By Lindsey James
People are often surprised to learn that Keegan wears an upper denture, and I’m fairly certain no one has ever noticed that he has no lower teeth. He is able to speak clearly and doesn’t have much trouble with pronunciation of words. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. It took plenty of encouragement and persistence to get him used to wearing his denture . . .
After months of practicing with mashed potatoes, “Denture Day” had finally arrived – August 24, 2011! There really isn’t much of a story to be told. The appointment was very short. Dr. Stanford and his team were ready, as was Keegan. He sat patiently in the chair and let them get to work. In just a few minutes, they had a perfect little impression of the upper half of Keegan’s mouth. He fussed a little bit while the impression tray was being held in place, but it seemed all our practice had paid off. In less than an hour, we were on our way home – Easy peasy.
(At the time of Keegan’s first fitting, Dr. Stanford felt his mandibular (lower) arch was too small to be successfully fitted for a denture. We opted to wait and focus on getting Keegan adjusted to wearing his upper.)
I recently asked Keegan what he remembered about that day. Surprisingly, he remembers being excited to eat ham and was disappointed that he had to wait to get his actual denture. He apparently thought we were going to come home with it that same day. (Oops – guess I forgot to explain that part)
Keegan FINALLY received his denture a few weeks later – at the age of 3½.
At first, he was very enthusiastic about wearing it, but quickly decided he didn’t like it too much. I’m sure it felt incredibly awkward. Per Dr. Stanford’s direction, we designated 15 minutes each day for Keegan to wear his denture. While I made supper, Keegan wore his denture. I would try to “distract” him with some task like setting the table or working on a puzzle. It took a week or two for him to actually keep his teeth in for the entire 15 minutes. I tried making a game of it, challenging him to wear them until the timer I had set went off. As soon as the time was up, he was taking them out – which was quite easy for him to do since I didn’t start using adhesive right away – but little by little he started getting more comfortable with his new teeth.
After about a month, he was wearing them for 30 minutes each day. On weekends, I would apply adhesive and let him wear them as long as he would tolerate them. We quickly learned that not all denture adhesives are created equal. In our house, Fixodent beat out the competition. I don’t know why, but Keegan prefers Fixodent and his tolerance increased drastically after we made the switch. (We also apply a dab of Biotene Oral Balance Gel to help keep his mouth from drying out.) Within 3 months, he was wearing his denture all day, every day.
The longer he wore his denture, the more opportunity there was to start introducing new foods. Albeit, there were (and still are) plenty of limitations. However, that has never stopped him from wanting to try new foods.
I remember him coming to me a short time after getting his denture, with a large carrot and asking if I knew where his teeth were because he really wanted to try eating a “real carrot.” Unfortunately, he is still forbidden from having raw carrots, but he loves them cooked!
Today, he’s able to eat a surprising variety of foods – including ham. Meatloaf, mustard chicken, and sushi are among his favorites. He’s definitely a little foodie. Some things still have to be cut quite small; occasionally we have to remind him to take smaller bites, and some things are just easier for him to eat without his teeth. But for the most part he knows his limits and seems to have his own method for “testing” whether or not something is too hard.
It’s been 3 years since he started wearing his “training denture.” Since then, he has had a second tooth come in (September 2012) and we just recently discovered a third poking through (November 2014) on top as well. His denture has been adjusted numerous times to accommodate his growth and his new teeth. We’ve been very fortunate that he hasn’t had any trouble with sore spots or lesions, nor have we had to dig through any garbage cans in search of his denture (though I have had to wrestle it out of the mouth of a large dog… perhaps a story for another time).
In the next few months, we’ll start the process all over again as Keegan is fitted for a new upper and begins a new adventure with his very first lower. He’s more than ready and I’m excited to see him embrace this challenge and conquer it.
Perhaps we’ll even celebrate with steak!