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A woman is sitting in the dentist chair with her dentist holding a set of dentures in her hands as she helps answer frequently asked questions she has about denture size and gagging.

Frequently Asked Questions about Denture Size and Gagging

6 minutes to read

Posted: Jun 10, 2021

If you feel like your dentures don’t fit your mouth or even if you have experienced gagging, just know that you aren’t alone. The experts at the American College of Prosthodontists help answer some questions about sizing and gagging below.  

How do I know if my dentures are the right size? I can't chew my food and they gag me. I’ve tried several ways to get used to them, even sleeping in them. My top lip just won’t cover the teeth and my bite just doesn’t feel right. Is this just me, or are the dentures the wrong size? 

Answer: If your dentures are new, this is a time of transition for your mouth. Your gums will be swollen after the extraction of your teeth, and you may need to have your “bite” modified to even out the pressure during this time of transition. Regular visits to your dentist or prosthodontist are important to examine any irregular area during and after healing. Return to the dentist who made your dentures for adjustment. You might have already scheduled a follow-up appointment. Be sure to share all of your concerns at that time. As for chewing, this, too, is an adjustment, and you will need to learn how to chew with dentures in. Focus on eating foods that are soft and don’t require much chewing, such as scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, and pasta. As you become adjusted to the dentures and learn how to adjust your tongue to help hold the denture in place, add some other foods. Just remember to let your knife and fork start the chewing process for you by cutting your food into small bites. Then chew on both sides of your mouth using the back teeth only. A small amount of denture adhesive may help hold your dentures in place. New denture wearers often require some time to become accustomed to the feeling of an upper denture. In general, gagging can occur for a few reasons. First, loose dentures can move around and touch the tongue or other parts of the throat. Sometimes, the dentures may be slightly too big, causing them to contact the throat more than they should. In these cases, they should be adjusted, relined, or even remade. For some people, wearing dentures can be difficult if they have not worn a previous set. In these cases, the use of denture adhesive may be of some help. In other cases, the lack of jawbone may make it difficult to wear dentures, and dental implants can be of help. You should return to your dentist to see if he or she can identify the cause and correct it. If not, you should consult a prosthodontist near you. Prosthodontists are dental specialists with three years of additional training beyond dental school focused on denture care and maintenance. To find a prosthodontist near you, visit www.gotoapro.org

Response provided by the American College of Prosthodontists. 

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I have had my dentures for a year and a half, and I am still having issues with gagging. The bottom is partial and the top full but with an opening in the middle (in a U shape). The gagging gets worse after eating. What can I do about dentures causing gagging?

Answer: In general, gagging can be caused by a few reasons. First, loose dentures can move around and touch the tongue or other parts of the throat. Sometimes, the dentures may be slightly too big causing them to contact the throat more than they should. Also, after dentures have been made, the jawbone shrinks which causes the dentures to move around since they no longer fit the jawbone the same way as when they were made. The jawbone shrinks the most after six to twelve months after teeth have been removed. After this time, dentures should be either relined or, more often, remade to correct the changes caused by the shrinking jawbone. For some people, wearing dentures can be difficult if they have not worn a previous set. In these cases, the use of denture adhesive may be of some help. In other cases, the lack of jawbone may make it difficult to wear dentures [therefore] dental implants can be of help. A prosthodontist, a dental specialist trained in denture care, may be called upon to offer an opinion about your situation and can best guide you in caring for these problems and concerns. To locate a prosthodontist near you, visit www.gotoapro.org.

Response provided by the American College of Prosthodontists.

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How do I keep from gagging?

Answer: In general, gagging can occur for a few reasons. First, loose dentures can move around and touch the tongue or other parts of the throat. Sometimes, the dentures may be slightly too big, causing them to contact the throat more than they should. Also, after dentures have been made, the jawbone shrinks, which causes the dentures to move around since they no longer fit the jawbone the same way as when they were made. The jawbone shrinks the after six to twelve months after teeth have been removed. After this time, dentures should be either relined or, more often, remade to correct the changes caused by the shrinking jawbone. For some people, wearing dentures can be difficult if they have not worn a previous set. In these cases, the use of denture adhesive may be of some help. In other cases, the lack of jawbone may make it difficult to wear dentures, and dental implants can be of help. A prosthodontist, a dental specialist trained in denture care, may be called upon to offer an opinion about your situation and can best guide you in addressing these problems and concerns. To locate a prosthodontist near you visit www.gotoapro.org.

Response provided by the American College of Prosthodontists.

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I just got home with my new dentures, and it seems that the lower plate is loose. Is this normal? My dentist says it is. Should I try a denture adhesive? If so, what type?

Answer: We will assume that you had teeth removed when the dentures were placed. As you heal from the tooth removal, the gums and underlying bone shrink away from the tissue-contacting side of the denture, leaving a gap between the gums and the denture. You should see your dentist and have him or her adjust your dentures with a soft lining material to fill up the space. This might have to be repeated every three to six weeks until you are completely healed, after which final adjustments can be made. Before using denture adhesive, you should wait until the areas where the teeth were removed heal: usually about seven to ten days. It will be more comfortable for you to apply denture adhesive once the gum tissue has grown over the extraction sites. However, a very small amount of denture adhesive may be used on the part of the denture that touches the roof of your mouth if needed immediately after the teeth are removed. To learn how to properly apply denture adhesive, visit the American College of Prosthodontists online at www.gotoapro.org.

Response provided by the American College of Prosthodontists.

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I have been toying with wearing my full upper and partial lower dentures for more than six months. I keep going back for adjustments, but I still can’t wear them. They feel too big and gag me almost immediately. Why do my dentures still cause gagging?

Answer: Gagging results from the dentures being over extended into sensitive areas around the back sides of the tongue or throat (for the lower denture), or too far onto the soft tissue on the roof of your mouth (for the upper denture). Work with your dentist to have the dentures shortened near these areas until the dentures are comfortable. Keep in mind that some people are severe gaggers, and that the use of dental implants (titanium screws placed into the jaw bones) may be the only solution for making the dentures small enough (or replacing them with fixed bridges) to resolve the gagging. If [your] dentist is unable to help adjust the dentures, you should seek the care of a prosthodontist, a dentist with three years of additional training beyond dental school in the care and maintenance of dentures, including the use of dental implants. To find a prosthodontist near you, visit www.gotoapro.org.

Response provided by the American College of Prosthodontists.

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I just got my full set of dentures, but my problem is that my upper teeth look and feel like I have buck teeth. I never had this issue with my real teeth. I told the dentist this when he first put my teeth in, and he said they looked fine. But they feel like they don’t fit all the way and are just too big. What, if anything, can I do since the dentist won’t listen to me?

Answer: Whenever someone loses all of his or her teeth, the jaw bones immediately begin to shrink and continue to change throughout the years. The changing bone affects the fit of the dentures and the appearance of your face. As the years pass, it becomes more difficult to make dentures that fully support your lips and restore the youthful contours of your face. If you are unhappy with the appearance of your new dentures, you should discuss your concerns with the dentist who made them. The laboratory technician follows the dentist’s instructions, so the first step is talking to the dentist. You might bring your old dentures with you so the dentist can compare the difference in your appearance with the new dentures to that with the old ones. You might consider seeking the care of a prosthodontist, who is a dental specialist with three years of additional education after dental school, and who is trained to serve patients with a combination of needs including dentures. To find a prosthodontist near you, visit www.gotoapro.org.

Response provided by the American College of Prosthodontists.

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I have five upper standard implants and decided the best thing to do is get dentures, either the screw-in type or the ball type. I would prefer the screw-in type, but would like to be able to take them out myself for daily cleaning. Seems simple to me—a horseshoe-type denture, screw in and screw out. I’m not interested in looking great, just fit and function. What’s so difficult about that?

Answer: There are several types of attachments that you could consider. And you should think about factors such as removability, cost, amount of bone resorption, lip support, etc. The five individual ball attachments would certainly be the least expensive and would allow the denture to have a horseshoe shape. They would also provide sufficient upper lip support. The screw retained is considered removable ONLY by the dentist. The advantage is that it stays fixed unless removed by the dentist. The disadvantages are cost and the inability to provide lip support in cases where there is significant bone loss. In other words, the overhang of the denture must be reduced in order for the patient to clean under the denture since it remains fixed in the patient’s mouth. There are other systems that provide the feeling of a fixed denture but can be removed by the patient. This requires a rather sophisticated design and is usually retained with a latch that the patient can unhook to remove the denture. You should consider discussing these options with a prosthodontist since he or she may be familiar with these more sophisticated attachments. To find a prosthodontist near you, visit www.gotoapro.org.

Response provided by the American College of Prosthodontists.

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