Dr. Vaibhavi S. Patel

Partial dentures offer people a practical way to fill gaps in their smiles and enjoy meals with a fully functional set of teeth.

Wait a second: Enjoy meals? Many wearers of partials struggle with eating. Perhaps they have experienced dislodging of the partials during a meal, or small food particles have gotten caught underneath the denture and created discomfort and pain. Partials become incredibly inconvenient if eating is difficult.

However, partial wearers do not need to experience this struggle and embarrassment. Here are five tricks to help you eat—and enjoy eating—with partials:

1. Take Time to Adjust

The adjustment required for eating with new partials doesn’t happen immediately. At first, foods may not taste the same as they once did, and distinguishing hot and cold liquids might be tricky (and with hot liquids, you must be careful you don’t unwittingly burn your mouth). Moreover, eating with partials for the first few days may feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry: Eventually, you and your mouth will adjust to the dentures, so be patient. In the meantime, until that adjustment occurs, choose softer, bite-sized foods. You don’t need to puree every meal into a smoothie, but foods such as eggs, cereal, fish, and cooked vegetables will give you the nourishment you need while going easy on your partials. Eventually, you’ll be able to move up to meats (preferably cut into small pieces), rice, bread, and crunchy vegetables.

2. Bypass Biting with Your Front Teeth

If your partials are up front, even after you adjust to them, biting down into some foods with your incisors will be a challenge. Corn on the cob, apples, hard rolls, and protein bars are among the foods that require all the force your front teeth can muster. Avoid these foods if you can, cut them into smaller pieces (a great strategy for apples and pears), and use the sides of your mouth to bite into them if possible. Yes, this leaves you out in the cold with corn on the cob. Another option is to use a denture adhesive to keep your partials in place with particularly tough foods.

3. Avoid Foods that Are Unkind to Dentures

Foods that are easier to eat with full dentures are the same as foods easier to eat with partials, even after you’ve adjusted to your new teeth. As already stated, hard foods are challenging, but other foods can cause problems. These include:

Popcorn: Kernels can lodge themselves under or within partials; unpopped kernels can damage the dentures.

  • Hard or sticky candy: Sticky foods can dislodge partials just as easily as hard foods can. If you have a sweet tooth for Starbursts or caramels, you need to be extremely careful.
  • Anything with small seeds: Poppy or sesame seeds stuck underneath your partials are annoying, to say the least. Plain breads, soft rolls, and bagels are a better option than anything with seeds.
  • Peanut butter: All sticky foods present a risk of dislodging a partial, and peanut butter is no exception. Opt for spreads that aren’t made from nuts.
  • Steak and ribs: Even if you are careful biting into tougher meats, the grinding required to chew them puts heavy stress on partials, as well as the gums underneath, over time.
  • Now for the good news: Plenty of delicious foods are partial-friendly, and even some on the no-no list can be eaten in moderation and with care. In no time, you’ll be an expert on which foods work well and which you must use extra caution when eating, as well as how to eat those foods trouble-free.

4. Brush and Clean Your Partials

Food particles and bacteria can collect on partials just as they would on normal teeth. If left untreated, this can inflame gums underneath the partials, which subsequently makes eating difficult or even painful. Therefore, proper care of your partials is crucial. Follow the cleaning regimen set forth by your dentist, which may include:

  • Brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush or a denture brush
  • Using soap and water or a denture toothpaste
  • Soaking your partials overnight
  • Properly brushing and flossing your permanent teeth to reduce bacteria in your mouth

5. Upgrade to Permanent Bridges or Implants

If partials are still giving you trouble when you eat, or if you simply want more convenience with your small, ask your dentist about a more lasting solution such as bridges or implant. Bridges are similar to partials but are permanently anchored to surrounding teeth; they aren’t removed at night and do not require extra care beyond normal brushing and flossing. Implantsare a more invasive (and expensive) solution but offer permanent replacement teeth that are inserted into the jawbone and gums. Both upgrades are not for everyone; discuss with your dentist if either is a possibility or if partials remain your best course of action. Whatever option you choose, you can be confident in your smile both at mealtimes and during the rest of the day.