Dentures can provide a longer lasting smile for many seniors, as well as contribute to a greater sense of confidence for many people. Yet, wearing them also takes getting used to, particularly the care of dentures.
As the older adult in your life starts to use dentures, remind them they will have to adjust to many things. Gums may feel sore, it takes practice to get used to speaking, and chewing will feel different for a while.
Another important change is the care routine required. Proper care can help maintain a pearly smile and good oral hygiene; however, missteps can lead to warped dentures or even fungal infections. To help your loved one preserve the health and hygiene of their dentures, follow these easy steps:
1. Clean dentures daily
Teeth require daily care and so do dentures! To keep dentures or gums from building up bacteria, it’s important to brush dentures with a nonabrasive cleanser and take care to remove any food particles that may become stuck inside.
Brush dentures with a soft-bristle toothbrush before soaking. Only use a denture cleanser outside the mouth, and be sure to rinse any remaining cleanser off with water before reinserting. Many types of denture cleansers are available, including pastes, tablets, solutions and gels, but avoid anything abrasive, as this can cause costly damage to new dentures.
2. Soak dentures in water when not in use and at night
Part of maintaining good denture care is making sure to take them out regularly. It’s important to let gums rest and to remove dentures for at least six to eight hours each night, according to the American Dental Association. Dentures should not be worn for 24 continuous hours or more.
Whenever not being worn, dentures should be soaked in water, which helps them retain their shape and stops them from drying out. Never place dentures in boiling or hot water, which can cause them to warp or lose the proper fitting, and always rinse dentures with fresh water first before reinserting them after their nightly soak.
3. Visit the dentist regularly
Even with the best denture care, it’s important to keep up with biannual visits to the dentist, who can professionally clean dentures and check to make sure there isn’t a buildup of biofilm on dentures over time.
Biofilm accumulation on dentures can result in oral diseases such as denture stomatitis, a common oral infection among denture wearers. These diseases could even result in respiratory pathogens, especially in elderly patients.
4. Use adhesives carefully
Adhesives can help prevent food from accumulating between gums and dentures and make them feel more stable. However, an adhesive isn’t a stand-in for proper denture fit. The American College of Prosthodontists recommends using only small amounts of adhesives—about three to four pea-sized dollops. If your loved one is tempted to use more adhesive than advised, it may be a sign to see a dentist to examine the fit and function of dentures. Sometimes gums can change over time and therefore change the fit of the denture.
Be sure to completely clean all adhesive after a denture is removed at night when brushing gums. In addition, avoid zinc-based adhesives, which can have adverse effects.
5. Stay hydrated
Sometimes wearing dentures can lead to dry mouth and also a lack of saliva, which is important for oral hygiene and preventing bacteria buildup. Help the mouth stay moist by drinking plenty of water when wearing dentures. This can also help prevent bad breath and food accumulation. If dry mouth persists, be sure to talk to a dentist.
6. Keep up oral health
Dentures aren’t the only things that need brushing. Prevent fungal infections in the mouth by brushing gums, cheeks and tongue as part of a care routine. It’s best to use a soft-bristle brush. Keeping up with gum brushing can help avoid irritation and bad breath from denture use.
7. Avoid certain foods
Certain foods – especially sticky and hard candies – are harder to clean off dentures, and caramel, toffee and certain candies may become lodged in dentures or loosen the fit. It’s best to simply avoid these foods to help maintain overall care.
Similarly, your loved one should be careful drinking hot teas and coffees, as these hot liquids can cause unintended damage to a denture.
Consult the denture professionals
Denture care is about maintaining proper hygiene and avoiding damage to the denture. Comfort and confidence come from cleaning the denture, allowing the gums time to rest and being diligent about food removal. If dentures ever create discomfort or feel ill-fitting, it’s best to seek out a dentist.