Care and Maintenance of Complete Dentures

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

Complete edentulism is the loss of all permanent teeth. A complete denture is a dental prosthesis that is worn when all of the teeth are missing in either the upper or lower arch.

In 2000, 17% of the U.S. population wore dentures. Of all the contributing factors, low income and education levels have the highest correlation with tooth loss. With the increasing life expectancy and the current economic conditions, the number of denture wearers is expected to rise in the next few decades.

In 2009, the American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) formed a task force to develop guidelines for the care and maintenance of complete dentures. The following is a summary of those guidelines.

Of primary importance to good oral and general health is the daily removal of the biofilm present in the oral cavity and on dentures. Dentures must be cleaned daily soaking or brushing with a nonabrasive cleanser. Products vary. Instructions for their use should be followed carefully and dentures should be rinsed thoroughly with water before placing back in the mouth.

A very effective cleanser is bleach; however, dentures should not be soaked for more than 10 minutes. Doing so can lead to degradation of acrylic resin components and color changes (lightening). Again, dentures should be thoroughly rinsed with water before reinserting into the mouth.

Dentures should be removed at night and stored in water to prevent them from over drying and distorting. They should never be placed in boiling water as heat will warp the prosthesis. Removing dentures at night and cleaning them properly helps to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. A common yeast/fungal infection in denture wearers is denture stomatitis. The tissue under the denture becomes red, inflamed and irritated. Other factors that contribute to this common infection is low vitamin A and smoking.

Denture adhesives can improve the retention and stability of dentures and help seal out food particles beneath the denture. Avoid using adhesives containing zinc as there is a potential for neurotoxicity resulting in numbness and weakness of the limbs and difficulty walking. No more than three or four pea-sized dollops should be applied to each denture. If more is required for proper retention, the denture should be evaluated by a dentist. Adhesives should be completely removed from the prosthesis and from the oral cavity on a daily basis.

Denture wearers should see their dentist once a year for maintenance of optimum denture fit and function, for evaluation for oral lesions, bone loss and oral cancer detection and to have their dentures professionally cleaned using ultrasonic cleansers to minimize biofilm accumulation over time.

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