Dentures make life easier every day. While you may miss your natural teeth, dentures make it possible for you to eat well, improve your appearance, fill gaps where natural teeth are missing and support your facial muscles so you maintain your appearance. Dentures require special care, however, and so does the rest of your mouth. Daily cleaning and regular dental visits are just as important now that you are a denture wearer as they were before you got your dentures.
Each day before you put your dentures in, use a brush with soft bristles to brush your remaining natural teeth, as well as your gums and your tongue. This will remove plaque that builds up overnight that can lead to gum disease. Pay special attention to any teeth that fit underneath the denture's metal clasp, because bacteria trapped between the metal and your tooth can cause tooth decay.
Your dentures also need to be cleaned on a daily basis, after meals, and when you remove them for the night. Cleaning them will remove food particles and plaque, prevent them from becoming stained, and keep them tasting and smelling fresh when you put them in your mouth.
Your dentist will tell you the best kind of brushes and toothpaste or cleaning solutions to keep your dentures clean. Hand soap and mild dishwashing liquid are acceptable for use. Don't use toothpastes that contain abrasive cleaners because they may scratch and weaken the denture.
To clean your denture, rinse off all food particles. Moisten your brush and apply the dental cleaner; gently brush the entire denture, but make sure to hold it securely so the brushing doesn't bend the attachments or damage the surface.
Dentures are durable enough to stand up to chewing and biting, but fragile when they are out of your mouth. Dropping them or throwing them down on a sink or counter can break a tooth or part of the denture base.
When your denture teeth are front teeth, avoid biting down directly on crunchy or hard foods, like hard pretzels, crusty bread, or even oversized sandwiches. They can all cause a denture to break because of the angle where your denture tooth meets the hard surface. Be careful when biting into whole apples with your dentures as well; cut them into wedges instead.
If your denture cracks or breaks, or if your denture tooth is chipped or loose, call the dentist immediately. Dentures can usually be repaired quickly, even the same day, but do not continue to use a damaged denture without letting your dentist see it.
Take your dentures out at night and place them in a container of water or a solution designed to clean dentures while they soak. Dentures that dry out can become brittle and may also change shape.
Ask your dentist for a container that will conceal your dentures while they soak, so your dentures won't sit out in plain view, but make sure that the container is labeled or placed in a safe place, especially if you are visiting someone or have visitors at your home. Never place a denture in boiling water or the microwave oven.
If your denture has metal clasps, ask your dentist whether soaking will tarnish them. If so, your dentist will recommend an alternative method of overnight storage.
Seeing your dentist regularly is still important. Your mouth is always changing, and the dentist will check to make sure your dentures continue to fit properly and will examine them for any sign of damage.
In addition, the dentist will examine your mouth, gums, tongue, and jaw joints for any signs of problems. Some diseases, like diabetes, will actually show symptoms in mouth tissue; your oral health reflects the rest of your health and your dentist is an important member of your health care team.
While dentures are durable, they won't last forever. With many years of use, dentures may lose their natural appearance and become worn, and will not function as well as they did when they were new.
Stains will likely occur over time, and even the fit may become loose or uncomfortable as your mouth changes. Your dentist will be able to advise you on whether changes to your dentures are cosmetic or have an impact on your oral health and hygiene.
by Brian J. Gray, D.D.S., M.A.G.D., F.I.C.O.