Mom hates her dentures; should we consider implants?

A fellow caregiver asked...


My mom recently had all of her teeth removed and now has dentures. She refuses to wear the bottoms; she says that they don't fit properly - it does sound like she has a mouth full of marbles. My sister and I were with her when she had them fitted and the dentist said that they fit properly, but she needs to practice wearing them.

She has become more depressed than ever and is only eating soft food. I'm going to take her to my own dentist for a second opinion. I'm thinking that maybe we should go with implants instead - even though she has already paid for the dentures. Does anyone have any opinion either way? Dentures versus implants?

Thank you!

Expert Answer

Dr. David Blende, DDS, has more than 20 years' experience providing comprehensive dental care. His practice, the Blende Dental Group, serves the phobic, disabled, geriatric, and medically compromised communities through sleep dentistry. A division of his practice, Bay Area House Call Dentists, delivers dental services to senior communities and private homes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Your mom experienced a huge change when she went from chewing with her own teeth to using dentures. Her teeth may look better, but her ability to chew was likely greatly reduced (especially for chewing certain kinds of foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables and foods that require a lot of chewing like beef.)

Lower dentures in particular usually take longer to get used to, both psychologically and functionally. We have a saying that upper dentures are made in heaven, but lower dentures are made in hell! All that said, many people can successfully use dentures if they have reasonable expectations and tolerate the adjustment period.

"¢ Your mom can adapt to chewing with her new dentures by starting with soft foods and increasing the firmness over several days or weeks.
"¢ She will also need time to adjust to the feeling that her mouth feels fuller, as though her dentures are too big for her mouth.
"¢ Your mom should also practice speaking slowly and enunciating her words very carefully at first.

Since her dentist verified that her dentures do fit correctly, with a little time and patience, she may find that the dentures work for her just fine.

However, if she is still not satisfied after a few weeks of adjustment (during which she "practices" wearing the dentures everyday, as her dentist suggested), there are other options she can explore.

There are a few things to consider: comfort, efficiency, cost and appropriateness. When someone is missing teeth, dentures are usually the least expensive solution, but are often the least comfortable. The most expensive solution is dental implants, which are individual artificial teeth that are implanted into the jaw bone. They are not removable like dentures. Implants are very durable, secure, long-lasting and comfortable after the healing is complete.

For many people, the happy middle ground for cost, function and comfort is to have their dentist place 2 or more mini-implants, which are placed into the jaw bone and a denture can be attached to the mini-implants. The denture can still be removed for cleaning, but is secure while the person eats and talks. Mini-implants can usually be completed in a single visit, with the person eating again within a day.

Your mom could go back to the dentist who made her denture to find out if it can be retrofitted for implants or mini-implants, which would likely increase her security, comfort and self-esteem about her smile.