Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Health

Denture dos and don'ts

Hernando Today columnist
Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 12:06 AM

While some people consider dentures one of the worst things they can imagine, countless others rely on these simple yet vital appliances to give them a more reasonable quality of life when dentistry has failed.

Tooth loss can occur for an array of reasons and the ability to restore appearance and function with replacements made of acrylic and modern composite materials is essential for millions of Americans.

Many people fight to avoid getting dentures while others are relieved to have an option for prolonged or painful dental problems.

Whatever the cause of tooth loss or the road to dentures, patients all face the same issues in caring for their mouths and dentures for the rest of their lives.

Every working day, I see dentures in terrible condition - poorly fitting, unclean, stained, caked with tartar, slathered with adhesive and broken in every conceivable manner. If I look at it positively, it's a testament to the human body's ability to adapt to almost anything.

On the other hand, these dentures are a patient's lifeline to nutrition, health, appearance and overall quality of life, and I encourage all denture wearers to take care of one of their most prized possessions. Here are a few guidelines to consider:

Wearing

Having dentures in the mouth 24-7 is not recommended. Very few people can handle acrylic in contact with gums constantly. The result usually is (1) inflamed and sore gums, (2) gums which become flabby and loosely attached to the underlying bone, (3) and more rapid shrinkage of the bone over a longer period of time.

Ultimately, the fit of a denture is more determined by the gum and bone than any other factor, so I recommend taking dentures out at night whenever possible.

Cleaning

Use a denture cleaner specifically designed for the purpose. Toothpaste, especially the "whitening formulas" are so abrasive they take the shine off the teeth and cause them to stain more easily. Baking soda, however, even right out of the box is very low in abrasiveness, it's alkaline enough to kill germs, and it's noted for its ability to reduce odors. (Visit our web site www.denturecarectr.com/articles to view or download a list of toothpastes in order of their abrasiveness.)

Bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, is an excellent cleaner and germ-killer, but it must be used cautiously. Do not soak dentures more than 10 minutes in bleach or it will turn the pink parts white over time. Be careful when handling wet dentures in bleach because the liquid makes them much slipperier.

Hydrogen peroxide is also a good germicidal liquid. It is not as powerful as bleach, but it can reduce or remove stains in hard-to-reach places. It is not as slippery as chlorine bleach when wet, and it won't change the color of the pink denture base.

Vinegar can't really hurt the surface of a denture. In addition, it may have some de-scaling properties as it does in my coffee maker. If the taste of vinegar lingers after rinsing, that might be a good reason not to use it regularly.

Ultra-sonic cleaners, the kind often used for cleaning jewelry, are very good for cleaning dentures. Place the cleaning liquid in a zip-lock bag along with the denture, then submerge that into plain water or other jewelry cleaner already in the tank. Activate the mechanism for 20 to 30 minutes, remove denture and use a brush to whisk away any debris loosened by the sonic treatment.

A denture brush is a good adjunct to any other cleaning method listed above, or by itself. Don't rely on effervescent tablets or soaking baths alone to keep dentures in the cleanest condition.

Some people are more prone to tartar accumulation than others. If this was true when you had your original set, it will be the same afterward. Once caked on the denture, tartar can be very difficult to remove. Most every dental office has a powerful ultrasonic cleaning bath and they can clean your dentures for you.

Adhesives

When teeth are missing, the bone that used to hold the roots no longer has that job, so it shrinks in size.

You have probably heard the phrase, "If you don't use it, you lose it," usually referring to your brain or muscles. However, it's true for bone as well. Bone that doesn't perform a function regularly becomes weakened in some way.

When jaw bones shrink in size, gaps develop underneath your denture. That's when denture wearers resort to denture cushions and adhesives.

You may be aware of the 2010 class action suit in which denture adhesive manufacturing companies were held accountable for neurological problems resulting from ingesting more than a tube a week of zinc-containing denture adhesive. After that, the makers of denture adhesives scrambled to reformulate their products and some new ones emerged. I believe it's called a game changer.

Patients now tell me that the new products aren't quite as effective as the old ones. That has also resulted in renewed interest in dental implants.

In short, if you need a lot of denture adhesive, it may mean your dentures no longer fit your gums as accurately as they did on Day One. A reline may help if the denture teeth are not too badly worn.

Breakage

Protect your dentures from dropping on hard tile floors and bathroom sinks. Acrylic can't stand up to that punishment.

When you think of the hundreds of pounds per square inch that dentures successfully withstand, it's amazing they don't break more often. Sometimes teeth become separated from the pink acrylic base. Sometimes denture will crack in two, requiring immediate repair.

People with an upper denture and natural lower teeth can often bite harder than a denture can withstand, often resulting in a crack right down the middle. Chronic tooth breaking or pink acrylic cracking can also be related to an unbalanced bite. If that's coupled with gaps underneath the denture

If the bite is out of alignment, it's possible to balance it again, either with relines to fill in any gaps or to spot-grind the teeth to distribute the forces more evenly. It is also possible to reinforce dentures with a meshwork of some kind, either metal or fiber, embedded in the acrylic.

See Your Dentist

Even if you no longer have teeth, it's still important to visit your dentist every once in a while. Things can still go wrong.

Most commonly, jaw bones change shape and dentures don't fit as well as they once did. Teeth can wear flat, making chewing a lot less efficient. Gums can develop sore spots or more serious problems.

As teeth wear and jawbones shrink, you may be over-closing your jaw in order to chew. This could result in cramping jaw muscles, noises in the jaw joint, a bull-dog bite where the lower teeth protrude too far, or the aesthetic problem of your chin getting ever closer to your nose.

Even though you may be totally without teeth, it's best not to forget your dentist entirely. He or she can improve the fit, clean dentures very effectively, and manage repairs quickly.


Dr Doug Roth has been practicing dentistry for 38 years. His practice, Denture Care Center is located at 18134 Powell Rd. in Brooksville, the building is 5 miles south of downtown Brooksville at US 41 and Powell Road. He can be reached at doug@denturecarectr.com or (352) 848-1050 or online at www.denturecarectr.com.

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