Wearing a denture can be one of the most challenging things that a person can face in their lifetime. It has a powerful impact on their quality of life and on how they perceive themselves. As we care for the older generations of our families, it is important to remember that their oral health needs still need to be met. It is important that the dentures your loved one is wearing fits properly and is still functioning properly. In general a full denture or a partial denture will last 3-6 years. They are often worn much longer than they should be because it is expensive to get a new one and it is a hassle to go to the dentist. The unfortunate thing about this line of thinking is that it is very short sighted. When a denture or partial begins wearing out, it changes the way a person bites and the way the denture functions. If it is not functioning as it should the result will be destruction of the underlying bone. Once the bone that is required to support the denture is gone, there is no simple way to produce a well fitting denture again. Often when it gets to that point bone grafting surgeries and implants are required to support the denture and provide the needed stability.
How can you tell if a denture needs to be replaced? A patient that is in complete dentures should still be seen by their dentist once a year so the dentist can monitor the wear of the denture. Some signs that you can look for at home are:
- Copious use of denture adhesive
- clicking of the dentures when the person talks
- after speaking 2-3 sentences the person swallows to reseat the upper denture which has fallen due to speaking.
- removing the denture to eat
- over closure of the mouth causing deep creases at the corners of the lips.
- visually inspect the denture, if the teeth are worn, or smooth or you can see the pink acrylic showing through the teeth on the biting surface it is well past the point of needing to be replaced.
Dentures require special care. They must be removed from the mouth everyday for several hours. It is recommended that they are removed while the person sleeps. They must always be kept wet or the acrylic will distort. They can be placed in a container with a denture cleaning solution overnight although the solution is not required. They can also be soaked in plain water or water with a small amount of clear mouthwash. They should be brushed when they are removed from the mouth on all surfaces with a soft bristled brush and denture toothpaste. An alternative to denture toothpaste is hand soap. Do not use regular toothpaste. It is far too abrasive for the acrylic and will scratch it causing it to absorb odors. The dentures should always be handled over a towel or a sink full of water, in case they are dropped this will keep them from breaking. It is important to always keep dentures away from dogs, for some reason they are the ultimate chew toy! The inside of the mouth also needs to be cleaned when the dentures are removed. This can be done with a soft brush or a washcloth with either tooth paste or mouthwash. This will help prevent infections of the soft tissue.