Family caregivers of senior adults have to tackle situations that are new and foreign to them on a daily basis. One thing that might be unique for you as a caregiver of an elder family member is dentures–someone else’s teeth!
You say to yourself “what now”? Dentures require special care to keep them clean, in good repair, free from damage and fitting well.
Did you know that elders who require dentures are more likely to suffer malnutrition?
Seniors who have had their natural teeth removed for whatever reason and now have dentures are much more likely to have difficulty at some point in the future getting adequate nutrition, especially as a result of difficulty chewing food. Often times this leads to elimination of nutritious foods from their diets because they become too difficult to bother even trying to eat.
The first food that is eliminated is generally meat, which is a major source of essential protein for many. Studies suggest that seniors who have lost their natural teeth have a decrease in micronutrient intake (vitamin and minerals) . This unintentional dietary change has a great potential to result in unhealthy weight loss.
Tricks to Care for Dentures:
- Your senior loved ones’ dentures need to be cleaned every day. They should be brushed with a soft bristled brush designed for dentures to remove debris and food plaque. It is best to rinse off dentures after eating.
- When you are cleaning dentures or partials, be careful not to drop them. If you clean them over a towel you can help prevent breakage if they drop in the sink or onto the floor.
- Don’t use regular toothpaste on your dentures! These are too abrasive and may damage dentures. Don’t use bleach to remove any stains because it could discolor the pink portion.
- You can use mild dishwashing liquid to clean dentures if commercial dental cleansers are not available.
- Ultrasonic cleaners can be helpful to thoroughly clean dentures without damage. Don’t forget, daily brushing for debris is still needed.
- Never use hot water for dentures since they could warp.
- Always store dentures in a denture container with water to keep moist, they should not be allowed to get dry or lose their shape.
- Gums, tongue and palate need to be brushed to keep them clean and free from potential irritants every morning before dentures are worn.
- Use a minimum amount of denture adhesive, if needed. Be sure to remove any remaining adhesive daily as you clean.
Other Denture Concerns:
- If your senior’s denture fits well, adhesive can be used for added stability. If the denture is loose, adding adhesive to fill the gaps can lead to tissue damage in your senior’s mouth so the plates should be taken to a dentist for repairs.
- Examine your senior’s mouth and gums for any signs of irritation or mouth sores. Ill fitting dentures can cause gums to bleed or become painful and sores can form.
- Never adjust or repair a denture yourself, always visit a dentist. Do-it-yourself repair kits can sometimes damage your senior’s denture to a point where a permanent fix can’t be made.
- Often, new dentures (or those newly repaired) will take a little time to get used to. Remind your senior to chew well, eat slowly and take smaller bites to prevent choking.
- Don’t use toothpicks on dentures.
- Dentures shouldn’t click when your loved one eats or talks and, if they do, may need repair.
- If your senior has a dry mouth condition and their dentures fit well, they may benefit from using an adhesive.
- Dentures are not once in a lifetime appliances. They will need to be relined or remade just from normal wear and tear or whenever there are any changes to your senior’s face, jaw or weight. Any loose dentures need to be repaired as soon as possible to avoid poor nutrition.
- Regular dental visits are important and should be made even if your senior has full dentures.
Proper care and treatment of your senior loved ones teeth will help keep them healthy!