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Millions of Americans wear dentures to replace missing teeth. While dentures are a wonderful, economical option to restore chewing function, they can lead to embarrassment and discomfort if they do not fit well. The most common complaint of denture wearers is looseness. When a denture is loose, the normal functions of eating and speaking become frustrating and difficult. Finding the right fit is critical to the comfort and function of your dentures.


A denture is capable of staying in place during chewing and speaking via two mechanisms: 1) a suction effect, and 2) muscle control. The suction occurs because of the design and fit of the denture. The muscle control requires adaptation over a long period of time.


A denture achieves the best suction effect on the upper denture because of the coverage of the roof of the mouth. The suction requires the denture to touch the gums over as much surface area as possible. Saliva is very important to the ability to achieve suction.

Imagine a small piece of glass laying atop another one. They are easy to separate. If you place a drop of water between then, they are much more difficult to separate due to a suction effect.

A good quantity and quality of saliva combined with a well-fitting denture leads to a great suction effect.


While it is possible to achieve a small suction effect on a lower denture, most people rely on muscle control to hold a lower denture in place. The presence of the tongue in the lower jaw means the lower denture fits only over the bony ridge in a U-shape. The lower arch lacks a large area like the roof of the mouth for good surface contact. The muscles of the tongue, lips and cheeks are much more likely to dislodge a lower denture.

For this reason, many people will adapt to holding the lower denture in place with those tongue, lip, and cheek muscles. At first, this takes quite a bit of conscious effort. Over time, however, it becomes subconscious.


Without a good suction effect and adapted muscle control, dentures become loose. A loose denture leads to a wide variety of problems.

  • Sore Spots: Just as a loose shoe will rub a sore spot on your heel, a denture that moves around can rub sore spots into the gums. These sore spots often become painful ulcers, and the only way to heal them is by not wearing the denture for an extended period.

  • Embarrassment: Imagine talking to a friend, and your denture loosens and drifts down while speaking! Or blowing out your birthday candles, and you blow out the denture, too. You may be unable to eat in front of others for fear the dentures will move around. The potential for embarrassing situations with a loose denture is extremely high.

  • Poor Chewing Function: Loose dentures can produce very little chewing force, so you are unable to properly chew your food. People with loose dentures often avoid certain types of food that are tough or chewy. Even starches like bread and potatoes become sticky during chewing and easily dislodge a loose denture. They often avoid meats and crunchy vegetables. Because of this, loose denture wearers can suffer from malnutrition.

  • Avoidance of Social Situations: Rather than suffer embarrassment from a loose denture, some people choose to avoid social situations. This leads to a poor quality of life in most cases. Some studies show that a lack of social interactions actually increases your risk for dementia with aging.

  • Increased Risk of Oral Cancer: When a denture fits poorly, it causes irritation to the gum tissues below. This irritation leads to sore spots and chronic inflammation. This chronic traumatic inflammation leads to a higher risk for oral cancer.

In addition to the increased risk for cancer from chronic inflammation, denture wearers have a higher risk for later stages of oral cancer. Once you have all your teeth removed, it is easy to assume you no longer need dental care. This is a dangerous myth! Even denture wearers need to see a dentist once a year for oral cancer screenings. Early detection of oral cancer is the key to a good survival rate!

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