Why Does Food Seem To Have Less Flavor With Dentures?
With dentures, food seems to have less flavor. The Flavor of food is influenced by three things: Smell, Taste, and Mouthfeel. If any of those three things are inhibited, food seems to have less flavor, and eating becomes less enjoyable. Dentures can lead to a decrease in the perception of two of those: Taste and Mouthfeel.
1. Dentures Can Reduce Taste Perception
Taste is one of our five main senses. The main purpose of taste is to communicate to our brain what foods are safe and beneficial to eat and which foods we should stay away from (that’s what my brain tells me about Kale). Chemicals in the things we eat react with taste receptors located in taste buds, this then sends a nerve response through our central nervous system to our brain, which interprets these signals as taste.
Most taste receptors are located on the taste buds of our tongue. The roof of our mouth and our throat also contain taste buds. There is some conflict within the field as to how much dentures really affect taste perception and what is related to age and other factors (like loss of smell). What we do know is that those who have complete upper dentures have the roof of their mouth covered, blocking food chemicals from interacting with the taste receptors on the palate.
2. Dentures Can Reduce Mouthfeel
The term “Mouthfeel” is defined as the physical sensation in our mouth produced by food. Mouthfeel is extremely complex, with dozens of distinct qualities. Examples are moisture, weight, density, hardness, smoothness, crunchiness, etc. We experience these qualities when our teeth bite into food, as the food passes over our tongue, as our tongue presses food against the roof of our mouth, and as we swallow food.
Teeth are an important part of mouthfeel. Teeth are attached to neurons called proprioceptors, special nerves that allow us to sense the position of our body in space. Dentures have no such nerves, it is hard to tell where denture teeth are located when chewing. This not only makes it difficult to chew food adequately, but it also makes it less satisfying to bite into something crunchy, or to feel a grape “pop” when you bite into it. In addition to this, when denture acrylic is covering your gums and the roof of your mouth, it becomes more difficult to sense if a food is smooth, coarse, its moisture content, or to some extent, its temperature. This can take some of the fun out of eating, making it more of a chore, a monotonous task that we do because we have to, not because we want to.
How Can I Get Food To Taste Better With Dentures?
There are many different approaches to make food taste better with dentures. The main answer you’ll find online is to just get dental implants, which is a great option if you have $60,000 lying around. If that is not an option for you, then here are two easy and affordable pieces of advice on how to make food taste better with dentures:
1. Having A Wide Variety Of Foods Will Improve The Flavor Of Food With Dentures
- Better variety of foods will naturally have an increase in the number of different tastes present. Easy To Chew Recipes are chosen for a reason, they display contrasts in sweet, sour, and salty to make more complex flavor profiles.
- Texture contrast improves flavor as well, there is a reason that mashed potatoes taste better with gravy, or why pudding tastes better with whipped cream 1. Toppings don’t just add flavor, they add multiple textures which makes food more appealing and more interesting.
- I personally think that contrasting warm and cold ingredients make food taste better and makes them more interesting, especially in the absence of teeth. I call it the “Ice Cream Over Hot Brownie” effect.
2. Taking Occasional Breaks From Your Denture Can Help Increase The Perception of Mouthfeel
The easiest solution to increase mouthfeel is to take occasional breaks from your dentures. I’m not saying to always eat without them, just sometimes and just for certain foods.
DISCLAIMER: If you are new to dentures, there will be a temptation once you take them out to leave them out. Don’t give up, keep wearing them. The more you wear them and eat with them, the more they will feel like they are a part of you. Make sure you have a dentist that you see regularly, they can help adjust the denture and make it easier and more comfortable to wear.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now…..Occasional breaks from your denture will allow you to experience more mouthfeel for certain dishes. Granted, this will only be applicable for certain types of food that require minimal to no chewing. Easy To Chew Level 1 or 2 Recipes are great for this. Going denture free for the occasional meal will give you opportunities to really appreciate the texture and taste of dishes that you otherwise could miss out on.
Essential Kitchen Appliances To Have With Dentures
A crock pot is a simple way to prepare meals in advance. Cooking foods, especially meats, at controlled temperatures for long periods of time makes them easy to chew and delicious!
There is no finer way to puree foods than a Vitamix Blender. It can turn any food into a single, smooth texture which is easy to swallow.
A food processor is a must have for finely chopping, slicing, and pureeing foods. It does all the work for you, which is especially helpful if your age or health status limits your ability to chop and slice foods by hand.