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Adapting to a lower denture

May 24, 2016
Posted By: Dr. Russell Schafer
Adapting to lower dentures

As last week’s blog was about common issues with an upper denture, this week I will focus on how to make your lower better.  The lower denture is a constant headache for both patients and dentists.  The lower denture has little to no suction, it can be moved around easily by the tongue, lips, and cheeks, and chewing can be difficult.  Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to solve these problems without implants but there are some ways that can help mitigate these problems.  Understanding how the lower denture works, how it fits with your upper denture, and how to use your muscles properly will help you adapt to your lower denture.

Lower Dentures in NOLA

As mentioned before, lower dentures don’t have much, if any, suction.  They are kept in place with your bite or with your occlusion in dentist speak.  The bite needs to be made so that when chewing and grinding on your dentures the teeth touch evenly to spread the force across the denture and to help the denture not tip in any direction.  Because the bite needs to be “spot on” so that lower dentures are comfortable, most people who have lower dentures have upper dentures as well.  If a person does have upper teeth remaining and is chewing against a lower denture, it is extremely difficult to adapt as it is unlikely the upper teeth will have the proper bite to hold that lower denture in.  When chewing, the same idea applies as the force has to be spread out across the entire denture.  Often the best way to start learning how to chew with a lower denture is to cut the food in small pieces and place a small piece on the left and a small piece on the right.  This helps keep the denture stable while chewing food.

One request that I often receive from patients is asking if I can only redo their lower denture as their upper denture feels fine and the lower is the only one causing problems.  Other times, the patient has an upper plate but is transitioning to a lower plate, and he doesn’t want to redo the upper plate.  While I will do only a lower denture, I advise against it as the new lower denture will not fit right with the upper denture.  When I do make only a lower denture, I need to do a lot of adjustments on the upper to get the bite right often to the point where a new upper denture is needed.  It can be both frustrating for me and for the patient which is why I prefer to make dentures as sets in these cases.

Now if you do have a lower denture and are having some problems coping with it, the tongue and cheeks can help retain the lower denture.  When chewing, for example, use the tongue and cheeks to try to move food so that it is evenly distributed across the dentures.  This will take a lot of practice and I find that the best foods to practice with are macaroni and cheese and yogurt with fruit in it.  Both of these foods are soft enough to chew easily but have enough difference in textures that will help train your tongue and cheeks.  Another useful technique is to use the tip of your tongue to hold the denture down when chewing.  Keep the tip of your tongue right behind the lower front teeth on the denture and push down with your tongue.  This will help distribute the force more evenly across your denture and make it more comfortable to chew with. 

The most important part of this though is to keep a good attitude.  The first few weeks and months with a lower denture can be a very trying and difficult time to adapt.  While a few people never do adapt to a lower denture and either require implants or simply never wear it, most people keep on practicing and practicing and practicing to learn how function with their lower denture.  If you do have problems with your lower denture, I hope this article has been useful to you.  Let us know what you think on our Facebook page.  

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