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The Side Effects of Poor Fitting Dentures

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A middle-aged woman looks at the dentures she is holding in her right hand while rubbing her jaw with the left hand and frowning

Dentures help people who have experienced tooth loss to speak more clearly, eat comfortably, and smile confidently. That’s why more than a million Canadians without all their natural teeth can benefit from either a full set or partial dentures. However, dentures that don’t fit correctly can cause a whole host of problems — some of which can be just as troublesome as those they are supposed to solve.

Learning how to recognize what happens when dentures don’t fit as intended can let you know it’s time to have yours repaired or adjusted. Below is a list of issues that you might face if your dentures fit poorly — if any of these are happening to you, it’s probably time to take action.

How Are Dentures Supposed to Fit?

Ideally, dentures should feel firm but comfortable inside your mouth. It’s natural to feel mild discomfort for a little while when wearing new dentures, but these feelings should disappear within a few months at most. After that, expect the top dentures to fit smoothly against the gums at the roof of your mouth while your bottom dentures float just above the lower gums.

Partial dentures should remain aligned with your natural teeth, and shouldn’t wiggle or shake. The hallmark of properly-fitted dentures is that it’s easy to keep them in place without pain or discomfort.

What Happens When Dentures Don’t Fit Properly?

Cosmetic and Hygienic Problems

Dentures that fit poorly often cause numerous challenges for the people who wear them. Some of these difficulties are cosmetic, whereas others involve pain or damage to nearby parts of the mouth and face.

  • Dentures come loose or slide around during regular activities — making it hard to articulate certain words, chew food, or smile for photos.
  • Cheeks start to lose their fullness. Like natural teeth, dentures help fill out your face beneath your cheeks and keep your jaw relatively symmetrical. If your cheeks don’t look full or your jawline appears crooked, your dentures may have come loose.
  • Food gets stuck between the dentures and the gums, causing bad breath. This occurs when the gap separating the dentures from the gums is too great.
  • Gums grow too much and turn red. This will occur if food caught in the gap is not removed, and is also a sign of oncoming gum disease.
  • Plaque builds up on the dentures themselves and won’t go away, even with rigorous cleaning. Some plaque buildup over time is natural, but if it’s happening quickly, the dentures are too loose and allow bacteria to become trapped in the mouth.

Pain, Trauma, and More Serious Health Issues

  • Sores and swelling appear in the mouth. These are often symptoms of gum diseases caused by dentures that are too loose. They can also affect the way dentures fit over time, which leads to other problems.
  • The dentures dig into the gums in certain places. Dentures should fit against your gums evenly. If they’re putting more pressure on certain parts of the gums than they are on others, they are probably misaligned and need to be adjusted.
  • The jaw hurts, makes a clicking sound, or doesn’t open all the way. These are potential signs of temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ), which affects the joints connecting the jaw to the rest of the skull. Dentures that fit poorly may displace the discs in the jaw, increasing the likelihood of this condition.
  • Loose teeth from bone shrinkage in the jaw. This takes place when dentures are uneven and can make other procedures like implants extremely difficult.

Know the Signs and Take Action

As we mentioned earlier, it can take some time before new dentures feel comfortable in the mouth. However, if you’re noticing any of the previously-mentioned symptoms then it’s time to seek help with your dentures — especially if you’ve already been wearing them for a while.

It’s often a good idea to have your dentures fixed by the same people who fitted you for them in the first place. They’ll have prior experience with your mouth, which can help them be detail-oriented and make subtle (but important) changes. Bonus points if they offer emergency denture care, too — the more serious your side effects are, the more critical it is to have your dentures repaired or adjusted quickly.

Ultimately, dentures should help more than hinder you — but even high-quality dentures will eventually lose their fit over time as the bones in our face subtly change. Taking proper care of your dentures over time will slow down this process, and solving the problems listed above as soon as you notice them will allow you to make the most of these important tools.

Written by Wade Klimpke

Wade Klimpke is a past President and long-standing member of the College of Alberta Denturists. Wade leads a number of industry working groups which help advance and monitor old, current, and new industry developments. This has allowed him to gain a number of industry relationships with implant dentistry suppliers in Canada and the United States.
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