Removable dentures need tender loving care just like your natural teeth do. But there are distinct differences between the two. Take the time to understand what’s involved in caring for dentures in order to extend their longevity and maintain the health of gums and any remaining teeth.
Full dentures replace an entire set of upper or lower teeth. Partial dentures attach to remaining teeth, which can weaken those teeth over time. The partial appliances allow for bacterial plaque to collect on the supporting teeth, making them more vulnerable to tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. There is mounting evidence linking periodontal disease to chronic illness elsewhere in the body such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The cause-and-effect relationship is uncertain, but a related chronic disease is all the more reason to be vigilant about your oral hygiene when you wear partial dentures.
Tools & Techniques
Try liquid dish detergent or hand soap. Pastes and cleansers made for dentures are fine to use, but they can be expensive. Ordinary household soaps are mild and do a first-rate cleaning job, particularly ones containing an antibacterial agent. Apply a little bit on a soft brush and rinse your dentures well with warm (not hot) water after brushing them.
Use a soft brush. A soft toothbrush or nailbrush is ideal for cleaning dentures. You can also use a brush especially made for cleaning dentures, which is slightly bigger than a regular toothbrush and has two different brush heads. This type of brush is inexpensive and available in most drug stores.
Don’t use toothpaste. Toothpaste is mildly abrasive, containing grainy particles to help scrub away bacterial plaque and food debris from your teeth. Dentures, which are made of much softer materials than tooth enamel, can be damaged by cleansers that are too abrasive. Micro-scratches in the denture material can provide hiding places for bacteria, which can cause unpleasant odors and discoloration and contribute to disease.
Line the sink basin with a towel while cleaning dentures. Parts can break if you drop your denture in a porcelain sink. A strategically placed towel can cushion a fall and keep your appliance intact.
Other Helpful Hints
Try an ultrasonic cleaner. Studies indicate that an ultrasonic cleaner may be the most effective way of cleaning dentures. A small, countertop device sold in many housewares stores, an ultrasonic cleaner costs about $45 to $60 and cleans even in crevices where a brush can’t reach by emitting high-frequency sound vibrations.
Remove dentures overnight. Dentures are not meant for around-the-clock wear. Removing them can help your saliva do a better job of cleansing and sanitizing your mouth. Prolonged denture wear is associated with increased loss of jaw bone supporting your denture, tooth loosening, and risk of oral infection. Early signs of infection may include persistent mouth odors, a white bacterial film on the part of the appliance that contacts the palate (roof) of your mouth, or redness and inflammation of your palate. If you experience any of these, contact your dentist promptly.
What Not to Do
Don’t leave dentures in accessible locations. Pets are notorious for crunching on removable oral devices, especially odiferous ones that haven’t been cleaned regularly. Curious toddlers will put anything in their mouths. And a dental appliance that falls on the floor is at risk of being stepped on. Your dentures are an investment; when they’re not in your mouth or soaking overnight in water or a cleaning solution, store them safely according to your dentist’s instructions.
Avoid excessive heat. Boiling water can kill bacteria, but heat can also destroy your dentures by distorting the plastic. Room-temperature water will do just fine.
Don’t use bleach. Bleach can kill bacteria, too, but it doesn’t belong in your mouth. Furthermore, it can break down the component materials in your dentures, whiten areas of your appliance that are colored to look like real gum tissue, and leave an overpowering odor.
Don’t forget oral hygiene. Cleaning your dentures and cleaning your mouth are entirely different yet equally important tasks. Even if you don’t have any natural teeth left, you can still benefit from lightly brushing your tongue and/or gum ridges and using a breath freshener.