Can you eat with dentures?

Woman eating with dentures

Let me reassure you, you can eat with dentures. Next time you’re in the food court, or your favourite restaurant, look around. One in six of the adults dining there are eating with dentures.i And they’re not all older people. Young adults wear dentures too. Modern dentures look so good now and work so effectively, they can be impossible to spot. Now we have established with certainty that many people eat effectively wearing dentures, let’s explore other questions you may have about eating with dentures.

How do I eat with dentures?

Perhaps you are new to dentures and feeling a little despondent during the adjustment phase. It just doesn’t seem to happen quickly enough for you. You may ask how other people manage. Even seasoned denture wearers must expect a transitional period when replacing their old dentures with new. But there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Armed with some useful tips and a positive attitude, you will look back upon these first few difficult weeks and wonder what all the fuss was about.

The transitional phase

One of the major concerns as people get used to their dentures is the fear they may dislodge – even fall out! Some patients feel uncomfortable eating in public as a result. So, in those early days, how do you keep your dentures securely in place? These feelings of insecurity will diminish as your mouth adjusts to the denture and you grow in confidence. The muscles in your face develop and together with the suction created between your upper palate and the denture, learn to hold it in place while eating, speaking, laughing, and engaging in life.

The bottom denture cannot rely on suction like the upper denture, but rather depends on gum ridges and facial muscles for security. Denture fixative or glue can be used to help you over the hump until the adjustment takes place. Having confidence in your denture’s security allows you to trust your denture will remain firm while you venture beyond the soft food stage to more normal eating.

Remember to take it slowly, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. ii

Can you eat with a partial denture?

Learning to eat with a partial denture, is much easier than a full upper or lower denture. This is because a partial denture is secured to existing natural teeth with clasps which hold it securely in place. A partial denture is also less bulky in the mouth and so doesn’t require learning to bite and chew without accidently munching down on your cheeks or tongue. Because the partial denture feels more secure from the outset, it won’t take as long for you to adjust to a new way of eating or for your confidence in the device to grow.

How long after getting dentures can you eat normally?

While you can begin to eat and drink just one and a half hours after surgery, the timeframe for normal eating is different depending on the individual. The rate of healing determines how soon you can bear the pressure of chewing on healing gums and how quickly you can trust your device to stay put. However, once your mouth has healed and you have become used to managing the denture in your mouth, you can expect to eat normally, usually within a few weeks.

So, what can I eat with dentures?

In the early stages while you are adjusting to having a foreign object in your mouth, it’s a good idea to modify your diet and your expectations until you master holding your denture securely in place while eating. Soft foods like smoothies, eggs, and slow-cooked meats that are bite size portions like those in stews, recipes with minced meat, steamed and mashed vegetables, stewed fruit are more easily managed. As you become more confident you will find you can eat most of the things you have enjoyed in the past. Even people with a full set of dentures can still chew gum. 

Are there foods I should avoid?

Avoid sticky foods like peanut butter or hard confectionary, and meat or any fibrous food that must be chewed. Nuts and seeds can get caught beneath your denture and cause irritation. In the early phase of adjusting as your mouth heals, avoid spicy or hot food which can burn still tender gums. Once you master keeping your denture firmly in place, you can gradually introduce foods which require more vigorous chewing. Some foods can still be enjoyed after you make changes in how you go about eating them. Biting into an apple with your denture for example, puts excessive pressure on the denture teeth and your gums, so cutting up these kinds of food into small bites is a better option than biting. See our article 'Foods you can't eat with dentures' for more information.

How can I make eating with dentures easier?

  • First and foremost be patient with yourself and play a long game.
  • Picture yourself sometime in the future, enjoying all your favourite foods again.
  • Cut your food into manageable bite-size portions.
  • While you are adjusting, eat slowly and mindfully to avoid inadvertently chomping on your inner cheeks or tongue.
  • Spread chewing pressure evenly across both sides of your denture. iii 
  • Wear your dentures as much as you can – practise makes perfect.
  • Use the internet to find suitable recipes for denture wearers.
  • Join denture groups on Facebook to discover others who have gone before you and may have useful advice to offer.

Will I ever be able to eat without worrying again?

Yes, you will. But understand your oral environment is dynamic. Gums shrink, bones lose volume, and more natural teeth may be lost as a part of the normal ageing process. All these factors impact on your denture’s fit and comfort. However, with regular maintenance, a good hygiene regime, and some small adjustments to your eating habits, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy eating as you have in the past.

The implications of not eating with dentures

It’s important to note that not having a functional denture will negatively impact your eating habits. While your mouth is recovering from extractions or you’re experiencing sore spots or painful gums as you adjust to your new denture, you may find yourself hesitant to eat. Or you may restrict your diet to a few soft and easy options. This isn’t a problem if it is a temporary situation. However, less efficient biting and chewing ability may mean important nutrients are missed, having health implications if you continue for a long period of time.iv This can influence food selection for older folk especially, resulting in loss of dietary fibre and vitamins and minerals only available in a diverse diet, together with protection that a good diet affords from age related disease. v For these reasons, having regular denture checks is essential.

A final word on 'Can you eat with dentures?'

There is every reason to be positive about eating with dentures. Difficulties eating and chewing should only be temporary as you transition from natural teeth to a denture. Taking advantage of the care offered by your prosthetist or oral health specialist will ensure any issues you have adjusting are resolved quickly. When next you feel discouraged about your adjustment to dentures, think of the millions who manage to eat with dentures successfully.

References

i https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-dental-
care-2012-key-facts-figures/summary
ii Lao Tzu https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/lao_tzu_137141
iii https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/14/8846
iv https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-019-0803-8
v . https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-019-0803-8



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