How to Clean Your Dentures
Tips on proper denture maintenance
An unfortunate myth among people considering dentures is that you never have to worry about your teeth again. The truth is that you do have to worry about your “teeth” because dentures can harbor microorganisms just as natural teeth can. Dentures can also pick up stains and begin to look dingy, just like natural teeth can. For the best long-term health and appearance of your dentures, you must commit to keeping them clean.
The Risks of Not Properly Cleaning Dentures
There are risks associated with dirty dentures. While the most compelling one may be that they simply look dirty, there are also risks that can actually harm you.
The complication of unclean dentures that carries the most risk for pain, discomfort, and/or transmission is a fungal infection commonly called “thrush”. Thrush is an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, typically occurring on the roof of the mouth underneath the denture. Thrush is more likely in patients with a dry mouth or in those who do not remove the denture regularly. The fungus causes inflammation, which leads to bright red, tender gums. When this infection occurs, patients require anti-fungal medication and a significant period of “rest” for their gums without the denture in place in order to heal.
In addition to a fungal infection, a lack of cleaning dentures often allows the buildup of food debris between the denture and gums. This, too, can cause sore spots, irritation, and mouth ulcers.
And of course, there is the cosmetic risk of not cleaning your dentures. They will accumulate staining, which will alter the color of both the plastic teeth and the acrylic gum tissues. Attempting to remove these accumulated stains (as opposed to preventing them) can cause abrasion of the denture, changing the shape and appearance of the teeth and gums.
How to Properly Clean Dentures
There are three important steps in the denture cleaning process. In order to keep your dentures as clean as possible, you should consistently adhere to all three methods, as they are all necessary for maintaining the health and appearance of your dentures.
The step most people skip is brushing the dentures because they assume that soaking alone will remove all of the debris that occurs with normal, daily use. The first thing you should do after removing the denture is to brush it with warm water and a denture brush.
Because dentists make dentures with natural shapes including the grooves in the teeth and the indentations where teeth their neighbors, they have many nooks and crannies that collect plaque and food debris. Because a denture is plastic and acrylic, obviously, it cannot get cavities or gum disease. However, that does not mean that this accumulation is harmless.
Using a brush specifically designed for denture cleaning with warm water to reach these nooks and crannies will remove all of the soft buildup relatively quickly. This is a fast and easy process, so do not skip it!
After brushing away any debris, typically at night before bedtime, place the denture in a cleansing solution to soak overnight. Soaking is important to prevent the appliance from drying out.
What you soak the denture in is also important. Any over-the-counter denture solution that carries the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance is safe to use with your denture. These will help sanitize and freshen the denture, which gives it a longer lifespan.
There are also many recipes for DIY or homemade dentures soaks. Before attempting any of these, make sure you get the approval of your dentist. Some recipes found online contain harsh chemicals that will erode or bleach the denture base.
Even though we have implied it, we do not want to leave this unsaid: soaking the denture overnight means you must take it out overnight! This is important for both the denture itself and the health of your mouth. Your gum tissues need periods of “rest” without being covered by the denture. It is not healthy to wear the dentures 24 hours a day.
Another unfortunate myth denture-wearers believe is that they never need to see the dentist unless they have a problem. The truth is that dentures should be professionally cleaned yearly. At this visit, the dentist will perform an evaluation of the tissues supporting the dentures and its fit while the denture is being cleaned. Professional denture cleanings can remove more persistent stains that your home care cannot remove.
What NOT to Do when Cleaning Dentures
Here are a few important things to avoid when cleaning your denture:
- Do not use toothpaste when brushing your denture, especially whitening toothpaste. Denture teeth are plastic and much softer than enamel. They cannot withstand the abrasive particles contained in many toothpastes. They will instead gradually wear away.
- Do not soak in bleach. At the wrong concentrations, bleach can actually change the color of the pink gum base of your denture.
- Do not use nail files or dremel tools to attempt removing stains from the denture. These will leave a rough exposed surface that will actually attract more stains. Any adjustments to a denture must be followed by a polishing procedure to create a shiny surface that is resistant to stains.
- Do not use teeth whitening products on your dentures. The chemicals in teeth whiteners work on enamel only. They will not change the color of the plastic teeth and can cause some erosion of them instead.
Additional Requirements for Implant-Supported Dentures
Patients who have dental implants supporting their dentures have a few additional cleaning responsibilities. Dental implants are a wonderful way to retain a denture and eliminate the potential embarrassment from a loose or ill-fitting denture. Implants have the advantage of never getting cavities because they are made of titanium. However, dental implants can suffer from gum disease, so they require diligent cleaning.
Patients with dental implants should remove the dentures every night and clean as directed above. Then they should also clean the implants inside their mouths using a toothbrush and a toothpaste specifically recommended by the dentist. Removing plaque buildup from the implants is essential to preventing gum disease and maintaining the long-term health of the implants.
More Questions about Caring for Dentures?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today and schedule a consultation with one of our denture experts!