesn’t come naturally. It isn’t supposed to come naturally. Remember, these are not real teeth. Keep practicing, give your body enough time to adjust to the change, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the foods you love!
Share your tips!
We would love to hear about what tips and tricks have helped you adjust to eating with dentures. Leave a comment below and help a fellow denture wearer!
This post is sponsored by Ivoclar Vivadent. For more information on Ivoclar Vivadent denture products, visit www.morethanadenture.com.