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Dr. Mark Williams

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Eating with Dentures

Learning to eat with dentures requires practice and patience. Just as a person with an artificial leg doesn’t expect to enter a foot race, you will never be able to eat with dentures like you did with your natural teeth. You will probably not be able to eat everything you would like. There are some habits of eating you will have to change and there are new habits you will have to acquire.

Dentures are not as efficient as natural teeth and you will find that eating will take much longer because you can only apply 15-20% of the normal force. Likewise anything that requires greater than normal pressures to chew must be adjusted in some way.

Try to be persistent and patient with the rate of your progress. In order to eat you will have to learn to manipulate your dentures. Using the muscles of your cheeks and tongue will eventually become second nature---and can greatly improve how your dentures feel while chewing.

First, before attempting to take food into your mouth, bring the teeth together and swallow. This will seat the dentures and bring the tongue to a normal position. Next, open your mouth slowly and only wide enough to receive small quantities of food. Chew the food slowly.

When you are first learning to use your dentures, it is best to eat soft foods, cut your food into small pieces and chew slowly on both sides with your back teeth. When your dentures are feeling more comfortable try coarser and harder foods until you are able to eat a more normal diet. Some foods will be more difficult to eat; especially fruits and vegetables. Other foods may cause the denture to move out of place.

To keep your dentures from tipping while chewing learn to move the lower jaw in a straight up and down movement. With natural teeth, the lower jaw usually moves to one side which permits more shearing power between natural teeth. However, with dentures, this shifting of the lower jaw tends to unseat dentures. You will find that the straight up and down movement of the lower jaw works better for the satisfactory chewing of most foods.

Avoid foods which are hard, tough, sticky, or require considerable chewing. Doughy foods such as bread, biscuits, buns, etc. , will stick to dentures and should be eaten with liquids. Meats should and can easily be prepared in ways that will minimize the necessity for hard chewing.

LIQUIDS

Some people find that their lower denture becomes loose just swallowing liquids. This is usually because they are in the habit of holding a liquid in their mouth before swallowing. Generally this not water but coffee, tea or something they like to taste. However, this will invariably loosen the lower denture. To avoid this you must keep the act of swallowing continuous; as soon as the liquid fills your mouth you should swallow.

SANDWICHES

One of the eating habits that must be changed is the way in which you ordinarily eat sandwiches, apples, cookies, etc. With natural teeth you would bite into certain foods only enough for the teeth to hold it while breaking off the part that went into your mouth. A sandwich is a good example. Part of the sandwich is placed in the mouth and the front teeth hold it securely, and then your hand pulls it away from the mouth. This pulling and tearing action will dislodge most dentures.

First, avoid sandwiches that are made with sticky (peanut butter) or hard to chew (hard salami) foods. Cut the sandwich in smaller sizes. Close your mouth and swallow, then place a small edge of the sandwich into your mouth. Hold the sandwich against either the upper front teeth or the lower front teeth, whichever is more comfortable. Then slowly bring all the teeth (including the back teeth) together through the entire sandwich and then pull your hand away from your mouth. Eat slowly at first and in a short time you will find it to be automatic. If eating sandwiches continues to remain a problem then cut them into bite-size pieces.

Some people find that biting food off is best done at the corners of the mouth. Do not even try to bite with only your front teeth. Biting on only your front teeth will require you to learn to control the back ½ of your denture with the middle 1/3 of your tongue. Not everyone can do this.

VEGETABLES AND FRUITS

Leafy vegetables are very difficult to chew. If you want to eat leafy vegetable salads the ingredients should be reduced to very small pieces. It is very likely that you will never again be able to eat corn on the cob, apples or celery. You can eat corn but not off the cob, apples cut in slices and celery cut into small pieces. It will be necessary that all vegetables be cooked; most are just too hard to chew when raw. Hard fruits are also out

TASTE

Certain foods may taste strange or just don’t taste as good as they used to. This is usually a transitory issue that lasts only during the adaptation phase and will likely disappear when you become acquainted with your dentures. The majority of your taste buds are located on your tongue so eventually food will not taste too different. Also there is the fact that plastic is a very poor conductor of heat and cold and the change in temperature perception can become confused with a change in taste.

FOOD COLLECTING UNDER AND AROUND THE DENTURE

All dentures will collect food between the denture and the gums. When you swallowed food with your natural teeth not all of it went down your throat; some floated around your mouth, onto the cheeks and teeth. Now with dentures a new area has been added where food will collect. Food particles that normally drift into the floor of the mouth or onto the cheeks will find its way under any lower denture, while upward and backward movements of the tongue, as in swallowing, will force food particles under any upper denture.

The other fact to consider is that food adheres to plastic surfaces more readily than to mouth tissues. Also the presence of a lower denture interferes with your tongues movement when it tries to sweep food forward to be swallowed. The flanges of the denture also occupy space where normally food would collect and be swept away with the tongue; now the food particles collect on the plastic.