What I’ve Learned About Dentures in 3 Weeks

The first thing I have learned is every person has their own learning curve. I am trying to make mine as quick and easy as possible. It will be interesting to see where I am in a year. For now…

Mindfulness with Dentures?

If you, like me, have never mastered Mindful Eating despite trying for 40 years, dentures are The Way to do it. I have never eaten slower or in a more purposeful manner than I have in the last 3+ weeks. I am constantly on alert about my bottom teeth falling out (which they do with most meals), so I eat very slowly. Very. Slowly.

It is still a trial and error to get my bottom teeth to stay in. It is incredibly frustrating and I know they are fitting perfectly because I have gone, more than once, to get them checked. 

Denture Creams

The grossest thing on the planet to put in your mouth every single day is denture creams. I use Secure after trying powders and liners and the most popular brands of creams. I could open a store with denture supplies I have around me.

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Before beginning any morning ritual and then post-denture-removal ritual is brushing my gums and tongue. If you thought your days of brushing were over, you were mistaken. I feel like I brush more now than ever before.

Thank Goodness for YouTube!

Everything from here on, I learned from YouTube. I think my Denture Magician should have a tutorial to hand out since not everyone has access to YouTube.

Cleaning the Nibblers

This process is just crazy weird and often disgusting. I will describe getting the teeth out of my mouth to clean later.

First, I soak the newly out-of-my-mouth dentures in a fizzy cleanser that comes as a round tablet. I put it in a small denture container and cover it with warm water while it fizzes overnight.

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Morning Ritual

First thing I do is lay a washcloth in the sink. These denture-suckers cost $1000 and will break if I drop them. I am meticulous with protecting them. I’m probably as purposeful handling them as I am eating with them.

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Then it is time to clean the dentures with a denture brush and some denture toothpaste. (Do not use regular toothpaste on the dentures, it will scratch them.)

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Not just clean them, but scrub them.

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Scrubbing?

With my brush, I first clean out a gross, thick, aspic-like glob (and I say “aspic” because, all too often, there is food embedded in the goop) that was left when the dentures were removed from my mouth and swelled in the water.

The swelling with liquid is what the denture cream does against our gums. That, apparently, is the blech that holds my teeth in. 

Even after the soaking, the glob of nastiness is still in there needing to be brushed out.

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Could this be any more disgusting?

But Look How Pretty When Clean!

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Drying the Dentures

Again, learned on YouTube. This part is kind of confusing to me so if you can explain it scientifically, that would be really appreciated.

Drying the dentures thoroughly before putting the paste on is supposed to be crucial to the glue-ishness sticking to my gums. You’ll see why I am confused in a moment, but let’s dry them for now.

Back in my room, I lay them gently on some paper towels, being sure not to have them near any edge where they might fall. Then I get a sheet of paper towel, fold it up so there is a wedge-like angle, and dry the canal of the dentures. I go slowly and meticulously.

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Even after being thorough, there are crevices that are still wet so I use a Q-Tip to dry those places.

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After using the Q-Tip, I set the seemingly dry dentures on another paper towel to evaporate the rest of the wetness on the gum portion for about 10-minutes.

This process is annoying, but I find if I do not do it, my bottom teeth will sit in my mouth until I swallow of liquid and then fall right out again.

I talk to myself. “I love this process! It is so mindful. I am taking care of my mouth so perfectly.” I don’t believe it one whit yet, but I’m trying.

Striping (Not Stripping)

I learned that the cream swells with water/saliva/liquid, so the next step made much more sense to me. 

Then I remembered I was drying the dentures until they were desert-like first. If wet is what activates the cream, why can’t I put the cream on with the dentures wet? This is what someone can explain to me, please.

But, when it is time to put the cream in, I put it in three patches, well, small strips about 1/4 inch or so.

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Then, using my pinky, I frost the cream like I am icing a cake (ironic since I can’t even eat cake anymore).

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I make sure it gets on all sides and edges. This saves me from feeling gushing globs of cream in my mouth. That is grosser than gross, especially when you take your teeth out.

This frosting technique was a stroke of brilliance via a YouTube teacher.

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Sip, Insert, & Hold

Before inserting each plate, I take a sip of water to kick the cream into it’s sticking goo, then put the plate in. (Again, why not put them in when they are still wet or just damp?) Because the cream swells with water, that’s why you don’t need great globs of goop in the gum portion.

When I put in each plate, I press it for 30-60 seconds. 

To Recap

I clean, dry, put the cream in the top plate, frost it, sip water, and put it in first. I hold it for about a minute and then start over with the clean and dry bottom plate, putting the cream strips on after the top plate is secure in my mouth. I do not frost them both at the same time. Each plate gets its own individual attention. Then, once the bottom one is in, I hold it in for 60 seconds.

My Top Tier

Happily, the top plate sticks like Super Glue. It stays in all day without any issues.

I will share how I get it out in a moment; it’s an adventure.

The Fucking Bottom Tier: Eating

The same cannot be said of the bottom plate.

Only once have I been able to eat 2 meals without them falling out. Usually, it is during the first meal of the day that they are slipping out of my mouth.

They say to eat evenly in your mouth, which I have been doing. Again, sooooo mindfully, it is excruciatingly slow and precise. 

I am taking bites as small as one of the front teeth on my dentures. Not kidding. I cut my food, even the soft eggplant parmigiana or fettuccini Alfredo, into teensy bites.

Yet, I can feel the bottom teeth when they begin to slip. I roll my eyes as I take a tiny bite of something as soft as egg salad with a piece of bread with the crusts cut off, using a knife and fork (the idea of biting the sandwich is absurd!) and feel my teeth stabbing me in the gums. From what I have heard, this is all normal. For fuck’s sake, normal sucks.

I can see why people get their bottom dentures implanted. I cannot wait to make a ton of money to get that done.

Removing the Teeth (that haven’t fallen out already)

Clearly, the bottom teeth have zero issue getting out of my mouth when I am ready for bed. They are usually out long before that. 

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The top teeth, however, even without a palate part of my top dentures (which I had them cut out first thing), stick like they are cemented in

I had been ripping them off, tearing my gums to bleeding and crying each time I needed to take them out. What was wrong with me? I went to Google and finally learned how to get them out. BLOW! Nudge the front top teeth down, close my mouth, and blow up a balloon. Voila! Out they come each time. And minimal bleeding or crying.

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You can see a drop of blood at 10:00. There used to be a puddle before I learned how to remove my top dentures.

Waxy Crap Stuck in My Mouth

When I pull the dentures out, I am left with a wax-like material crammed into the somewhat still-open sockets.

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This is after I remove the dried cream from my sockets, but before I pulled it off the back of my gums.

Losing Weight!

The best side effect of all is I am losing weight. I weighed at the Cardiologist appointment a couple of days ago and I have lost 16 pounds since I last weighed a few months ago. I can guarantee it has all been in the last month since I got all my teeth pulled.

I can see it in my face and body. How could I not be losing weight with 2 weeks of mush 3x a day and now only eating solids (if you want to call eggplant parmigiana or rice solid) once or twice a day for another two weeks. I eat soy yogurt for the other meals.

I got some bruschetta yesterday, hoping against hope, I could eat the bread. I broke it nearly into crumbs and it was still too hard. I can’t bear to throw it away, so it’s sitting next to me, tormenting me. 

(I did eventually toss it, but sighed sadly as I did.)

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There Is Beauty!

I know this is a lot of whining, but I do want to say that I was able to smile – a lot – while my girls and grandkids were here. I took pictures for the first time in many years with an open mouth smile. Glorious!

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Was It Worth It?

HELL, YES!

Extractions & Dentures (Finally!)

I’m sitting here with new dentures in my mouth. I started writing this when I got my first extractions, but it seemed smarter to wait until I was done. So, here we go.

I do have to say that I am reading this aloud as I write to practice speaking with my new teeth.

“History has its eyes on you!” <— My most practiced sentence. From my beloved Hamilton, of course.

Dental History

Both my parents had terrible teeth. Mom got dentures at 23 and my dad’s and siblings’ teeth were/are a total wreck. Heredity does have a say in how many cavities we get.

I needed dentures years ago and started looking 4 years ago for someone who would do it with my insurance. They had one place 90 miles away, but they wouldn’t pull them unless I agreed to “alveoplasty,” shaving down the bone under my gums which would cost $1000. My insurance would pay for the teeth being pulled and the dentures, but not that $1000. Another piece of that complicated puzzle was I would be without teeth for 4-6 months.

I gave up.

Then the pandemic hit and I fell into despair about much of the world and my life. My teeth were already in disrepair and during the first year of the pandemic, my teeth began breaking and falling out of my mouth. The second year, I got abscesses three times that sent me to the ER for Clindamycin, the medication for dental infections. Every medical person I saw told me to get my teeth out asap because it could cause sepsis and kill me.

During that year, I was working with my insurance to find someone to remove my teeth and give me dentures and I/they/we could not find anyone taking new patients.

My niece works with a dentist who recommended a place called Extraction & Denture Center. (I get no $$ or perks for talking about them.) Their site is amazing in that all the prices are printed right up front. They take no insurance, so everything is really discounted.

Besides their 5-Star ratings all over the Internet and their prices, I would be without dentures for a mere 3-4 days instead of 3-6 months.

Two precious people in my life fronted most of the money that I will begin paying back as soon as I am working again in a week or so. I am so grateful for their kindness and understanding of how bad my mouth hurt and how horrified I was whenever I looked in the mirror. Even when I didn’t have to, I wore a mask, even talking to my kids and grandkids, because I looked so scary.

Of the hundreds of selfies I have done, I took 2 of my mouth and then promptly deleted them. I did not want anyone remembering me that way.

This is pretty much how I looked before dentures.

First 4 Teeth Removed

My first visit to the Extraction & Denture Center was to have 4 teeth pulled. Everyone was so, so kind.

Sonia, the woman at the front desk, and I had spoken several times as I prepared for getting myself there, money being the major issue barring my going at all. Sonia was so kind and patient with me as I, over and over, said I was coming in (it was walk-in, so not an appointment I was cancelling) and did not.

One of my front teeth broke off a few months ago and I got an abscess again under the same two teeth that kept getting them and they were the first two I had removed along with my front tooth that was broken and another, a molar in the very back, that had the gum distressingly low.

Amanda, who got my history and did the X-ray, was sweet as could be.

I explained to the oral surgeon, Dr. Bhatti, that I had had these two teeth abscess three times and he said that the infection sits under the gums and an abscess is a flare-up, but the infection is still there, making me ill. I had no idea. He said I had had that infection since before the first abscess over a year earlier.

For fuck’s sake, no wonder I always felt so sick and tired.

While this place has both nitrous oxide and a sedation option, I knew I could do it with just the lidocaine. Dr. Bhatti numbed the holy hell out of me and I felt nothing for the first time ever of having my teeth pulled. I was shocked at how pain-free it was.

When he finished, it was an enormous relief to have those major two teeth removed and I cried with happiness as I left.

I was put on Clindamycin for the still-underlying infection. After I finished the 7-day course, the place where I’d had the abscesses began swelling and good lord, did it hurt. During that day, I felt it, well, tasted it, as it burst and the infection poured out. Talk about gross. Hopefully you aren’t having a snack while reading this.

I called the surgeon who prescribed a Z-Pack and by day 3 of 5, the infection was gone.

Hurry for kick-ass antibiotics!

Last 14 Removed

I went in a month later, Friday, April 15th, and got the last 14 removed. I cried with joy while waiting to begin as I sat in Dr. Bhatti’s chair. I couldn’t believe I was going to have them all gone, to know I was on my way to a real smile again. The prospect of not having that constant pain, the recurring infections, the need for antibiotics so often, being able to go without a mask as everyone else is removing theirs… it was all really overwhelming.

Again, I chose to have just the lidocaine (with epinephrine) and besides the zippiness of the epi in my system, I had no pain as he removed the teeth.

His assistant, Heather, who was there the first time, too, tapped my arm each time a tooth was removed. They would have said nothing if I wanted that, but I was counting and it helped to know.

I do want to mention an odd thing that happened that night. It might have been a complete coincidence, but had not ever happened before and has not happened since. My heart rate went down to 40-44 for several hours that night. I looked up variations of “Rebound effects of epinephrine” and found a few things, but nothing really about having a lot of injections of lidocaine with epi and the rebound with bradycardia. I debated going to the ER for a couple of hours and my heart rate started going back up again. I see the cardiologist in a few weeks (for heart palpitations from COVID), so will ask him then what that might have been. I did not ask Dr. Bhatti when I saw him on Monday. I forgot.

Impressions Done

Monday, April 18th, I went back in and a great dentist? Technician? Magician? (denture technician) named Alex put these globs of Silly Putty in my mouth and had me bite down for 2.5 minutes each. Top, bottom and palate. I expected to gag, but not at all. And I am a gagger.

It was molded into the shape of my jaw each time.

In Alex’s section, they had a huge screen on the wall where adorable animals were shown, like a constant Cute Animals from YouTube. I was laughing – until the snake came on. Then I closed my eyes and counted seconds until Alex came back to take the Silly Putty out of my mouth.

Easy Peasy!

The Morning of New Teeth

I always wake up about 4am to write. That’s my prime writing time, 4-7am. But this morning, April 19th, I was so… nervous? Excited? I could not place the feeling. I had stomach issues and thought I might even have to delay the 8:30am appointment. But, I recovered in time to call Uber and I headed over.

Later, my daughter Meghann said the nerves sounded like the first day of school. That was the feeling exactly!

Wax Test Set

I went first thing in the morning on April 19th to see how my teeth fit while they were still made of wax. They had to adjust them a teensy bit, but OH MY GOD did I look different with teeth!

I was gagging on the part that sticks to the roof of your mouth, so Alex had Jenay, the main denture creator, shave part off. I was still gagging when it went in so Alex said he could shave that whole part off, but there would be no suction and I would have to use cream to secure the teeth. I didn’t have to think for a second: Shave it off!

When Jenay did that and Alex put it back in my mouth, it was like night and day.

Once again, I saw what I looked like with teeth and got tears in my eyes. Stunning difference.

The Wax Try-in

I was to return for my new teeth at 2:00pm.

Testing Out My New Teeth at the Denture Center

Alex brought me my new dentures and he knew before they were in my mouth a segment needed to be adjusted on the back bottom rim. They did that and I put them in again. I could not believe how good they felt. Mind you, my gums still have holes in them from the teeth removal process, but the dentures, besides feeling like I had a mouth full of hard something, did not hurt.

I was given instructions and was shown how to put the cream inside the dentures.

Then I was showing off my new teeth to everyone in the place. Dr. Bhatti came in and was effusive about how great I looked. Alex was a wonderful cheerleader and then other assistants in the office also were very kind.

Then I walked outside to my new life with a smile again.

New Teeth!

My New Teeth 4/19/22

This was me walking out of the Extraction & Denture Center. No makeup. No posing. Just filled with glee!

Last Thoughts

I cannot say enough about this place. From my first contact to walking out, every single person was a joy to spend time with. Dr. Bhatti is amazing. Heather took such wonderful care of me. Alex was so much fun. Jenay, who I did not meet, created a masterpiece. Sonia has the patience of a saint and I appreciate her more than I can say. Even my limited contact with Amanda that first day, she set the tone of what I was going to experience there. What I did experience there.

No one alluded to how fat I am, although the waiting room chairs all had arms so I sat outside on a bench (thank God for the bench!). (Get some sturdy chairs without arms for us fat people!) They accommodated my walker and were patient when I was slower than most people getting in and out of the exam chair. You who have read my writings over the years know how important Fat-Friendly Providers are to me. This place wins the prize for kindness and non-judgment.

If you are reading this, Extraction & Denture Center angels, thank you, thank you with all that I am, for giving me something I could not have gotten without you.

The ability to smile once again.