Eating with Dentures
Dentures serve three purposes. They are meant to help people smile pretty, talk well, and chew better. Of the three things, I find that chewing better is the hardest part of the three activities to master. Chewing is certainly an important activity as it is vital to good health. Patients like to joke that by not chewing well that they will likely lose weight; however, it is much easier to drink down a sugary milk shake than to eat vegetable. Poor chewing leads to poor digestion which contributes to many health problems. I work with patients more or less every day trying to help them have comfortable dentures and I have picked up a few tips that I’d like to pass along in this blog post. My recommendations are practice scheduling, food choices, and implants.
The old adage of practice makes perfect applies here. My patients can wear a set of dentures for 16 hours a day, and I can get someone to practice speaking for 4 to 5 hours a day by singing favorite songs. However, a person can only chew for maybe at most one hour a day. For patients who are starting to chew and function with dentures it is imperative that they practice, practice, practice with their new prosthesis. First, I recommend using Freedent gum which doesn’t stick as much to dental prosthesis. I don’t recommend chewing gum to most of my patients as it can overly stress the jaw joint and muscles, but when new denture wearers use gum, they teach their muscles to balance the dentures and efficiently move food around the mouth. For my partial denture wearers, often for the first month it is much easier to chew without teeth than with teeth and it is critical to wear the dentures every day for the first month. If a patient gets in the habit of removing the dentures when eating, that patient is not likely to every learn how to learn to eat with the dentures. Last but not least, the way to practice with the dentures is to close down the jaw every 15 to 30 minutes so that the dentures are pressed into the gums. This is useful for complete dentures as it can help create some suction which will help the dentures stay in place.
Food choices for the first year play a critical role in helping to learn how to chew properly. Much like a person who wants to start running does not run a marathon on day one, a person learning how to chew with dentures cannot crack nuts on day one. It is eventually possible to crack nuts, but it will take practice. That being said, if a patient wants to try eating nuts on the first day, I have zero issues with it as it will not hurt the dental prosthesis. I recommend that all patients start by focusing on soup dishes for the first week with emphasis on practicing swallowing with the dentures in the mouth. Weeks two to four, I recommend going to soft high protein foods such as eggs, yogurt, and fish as well as well cooked vegetables. Weeks five to eight, I recommend eating sandwiches which helps adding different textures to the mouth. Weeks nine and beyond, I recommend incorporating baked chicken and more difficult foods.
Now there is a way to skip this process of learning how to chew better using muscles and that is with implants. A couple well placed implants can make a huge difference in the quality of life as well as the comfort of a denture. With the implants, I can allow the dentures to snap in and out of the mouth which help things feel more natural and also take stress off the teeth and gums that are holding in a prosthesis. Not every patient decides to start out with implants, but I do like to plan out adding implants into all of my dentures. The reason that I do this is that while implants might not make sense in the short term, if we decide to go back and add implants at a later date, I do not want to be redoing a lot of prosthetic work. By planning out treatment from the start and thinking ahead five to ten years, it is possible to make things be more comfortable and less expensive in the long run.
Especially in New Orleans, eating is a huge part of our culture. When a person is worried about chewing, then they are less likely to be social and go out to gatherings. If you feel that you have difficulty chewing and enjoying your food, please call us at 504-392-5104 and we will help you out.