Did you know that by 2020 nearly 40 million US adults will need to wear dentures? Dentures are not just a “getting old thing” and in fact, many people have them due to accidents, injury, or health conditions, including diabetes. Others choose dentures after loss of their natural teeth or when dental care is required to remove weak or damaged teeth.
Whatever the reason for opting for dentures, a common trepidation is that they will look fake, make your speech sound goofy, end your days of eating steak, or even randomly fall out. The good news is that today’s dentures are highly sophisticated prostheses that look nearly identical to real teeth and when placed by an accomplished dentist, they also function the same.
However, the foundation of healthy teeth and a robust oral environment is diligent care. It takes time to get used to wearing dentures; your tongue muscles and teeth have to adjust to the new occupants and mild irritation, soreness, or increase in saliva are all potential outcomes. With full or partial dentures, thorough care goes beyond simply brushing and soaking them. It is also very important to address your gums and entire mouth to ward off irritation and other related issues.
Now that we know the importance of responsible oral care, let’s look at how it can prevent common dental problems.
Common denture and oral problems and solutions
When plaque builds up along and under the gum line, gum disease, known as gingivitis, can take hold. This accumulation of plaque often makes gums tender, likely to bleed, and susceptible to infection. Another unpleasant condition is stomatitis, commonly known as thrush. This is a yeast or fungus that can come to life in people wearing dentures and often leads to infection in the mouth, red areas of gum under the dentures, or soreness around the mouth.
A more severe form of gum disease is periodontitis. This advanced condition must be treated immediately; left unchecked, periodontitis can deteriorate the critical bone and gum structure holding your teeth in place and providing facial strength.
Dry mouth is another concerning oral condition, which occurs when you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. This of course makes it difficult to eat, swallow, taste food, and sometimes even speech is affected. Dry mouth can also lead to tooth decay or other infections. To help assuage this condition, regularly sipping water or eating sugarless hard, tart candy is a proven solution. In severe cases, your dentist may recommend using artificial saliva to ensure your mouth stays wet.
Less common but very severe is oral cancer, which can occur in any part of the mouth or throat. Pain does not typically accompany early stages of this disease and treatment is most effective before it spreads.
Preventing and caring for denture and oral issues
There is an array of simple steps to take to keep oral troubles at bay and maintain a healthy mouth and gums.
- To help remove plaque and stimulate beneficial tissue circulation after removing your dentures for the day, use a soft-bristled brush or gauze to gently brush your gums, tongue, cheeks, and roof of the mouth. This also reduces the risk of irritation and keeps your breath fresh.
- Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet goes a long way in keeping your mouth and entire body healthy.
- Rinsing your mouth with lukewarm salt water is a solid strategy for cleaning your gums.
- Don’t smoke. This is sound advice in general and in addition to obvious risk of lung cancer and other maladies; smoking increases the opportunity for yeast growth and risk of gum disease.
- Brush and floss every single day.
- Be sure to give your mouth and gums a rest and remove your dentures at night. And never leave them in for 24 consecutive hours.
- Head to your dentist at least every six months for checkups or to address any problems with loose dentures, irritation, or infection in the mouth.
- Keep your dentures clean and free from food that can cause staining, bad breath, or swollen gums.
Despite inherent inconveniences, dentures have many benefits, especially confidence of a bright smile. Better, clearer speech is another positive; as is the ability of dentures to help retain a healthy, younger-looking face.