Removable dentures, or traditional “false teeth”, may be either complete dentures (where all the teeth in the upper &/or lower jaw are missing) or partial dentures (where some natural teeth remain in the jaw, with the denture(s) usually attaching around some natural teeth with clasps or retainer).
First rule of dentures is that they should not generally be worn 24 hours a day, typically the denture(s) should be left out at night, to allow the gums to recover from any potential pressure concentration, but particularly to allow better circulation of saliva around the teeth and gums. The stagnation that occurs under dentures, due to limiting the free circulation of saliva (and other liquids) around teeth and gums, can affect the gums exacerbating a tendency to gum disease, or can accelerate tooth decay, if already particularly prone to either disease; or a condition called denture stomatitis can develop (see below).
Exceptions to this rule may occur if there are certain circumstances that your dentist may specifically advise about, but “if in doubt, leave it out”.
(Partial) dentures must always be removed for cleaning of the natural teeth.
Dentures should only need cleaning with handsoap, and a toothbrush or specific denture brush; toothpaste is generally not recommended.
When the dentures are first made the polished surfaces will be readily cleansable with soap alone. Toothpaste contains an abrasive which is fine for the ultrahard enamel of natural teeth, but will scour the surface of the much softer acrylic (plastic), removing the glossy finish and leaving a much more dull surface, which will subsequently tend to retain more plaque and stain.
Denture soakers such as Steradent or Polident can be useful, soaking the denture overnight after brushing, perhaps once a week if required. The enzymes will help to remove the soft organic deposits which your brushing should have removed most of anyway. But just like your own teeth, dentures will tend to acquire a mineral build-up: tartar (or “calculus”) over time, and this is not removable with brushing. Rather than scraping and chipping the build-up off the dentures (which again wouldn’t harm the hard enamel of natural teeth but will scratch the plastic of a denture) it can be dissolved off using a commercial soaker as above (which typically contains citric acid), or using vinegar (or even perhaps lemon juice).
A word of caution: the metal (Cobalt Chromium alloy – it’s not “stainless steel”) of the base of some partial dentures may slightly corrode when used with these commercial soakers due to the oxidising action, and is usually best avoided for them.
If the partial denture is mostly plastic with just some small wire clasps – then they usually are stainless steel and can be soaked without concern.
While leaving the dentures out (overnight) it is usual practice to leave them in water (the typical dentures in a glass of water beside the bed). The reason for this is primarily two-fold:
- The plastic which dentures are made from (poly methyl methacrylate, or “acrylic”) slightly shrinks when it dries out (1-2% linear shrinkage), although it will recover (or swell) again when it has been soaked in moisture again. To prevent this small shrinkage overnight and having a slightly tight feeling denture until it “swells” back to size dentures kept moist will be “ready to go” in the morning.
- If the plaque or debris is not completely cleaned from the denture before it dries out, then the debris can become very hardened and even more difficult to remove at a later time.
With metal base (partial) dentures the small areas of plastic are less noticeably changed by drying out, so it may not always be as necessary to keep them wet overnight (although there is no harm in doing so) provided they are cleaned very well before leaving them out “dry”.
Denture adhesives to improve stability of dentures
I do not generally find a need for denture adhesives – be it powder, gel or sheets/pads etc. If a denture is not secure and retentive, it is usually a sign that the denture doesn’t fit as well as it should, and consideration should be given to getting the “fit” and the “bite” right as these are the most usual culprits. Sometimes the gums (or teeth for a partial denture) may not be a favourable texture or shape to ideally support/secure the denture(s), and it may be best to modify the foundation that the denture sits on. It is best to consult the dentist to correct these factors if possible and eliminate the need for adhesives in most cases.
In some cases even correcting the above, plus using denture adhesives may not provide enough “grip”, and implants could be considered to give the most certain security to your denture.
This is a fungal infection which is a form of thrush. This is when the fungal organism “Candida Albicans” (often present harmlessly in the mouth) grows out of control. Thrush usually occurs in people whose immune system is compromised eg very young, very old, illness affecting immune system, or when certain antibiotics change the circumstances in the mouth. But this particular type of “thrush” is very localised – only affecting the area where the denture rests on a larger area of the gum undisturbed for long periods.
To treat the infection the following can be of use:
- Leave the denture(s) out as much as possible. Always leave out when sleeping unless advised otherwise. If possible leave out at other times when it is practicable eg home alone.
- Brush gently over affected gums with soft toothbrush (same as used for teeth, or possibly get a baby’s ultrasoft toothbrush if desired)
- Focus on cleaning undersurface of denture where it contacts affected gums – use a stiffer brush – denture brush or “hard” toothbrush.
- Use of an antifungal preparation can be useful initially. This can be obtained from your chemist. A cream/ointment eg Daktarin is usually preferable and should be applied either directly to the gum (after drying), or most easily to undersurface of denture when it is to be worn (again, after drying denture surface).
- If full dentures only (all plastic) are worn it can be useful to soak (overnight) in an antibacterial solution such as “Milton Solution”.
- If partial dentures (with metal frame) are worn, then it may be useful to soak (overnight) in an antiseptic solution such as Listerine (avoiding Milton Solution as it may oxidise the metal frame).