MYTH #1: Once I have full dentures, I don’t need to visit a dentist anymore.
It is quite a common misconception that since you don’t have any natural teeth left, there’s no longer a need to visit your dentist. While it is indeed true that your dentures might not decay like natural teeth do, dentures themselves can pose their own set of challenges.
The artificial teeth and denture surface have many nook and crannies that can potentially trap plaque and bacteria, just like natural teeth. These areas allow saliva to pool and provide a cozy environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive in. Excellent for the cultivation of bacteria and fungi that give rise to infections but extremely detrimental to the health of your gums! The acrylic itself is in fact made of porous material that can be laden with bacteria and yeast over time if not maintained properly. Patients who experience decreasing dexterity with advancing age can find it difficult to keep their dentures as clean as they should be.
With no teeth left to retain the alveolar bone levels of your jaws, the shape and height of your gum ridges gradually changes and diminish over time, ultimately affecting the fit of your dentures. This means that your dentures that was once well fitting will slowly become loose and unstable during use. Just like seeing glasses, dentures need to be replaced periodically to ensure that they fit and function well.
MYTH #2: I don’t need to worry about dental hygiene since I have no teeth.
Good oral health encompass your ability to look after the many different structures in your mouth. While it is true that you may not have any teeth left to brush, it is still important to keep your gums and tongue healthy.
The tongue is a special organ that is coated with finger like projections, known as filiform papillae, that helps us to manipulate food during chewing and swallowing. Unfortunately, the multitude of warm and moist crevices present on the tongue also provide the perfect nesting spot for bacteria, food debris and dead cells to settle in. A “dirty” tongue is a common cause of bad breath!
Food debris accompanied with bacteria in the oral cavity or on the surface of your dentures can cause gum infections if left unchecked. Chronic gum infections can hasten alveolar bone loss, prematurely altering the fit of your dentures. It is therefore important to mechanically clean and remove, on a daily basis, these unwanted guests that have so conveniently set up camp in our mouths.
You can easily keep your oral health in tip top condition by gently brushing your gums and tongue with a soft bristle toothbrush, twice daily. Applying a gentle circular, massaging action will help you clean and stimulate blood circulation at the same time. You can also consider the use of a tongue scrapper if you are unable to tolerate tongue brushing.
MYTH #3: My dentures will last forever.
Unfortunately, that is not true! The artificial teeth present on your denture will wear or may chip with use over time. A worn set of artificial teeth makes it harder for you to cut and chew food. It also reduces the amount of teeth shown at rest and on smiling as well as a reduction of lip support, resulting in a ‘less youthful’ appearance. Chipped teeth may also feel sharp and irritate the soft tissues of your mouth.
Apart from wear and stains, you will also notice your dentures becoming loose over the years and find them more of a hindrance than help during meal times. Loose dentures is less likely to stay in place during function and allows food to get trapped underneath the denture. It is also prone to fracture as the biting force is no longer evenly distributed. All these are tell-tale signs that your denture is no longer fitting properly.
Ill-fitting dentures can often cause repeated trauma to the supporting soft tissue, hastening the shrinkage of the remaining gum ridge. Chronic trauma to the oral soft tissues from a loose denture predisposes an individual to frequent episodes of painful oral ulcers. Chronic ulcers has been linked to the development of precancerous lesions.
A well maintained set of dentures lasts an average of 5 to 7 years. The common reasons for replacement or modifications thereafter is to manage fit or stability issues, due to the diminishing gum ridges or changes in an individual’s general health. Certain conditions and medications taken for chronic illnesses have oral side effects (e.g. reduce saliva production) that affects the normal use of dentures.
MYTH #4: Denture wear is inconvenient and affects my lifestyle.
While one would not go as far as to say that dentures would feel the same as natural teeth, denture wear should not be painful or excessively uncomfortable either. Dentures serve mainly to maintain appearance, facilitate normal speech and aid chewing function. One criteria to do this well is to be retentive.
Most individuals will need a few weeks to get seasoned to newly fabricated dentures, similar to how we may need time to break in a new pair of shoes. The initial soreness or tenderness of your gums will gradually resolve once you are able to control and get accustomed to it. This may require periodic adjustment visits with your dentist, so that the extension and fit of the dentures can be further customized.
The speech of individuals who have never worn dentures before are often slightly affected at the start. Fret not, for you can easily overcome this issue by talking a little slower, focusing on your diction over the initial few weeks. You will be amazed at how well the tongue and muscles of your face can adapt to the presence of the denture and for your speech to return to normal eventually!
Contrary to common practice, the use of denture adhesives to aid retention is not a blanket prerequisite. If you find yourself constantly reaching for that tube of denture adhesive for fear of your dentures falling out while eating or talking, then perhaps it is time to get your dentures assessed for fit. Having your whole set of teeth fall straight out of your mouth can admittedly at times appear amusing to others, it surely must be embarrassing for the victim of the loose dentures!
MYTH #5: I can repair my own dentures
While one might be tempted to whip out that tube of super glue and stick your broken denture pieces back together or perhaps even file your own dentures to make them ‘better’, rather than make a trip to the dentist and risk being told that you need to part ways with your dentures that you have grown accustomed to, you might actually be causing more inconvenience and harm to yourself in the long run!
For starters, ingredients present in super glue are often toxic to cells and more than likely to be incompatible with the health of your oral tissues. This can result in localized allergic reactions, soft tissue inflammation or in the worst case scenario, poisoning of one self.
You might also notice that although your super glue is doing a mighty job of keeping the broken pieces of your denture together, there is something different about the way you are biting now. Looking like they fit does not necessarily mean that your broken denture pieces are coming together perfectly. Most patients are rather sensitized to the way they bite and even the slightest change will be registered. Though some may be persistent enough to retrain themselves to adapt to the “new bite”, poor bites can affect the health of the joints of your jaw or cause irreversible damage to the supporting soft tissue of your dentures, resulting in more inconvenience down the road.