By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell
Denture pain is something that a lot of people don't expect when they finally get their last teeth taken out. They figure that with no teeth, there's no toothache!
Unfortunately, dentures can cause almost as many problems as teeth! This is one reason why most dentists are so keen for you to keep as many teeth as possible for as long as possible. Once they are all gone, you face a different set of problems.
You have to remember that removable dentures are artificial acrylic teeth. They are an alternative to NOT having teeth. For most people, they are nothing like real teeth - they are foreign objects in your mouth. So we are doing quite well when removable dentures work at all!
How can you get denture pain?
The most common cause of pain with dentures comes from a simple irritation, where the dentures are moving slightly when you eat and talk. The dentures are rubbing on the gum. There's nothing wrong with the dentures as such - but the way they move can irritate the gum.
There are NINE other major possible causes; check out my full list below - you can probably identify the cause of your denture pain, and see what the remedy is!
This can cause a simple denture irritation, or progress to full-on denture pain.
The remedy here is get your denture re-lined, if it is only a few years old and you are happy with the appearance of the teeth. Or just get a completely new denture if the problem one is more than 5 years old.
It can be hard to see exactly what it is that is digging in to your gum when you put the denture in! But once the problem spot is identified, it's a matter of seconds for the dentist to polish the tag off.
Frequently, the denture will also be a bit loose, because when you move your mouth, your cheek or lip will press on the denture edge and tend to push the denture out of position.
The remedy is for the dentist to carefully remove some acrylic from the problem area.
This is because the soft palate can move, and would dislodge the denture when you speak. In order to get a good seal along this edge which runs from left to right across the back of your hard palate, dental technicians put a small ridge onto the back edge of the denture, so that it "digs in" a tiny bit.
Normally this just gets you a better seal at the back of the denture, and you don't notice it. But sometimes it can dig in a little too much, and you DO notice it - as denture pain!
The most common spot is right in the middle of the palate, because that's where the gum is thinnest, as it sits over a little lump pf bone just there. Again, once this spot has been identified as the cause, it's a matter of seconds for the dentist to polish it down.
If enough bone around this nerve is lost through shrinking, it's possible for a lower denture to start pressing on the nerve. This can give a sharp pain when you bite on something.
This can be a tricky one to fix; the dentist has to either hollow out the denture a little bit in that area to stop any pressure on the nerve, or sometimes he can add a little bit of a special "soft" acrylic that keeps a rubber-like consistency when it sets. The soft acrylic also reduces the pressure in that area. Unfortunately it tends to become harder over a period of months, and must be replaced every so often.
Unfortunately, sometimes it can be hard to tell if the teeth are all meeting evenly, because you don't have any individual nerves to individual teeth on the denture, like you do with natural teeth. AND the gum can "give" a little under the denture, allowing it to sit in a slightly different position when biting firmly.
The denture fits well, there are no tags, and no sharp edges. But the gum tissues are simply too thin to bear much weight on them.
Sometimes we can use a soft lining inside the denture in the problem area. This is a special type of acrylic that remains slightly soft rather than setting rock-hard. The whole of the inside of the denture is lined with this material, which is slightly rubbery. But over time this material will lose its flexibility and need to be replaced, otherwise denture pain will creep back.
Fortunately, this is relatively easily fixed. Your dentist or oral surgeon can remove the sharp edge of bone from under the gum, and make it more rounded and able to resist pressure. It's a small procedure that's generally all healed up inside 2 weeks.
If the root fragment remaining was small, the dentist may have decided that it was safe to leave, rather than putting you through significant oral surgery just for a small bit of tooth. However, as the jaw bone shrinks over the years, it's possible for an old root to become exposed. This can irritate the gum, causing a sore spot under a denture. It's easy enough to fix; just get the root removed!
As the gum shrinks down over the years, it's possible for a buried wisdom tooth to become exposed. Unfortunately this is a bigger job to fix, as there is a whole tooth under the gum to remove, rather than just a root fragment. A referral to an oral surgeon is probably the best course of action.
After the jawbone has shrunk down around a wisdom tooth, the wisdom tooth itself will be occupying a big socket, with only a thin layer of bone around it. This means that the jawbone is now significantly weaker, and the oral surgeon will have to be very gentle when removing the tooth in order to avoid a jaw fracture.
So there you have it, a number of possible causes of denture pain.
BUT there is one other possible cause of denture pain - and that is a small tumor starting somewhere. The most common areas are on the side of the tongue or under the tongue, and on the roof of the mouth. You can read more about this rare possibility HERE and HERE.
So don't put up with a sore mouth if you are getting some denture irritation. Get it checked by a dentist, and if it doesn't feel better within a week, go back to him again.
These things are much more easily fixed if they are detected early. If you're still not happy after a second visit, go to a different dentist. After all, it's YOUR health at stake!