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Uncle Joe’s New Teeth

The holidays are a time of family, food and fun.  You may have the chance to see family members for the first time since last year.  Uncle Joe may have gotten some new teeth.  Here’s what to do and what not to do when you notice a family member is sporting a new smile.

What Not to Do

Many people agree that holidays with family can be difficult.  Sometimes there are conflicts, disagreements, or snide comments over politics or religion or Aunt Sara’s second husband (thank goodness, he’s gone).  Let’s not add to the awkwardness by making someone uncomfortable about his or her new look.

1. Don’t say, “Hey, you got new teeth!” in front of everyone.

The fact is that many other people may not have noticed anything unusual.  By making a comment like this in front of everyone, you are putting Uncle Joe in the center of attention and pointing everyone else to his teeth.  Most people are self-conscious about new dental work, even if the results are beautiful.  A drastic change in appearance makes even the most confident person a little sheepish and uncertain.

2.  Don’t assume your family member had really nasty teeth before this dental work.

We hear this assumption all the time.  Most people think that the only reason people would have their natural teeth pulled and choose dentures is that their natural teeth were in hopeless condition.  This is simply not true.

Many people succumb to the false notion that if they have “false teeth”, they will never have to go to the dentist again, never need to worry about their teeth, and never have to spend money on dental care for the rest of their lives.  More people choose dentures for financial reasons than any other reason.

Others suffer from severe dental phobias and will do anything to prevent the need to go to the dentist.

It is important for you, as a family member, to consider that there are many different reasons people choose dentures as a treatment option.  It is not right to assume that they just did not take care of their teeth.

3. Don’t stare.

This one applies to any drastic appearance change.  Staring is just rude.  It is not your job to “figure out” what Uncle Joe did to his teeth.  It costs zero dollars to worry about yourself.

4. Don’t ask why they are not eating their formerly favorite Thanksgiving side dishes.

When someone has new teeth, whether traditional dentures or something supported by implants, they must go through a significant adjustment period.  They literally have to re-learn to chew their food.

Certain types of food are difficult for new teeth.  Starchy foods like bread and mashed potatoes become very sticky and can dislodge dentures.  Meats are difficult to chew adequately, so choking is a risk.

5. And don’t EVER ask them to take out their new teeth for you to see!

Surely, this one is a no-brainer.  But just in case you needed to hear it: do NOT ask anyone to remove dental work.  Ever.  No one asked to inspect your hernia, Uncle Jeff.

What to Do

Sometimes it can feel more awkward to not say anything to Uncle Joe, so here are a few kind and considerate suggestions.

1. Instead of mentioning the teeth, simply say, “You look really nice, Uncle Joe!”

It is not a compliment to tell them you like their new teeth.  That means they stood out enough for you to notice them.  People always want any appearance change to look natural.  Rather than commenting on the exact change, just give them a general compliment.

2. Only ask questions out of concern, not curiosity.

If you would like to help Uncle Joe navigate through the giant pile of side dishes on the table, privately ask him if he has any new dietary restrictions.  If you’re just curious, mind your own business.

3. Consider that they may not be ready to smile for photos.

When taking family photos, be considerate that they may not be ready to show off the new smile.  Instead of forcing them into a photo opportunity, ask if it’s okay to take their picture.  Allow them to give you a slight or closed-mouth smile without comment.

4. Have plenty of water available.

If the dental work was very recent, Uncle Joe may need to avoid alcohol or carbonated beverages.  Make sure there is bottled or tap water available.  You might even set a few plastic cups in your bathroom so he can rinse his mouth in private after eating.  New dental work might collect food under the edges, and he could need to take the prosthetic out for cleaning after the meal.

5. Be thankful for your teeth.

If you are in a position where you do not have to make such a drastic decision regarding your teeth, be thankful.  As with most things, when it comes to teeth, most people don’t know what they’ve got ‘til it’s gone.  Be grateful that you do not have to worry about these things, and be considerate to those who do.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Team at Designer Smiles!

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, joy, and gratitude.  We are so thankful for YOU!