Millions of Americans wear dentures to replace missing teeth. A common misconception among denture wearers is that because they no longer have teeth, they no longer have to see a dentist or take care of their mouths. This is a dangerous myth! Unfortunately, this is one reason (along with general lax oral health care practices) for the poor dental health of the elderly who are in assisted living or nursing home situations. People mistakenly assume that if they have no teeth, there is nothing to worry about.
This guide will help you understand what you need to know to keep your mouth (or someone else’s) healthy while wearing dentures.
How to Clean Your Dentures
Denture wearers are very likely to get a fungal infection called Candida or thrush. People who wear dentures often suffer from dry mouth, which means they do not produce enough saliva to maintain the natural harmony between bacteria and fungus in the mouth. The denture base itself can become a place for the fungus to grow if it is not cleaned properly on a regular basis.
In order to clean a denture, you must remove it every night, brush it under running water, and soak it in an approved denture cleaner. Most of these cleaners come in the form of tablets that you can drop into a large cup or bowl of water to allow the dentures to soak overnight. Before placing them back in your mouth in the morning, brush them again under running water.
If you see your denture accumulating dark stains that do not come off when you clean it, make an appointment to see your dentist. We have equipment and solutions geared specifically for cleaning buildup and stains from dentures. Even if your denture is not picking up dark stains, this type of cleaning is recommended every 6 months to 1 year.
How Often to See Your Dentist
Professional denture cleaning is not the only reason you should continue seeing a dentist after you no longer have teeth! All denture wearers should see a dentist on a yearly basis for a VERY important reason: an oral cancer screening!
Oral cancer screenings may literally save your life. Oral cancer is not particularly deadly, but the reason many people die from oral cancer is because it is caught in late stages. Early detection is key to treatment and a good survival rate.
As a denture wearer, put yourself on a yearly recall schedule with your dentist for a professional cleaning of your denture and an oral cancer screening. About once every three to five years, you will have a panoramic x-ray that shows the jaw bones. This allows your dentist to confirm the health of the jaws and screen for any masses, tumors or cysts.
In early 2010, many lawsuits were brought forth against the companies that make denture adhesives because some patients developed health problems from excessive levels of zinc in the blood. Too much zinc, in rare instances, led to neurological problems such as sensory disturbances, limb weakness and difficulty walking. According to the manufacturers, the complications arose from improper use of the adhesives over many years. Zinc is not absorbed directly through the tissues of the mouth; it enters the blood stream after being swallowed. Due to concerns over zinc in denture adhesives, we now recommend that denture wearers use only zinc-free adhesives. A few zinc-free adhesives are listed below:
- Secure Denture Adhesive and Cushion Strips
- Zinc Free Super Poligrip
- Sea-Bond Denture Adhesive Wafers
- Super Poligrip Comfort Seal Strips
How to Address a Loose Denture
Many denture wearers address loose dentures by using denture adhesive. However, dentures are made to be worn without any adhesive at all. In order for this to work, the denture must have an intimate fit against the gums. Over time, as the jawbones and gums shrink, an air space can develop between the denture and the gums. This air space can be filled in by a dental procedure called a reline. A reline requires coordination with a dental lab and about 1-2 days without your denture. The result is a denture that fits snugly and should no longer require the use of adhesive.
If your denture is loose, and you cannot wear it without adhesive, ask us about a reline. And be sure to check out our blog where we address what you can do about loose and ill-fitting dentures.
What to Do with Sore Spots
Because a denture consists of a large piece of acrylic that rests on your gums, there is a great chance you will develop sore spots where the denture rubs against a specific area of your gums. Most sore spots are caused by loosening of the denture.
If you develop a sore spot, call us right away. It is important to address the cause of the sore spot as soon as possible. In the meantime, do not wear the denture as often as possible to remove the friction that is continuing to irritate the sore spot. Do gentle warm salt water rinses four to five times per day. You may want to use an over-the-counter mouthrinse made for mouth ulcers called Peroxyl (made by Colgate). Another great product for sore spots is the dry mouth gel by Biotene. (Dryness is an irritant and will keep sores from healing.)
Important Nutritional Information
Most people alter their diet once they begin wearing dentures. This is because they cannot chew food the way they used to. Meat is particularly difficult to chew with dentures, so many patients simply don’t eat meat. Then they can suffer from a protein deficiency.
It is possible to get all of the proper nutrients while wearing dentures. However, it may take some help from a nutritionist to know exactly how to get those nutrients in the face of a changing diet.
What NOT to Do with Your Dentures
There are a few important things you should NOT do with your dentures.
- Do not wear them 24/7. Your gums need rest from the friction of the denture acrylic, and they need exposure to saliva. Take them out for a few hours every day, preferably overnight.
- Do not attempt to “adjust” them yourself. Fingernail files and shop tools like Dremels should never be used on your denture. Not only are they dirty with the potential to add dirt, debris, and bacteria into your denture acrylic, they typically leave a surface texture that is very rough. This will create sore spots without a doubt.
- Do not use Superglue! If a denture breaks or one of the teeth falls out, it is tempting to try to fix it yourself. Superglue will alter the surface of the acrylic and affect the adhesion of the necessary denture repair materials. A denture that has been superglued must be rebroken, and all the superglue must be drilled away, which makes it very hard to put the two pieces back together.
More Questions about How to Care for Your Dentures?
If you live in Pensacola, give our office a call today to schedule a consultation with Pensacola’s denture experts! We will assess the fit of your denture, address of any areas of concern, and help you plan for long-term care.