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The Medicare Diet: Foods to Avoid With Dentures

Posted on January 12, 2023 by Austin Lang

Adjusting to a new pair of dentures really bites.

Your mouth is sore, you’re dying for a snack, but you’ve got this list of foods to avoid with new dentures that seems hell-bent on denying you all your favorite comfort foods. No steak? No popcorn? Not even a cup of coffee?!  What are your taste buds to do? You always suspected your dentist was a sadist, and this just proves it. What are you to do?

Well, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s a very good reason why your dentist is so picky about what you can eat, especially right after you’ve received your full or partial dentures. Like any prosthetic, it takes time to adjust to a new set of teeth. You need to relearn how to talk, how to chew, and how to handle day-to-day life with this new, foreign device in your mouth. Before you reach for those hard foods and mixed nuts, chew on this guide to denture-safe foods.

Eating with Dentures: The Agony of the Teeth

Let’s start with the basics: there are many reasons why you might lose some or all of your teeth, but the common factor in most of them is your gums. Whether from periodontal disease, trauma, or some other condition, your gums are not having a good time when you lose your natural teeth. Add dentures into the mix, and those already stressed out gingiva can experience serious complications. This is especially true if you’ve opted for immediate dentures, as you’re still recovering from the initial extraction. Here’s what to look out for when you first become a denture wearer.

  • Soreness/Discomfort: It takes time to get used to a new set of dentures, whether they’re partial or complete. Your dentist may recommend you wear your dentures overnight for the first few days, both to identify any flaws in the fit and to train your jaw muscles to function with the new appliance. Trying to eat foods your jaw isn’t ready for can mess with your fit and cause unnecessary pain. 
  • Ulceration: Much like an ill-fitting shoe can lead to blisters, ill-fitting dentures can lead to sore spots like ulcers and lesions on the gums. Some hard foods with small pieces, like nuts and popcorn, are prone to slipping beneath the dentures, irritating your gums even further. 
  • Stomatitis: In extreme cases, the gumline can become inflamed due to a fungal infection. Denture-related trauma and poor denture hygiene can increase the risk of stomatitis.

While Medicare Advantage plans do cover dentures, and the treatment of these complications, an inappropriate diet can result in damage to your false teeth, or the need for a refit. Those are not cheap, so it’s best to heed your dentist’s advice. 

On the Way to a Smile: What are Denture-Friendly Foods?

An older woman playfully holding her dentures in each hand.

Your dentist will recommend a phased approach when it comes to eating with full dentures or a partial denture, with more foods becoming available as you adapt to your new prosthesis. 

Stage 1: The Soft Food Diet

Pureed potato soup.

It’s a bad idea to break in the new chompers with a juicy steak, no matter how tempting it may be. At this stage, your body is still getting used to the sensation of having false teeth, and you may need to seek out further adjustments. Of course, this doesn’t mean sticking to just applesauce: many soups, baked goods, hummus, and pasta dishes are acceptable. Just avoid anything sticky, crunchy, or chewy. If you’re dealing with ulceration or still healing from extraction, try to avoid spicy and sour foods as well.

Try some of these dishes out to add some variety to your menu.

Gearing Up For Stage 2: Raising the Bar on Soft Foods

A slow cooker full of beef strew

At this stage, you might want to invest in inexpensive cooking tools to help make your dietary transition more palatable. One is a basic immersion blender. These handheld devices allow you to puree things directly in the pot, and often double as simple food processors. They’re not ideal for traditional blending jobs, such as making smoothies, but they’re perfect for soups and stews. If you’re considering adding smoothies to your diet, be sure to pick up a countertop blender as well.

The next tool you’ll want to consider is a slow cooker. These devices are designed to cook food “low and slow” over an extended period of time, with minimal interaction from the cook. This is perfect for meat, as cooking for extended periods provides more time for the tough, chewy proteins to break down to a more melt-in-your-mouth consistency. You can find slow cookers, along with immersion blenders, at most grocery stores. If you own an electric pressure cooker, it likely also has a slow cooker functionality. 

If you’re feeling adventurous and have the cash to spend, you can also use a sous vide circulator. Sous vide (French for ‘under vacuum’) is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in a plastic bag (ideally vacuum sealed) and immersed in a temperature-controlled bath. The water ensures the food reaches a perfect temperature without overcooking, and the bag keeps your meal from becoming waterlogged.  

There are many vacuum sealers available specifically for sous vide, but you can get effective results with a zipper bag. Just place the food in the bag, and begin putting it in the water bath, keeping the top above the water. The pressure of the water will force air out of the bag. Once you’re satisfied, seal the bag and clip it to the side of the water bath. You might need to put a fork into the bag to ensure it stays submerged. 

Sous vide is a bit different from the other recommendations here, as it’s not specifically for making food softer. However, it offers a unique advantage when it comes to cooking meats like steak: we can deliberately leave them in the bath ‘too long’. 

Ordinarily, this is a bad thing, as it causes the food to become soft and shreddable. However, soft is exactly what we want here. Leave a steak in the bath overnight, sear it, and shred it to create ‘pulled steak’. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly juicy, and at just the right temperature. The texture will be a bit odd, but we have to make compromises for our health sometimes, right? 

Stage 3: Solid Food Crunch Time (...in Moderation)

Mixed nuts with a crossed circle (NO) symbol over them.

After a few weeks, you should be ready to return to a mostly normal diet. However, even if you have the most powerful denture adhesive in the world, your dental implants aren’t as good as natural teeth. For your day-to-day diet, you should focus on foods that don’t require an excessive amount of chewing.

Avoid things like tough meats, sticky foods like candies, raw vegetables, and nuts. That’s not to say you can never have those things: just be prepared for a potential dental malfunction. Your dentist will have more detailed instructions on denture-friendly foods. 

So what can you eat with dentures? Just about everything else, really, including some hard foods: burgers, tacos, sushi, pasta, curry, cake, ice cream, ice cream cake… As long as it fits into a healthy diet and isn’t too disruptive to your full or partial dentures, you should be fine. However, there are still some considerations to keep in mind.

Dentures being cleaned by a double sided toothbrush in a sink.
  • Check the Temp: Dentures aren’t made of flesh, so you can’t necessarily feel when the food you’re eating is too hot. To avoid turning hot pot night into a tragedy, test the food against your lips first.
  • Don’t Swish: If you have a lower denture, you should avoid holding liquids in your mouth. They can dissolve the adhesive and cause your full or partial dentures to loosen.
  • Brush ‘em: Dentures are something you put in your mouth all the time. If you want to avoid stomatitis, you’ll need to keep them clean, and those fizzy tablets won’t cut it alone. 

Rinse your dentures under cool water after using them, and then brush them with a soft toothbrush. Do not use toothpaste, as it contains abrasive particles that are great for removing plaque and tartar, but will only wear away your false teeth. If your full dentures, partial dentures, or dental implants are yellowing, clean them with hydrogen peroxide. 

Make sure the dentures are not in your mouth while cleaning them: not only are many denture cleaning products harmful when swallowed, but you’ll need to be especially sure to clean the areas where the denture rests against the gumline, removing all adhesives. Soak your dentures in room temperature water overnight (with one of those fizzy tablets, if you like), and then rinse them before reinserting them.

If you’re looking for a new set of teeth, we can help. Our licensed insurance agents can help you find dental coverage that fits your unique needs. Call us at (800) 950-0608, or enter your zip code to begin your search today!

About the Author

Austin Lang

Austin is dedicated to breaking down complex topics, like Medicare, in a way that's easy to understand. He graduated with an M.A. from Florida Atlantic University in 2018.

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