Let’s be honest. Change can be scary. But sometimes we’re given no choice in the matter. Sometimes we’re forced to change whether we like it or not. So why not consider embracing the moment and make the change a positive one? ‘And just how do I do that?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s all in your head. Let me explain how to create the right mindset for denture success.
Making the ‘unknown’ less scary
Fear of the unknown is responsible for many negative attitudes to change. You may have no other option to getting a denture if your natural teeth have failed. Well, that is unless you choose the ‘gummy’ option. But you do have a choice on how you react to the news. This fact alone is empowering.
If you find the unknown scary, you can choose to implement your own change by facing your fears and becoming informed about what lies ahead. Having some idea of what to expect robs ‘the unknown’ of its fear factor and empowers you at the same time.
A change is as good as a holiday
Imagine for a moment that getting dentures is like embarking on a holiday. It may seem like a stretch but let me explain. Both scenarios – the dentures and the holiday – involve change. One is imposed by outside forces, the other is self-imposed. This influences the way you think about them.
In the case of the holiday, you have expectations about what your travel experience will be like and how good it will be once you arrive at your destination. You have a sense of anticipation built on these expectations. The holiday is a self-imposed change.
In this holiday scenario, both expectations and anticipation are positive states of being. You expect your holiday to be a good one and there is delicious anticipation because of this. You have made your choices based on careful research and then prepared accordingly. Reading the fine print and doing your homework, you ask questions to clarify and inform yourself to avoid disappointment. Your holiday experience looks promising and why not? You have prepared well and decided it will be.
Why can’t you employ the same strategies you use to ensure a good holiday and apply them to getting successful dentures? Being prepared and informed will give you confidence and a sense of empowerment over the situation, eliminating some of the anxiety you may feel about this big change in your life. This will make it easier to recognize and shift any negative mindset you might have about getting dentures. You diffuse the sense of having change imposed upon you by choosing to view the change on your own terms. By focusing on the positive elements of getting new dentures: a fresh attractive smile, for example, you can find things to anticipate and look forward to.
‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’ – Wayne Dyer
Let’s condense the process into four steps.
Preparing yourself psychologically
The first part of preparing yourself for dentures involves making a decision. Some change in life is inevitable. You can either choose to accept it – or decide to fight it all the way. Don’t underestimate the power this first step holds. Accepting the change your new dentures will bring, and making a conscious choice to view it optimistically, will set you up to act positively for the rest of the process.
Doing the groundwork
Still not convinced? Well, here is a practical exercise you can try: take a sheet of A4 paper and fold in half lengthways. Smooth the page flat and write a heading on each half: Positives and Negatives. Now make a list under these two headings accordingly. For example, under positives you might write: ‘ability to smile confidently again’. Under negatives you might write: ‘fear of denture falling out’ (a common, but generally unfounded fear). Now, actively research the items on your negative column. Get as much information as you can. Googling scholar and Australian Dental Prosthetic Association web sites is a good start. Once informed by facts instead of fiction, you will find the negatives lose some of their power to frighten.
Managing expectations – yours and those of your oral health providers
This is a really important step toward getting a successful denture. If you have done your research thoroughly, there is less likelihood you’ll be disappointed.
Returning to the holiday analogy, suppose you’ve forgotten to book your airport transfers. You’ll probably still get to your hotel but it will take longer, possibly be more expensive and stressful than it needed to be. So beyond just thinking positively about the experience, you must strive to examine exactly what it is you expect from your new dentures.
Dentures are a wonderful innovation and an excellent replacement when natural teeth fail. But they are not the same as natural teeth. If this appears to be stating the obvious, it’s because it is. Yet some patients still hold to the fanciful notion of immediate perfection. Without exception, denture wearers must expect a period of adjustment. Some people make the transition more quickly than others.
Managing your expectations means being informed about every aspect of your denture wearing experience. For example, how you can expect your new dentures to function; how they will look; what the adjustment period is likely to be; what might go wrong and how to troubleshoot if it does.
As part of your approach to managing your expectations, acknowledge there are bound to be minor setbacks. Celebrating small victories can help you to see that becoming accustomed to new dentures is an incremental process and helps avoid becoming discouraged. Keep your eye firmly focused on that light at the end of the tunnel.
Your prosthetist’s expectations
Develop a good working relationship with your prosthetist. He or she wants the same outcome you do. It makes sense to work together toward the same goal.
It seems to be human nature to work on (sometimes unreliable) assumptions which often get us into hot water. The ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude will not serve you well in pursuit of a good denture experience. If you aren’t clear on some aspect of getting dentures, then ask questions. And keep asking for clarification until you are clear.
Far better to avoid misunderstandings in the early stages while it’s still easy to rectify them. While prosthetists go to great lengths to inform patients of what to expect, individual patient comprehension varies. Patients may not admit they don’t understand for fear of being thought ‘dumb’. But there is no such thing as a dumb question. What might appear to be a mundane aspect of getting dentures barely worth mentioning for professionals working in the field, could be a critical point of misunderstanding for the patient. This is just the kind of situation that can lead to a misalignment of expectations between you and your denture provider.
Ultimately the key to managing expectations is good communication between you and your prosthetist. This allows you to identify the gaps in your understanding and gives your prosthetist the opportunity to understand what your expectations are. From this point, you can work together to ensure your expectations align.
As you can see, aligning your expectations with those of your prosthetist depends on building effective communication between you. These two elements of getting successful dentures are inextricably entwined. Finding a prosthetist who you can relate to is crucial to this end. If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions about your denture: the way it fits, the material it’s made of, tooth color choices and price for example, then perhaps it’s time to find a new prosthetist.
Other information resources
Beyond the communication between you and your prosthetist, reaching out to communicate with others who have gone before you in the successful denture exercise, is a great way to get inside information. Remember though, not everyone has the same experience so you may have to filter the negative stories from the more useful ones. Even so, it’s likely you will gain information and tips for making your experience a smoother one.
You might be surprised how many denture wearers there are among your friends and family. They can be a good source of information and support. Join Denture Support Australia Facebook group which we set up specifically for Australian denture wearers.
Above all, the science tells us that those who approach an exercise well informed and expecting a good result, usually get one.