Denture Care Tips for Family Caregivers – A Key to Senior Health

Family caregivers of senior adults can find themselves tackling situations that are foreign to them on a daily basis.

One caregiving task that might be unique for you as a caregiver of an elder family member is caring for their dentures.

Yes, someone else’s teeth!

“No way,” you say?

Dentures require special care to keep them clean, in good repair, free from damage and fitting well.

Failure to care for dentures properly can yield consequences that are very dangerous for your senior loved one.

Health Implications of Dentures

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 chewing.

Unfortunately, the first foods that are eliminated are often meats, the major source of essential protein for many. In addition, studies suggest that seniors who have lost their natural teeth have a decrease in micronutrient intake (vitamin and minerals) as well.

This unintentional dietary change as a result of their dentition has a great potential to result in unhealthy weight loss.

Concerns About Teeth

Many of our seniors find that their natural teeth have begun to fail them.

Over time and perhaps because they have not gotten adequate dental care over their lifetimes, teeth can begin to lose their strength and break down.

Dental caries, abscesses and gum disease can lead to removal of the natural teeth. Dentures are a great solution for many seniors who have problems with their dentition.

What many seniors may not consider is that their dentures are not meant to last their lifetime without proper care and attention.

As our seniors’ weight changes, so does the profile of their gums and supporting structures of the mouth leaving the current dentures ill-fitting.

Denture Fit is Important

Ill-fitting dentures for seniors can lead to serious health concerns.

When dentures no longer fit well, seniors look for ways to modify their diets and change the textures of the foods they choose to help make chewing easier and less painful. Many healthy foods that have a tough, course or crunchy texture or leave behind seeds or other fibers are quickly dropped from the diet in favor of easy to masticate foods like soup and desserts.

When we stop eating the high quality nutritional foods our bodies require, we will have a shortfall in protein (essential for strong muscles and balance), vitamins, minerals, fiber and even water which can lead to malnutrition.

Seniors who are not eating well because of problems chewing their food can suffer from loss of muscle strength, bone strength and nutrients to fight off opportunistic infections.

It is important to pay attention to their teeth and gums but also the mouths of our seniors who already have dentures. They need care too to prevent nutrition and health concerns.

Other Denture Concerns

There are many area of concern about which family caregivers need to be aware when it comes to dentures.

  • If your senior’s denture fits, 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 as a result of ill-fitting and rubbing denture plates. Ill-fitting dentures can cause gums to bleed or become painful and sores can form. When they become painful, most seniors either stop eating or stop using their dentures and change the foods they eat.
  • 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 adjust to for your senior. 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 because of 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.
  • Regular dental visits are important and should be made even when your senior has full dentures.

9 Tricks to Care for Dentures

Caregivers should feel comfortable providing care to seniors’ dentures and inspect their mouths from time to time. It is not the most pleasant of tasks for some caregivers, but must be done. If they resist you, enlist help so that they can receive appropriate mouth care.

Be sure that any paid caregivers are paying close attention to your loved ones dentures and mouth too!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. You can use mild dishwashing liquid to clean dentures if commercial dental cleansers are not available.
  5. Ultrasonic cleaners can be helpful to thoroughly clean dentures without damage. Don’t forget, daily brushing for debris is still needed.
  6. Never use hot water for dentures since they could warp.
  7. Always store dentures in a denture container with water to keep moist, they should not be allowed to get dry or lose their shape.
  8. Gums, tongue and palate need to be brushed to keep them clean and free from potential irritants every morning before dentures are worn.
  9. Use a minimum amount of denture adhesive, if needed. Be sure to remove any remaining adhesive daily as you clean.

Proper care and treatment of your senior loved one’s teeth will help keep their whole body healthy — and that’s one of our missions as family caregivers!

36 thoughts on “Denture Care Tips for Family Caregivers – A Key to Senior Health”

  1. Oral health is very important. Although they no longer have their teeth, their gums still need to remain healthy. Gum disease can be life threatening. It is important that they visit a dentist and maintain healthy gums for this reason. If you are a caregiver, this burden falls on you. Do not try to cut costs and put off dentist appointments. They are important whether your loved one has teeth or not.

    • Thank you for your comments. It is very important not to put off dental care for seniors-it can definitely impact their overall health! We hope you continue to come back to Senior Care Corner for our upcoming posts and podcasts!

  2. Please let us know if there is a good technique for a caregiver to use when inserting dentures into the care receiver’s mouth. I have witnessed aides at the nursing home where my mother-in-law lives trying to just shove them into her mouth almost making her gag and then seeing an RN take over and easily slip them in without a problem. Is there a trick to this? Is there a better way to hold them? Should the dnetures always be wet before attempting to insert them into someone’s mouth? My mother-in-law is 94 and can’t insert her dentures herself. Any advice you can give would be very much appreciated.

    • Hello Bill,
      Thanks for your question. It can be a bit tricky putting on another person’s glasses, hearing aides and dentures, can’t it? It is helpful to have the dentures moist but not slippery. You don’t want the to slip and fall onto a hard surface and break. A dry denture plate is more difficult to slip into what might be a dry mouth. Perhaps having your MIL take a sip of water first will also help. At some point many times we wonder if the dentures are worth the anxiety. When seniors are eating a smooth consistency diet such as pureed foods and are no longer actually chewing their food, many stop wearing their dentures. If she begins fighting and doesn’t require them for meals, you may consider that. It usually comes hand in hand with the senior removing them all day, losing them and fighting against their insertion. Good luck!

    • Angle the denture slightly diagonal, then for an upper denture, up and in motion. Again a slight diagonal angle, then down and in for a lower denture. Sip of water before insertion is a great idea. Address dry mouth issues with mouth moisturizers such as biotene and spry rain oral spray.
      Remember to check the inside of the mouth for evidence of mouth sores or fungal (yeast) infections before inserting the dentures. Sores must heal and dentures may need adjusting if there are sores.
      Clean gums with either a very soft toothbrush or the tip of a wet washcloth to stimulate circulation.
      Never clean dentures with hot water, that can deform the denture.

      Ann Ossinger, RDH, BSDH, EPDH

      • Thank you Ann for some great additions for denture care that will help all caregivers! It is important to check the mouth for sores or infection, one thing many overlook! Appreciate your insights!

  3. This is such a great and useful article. I believe that older adults concern about proper maintenance of denture has been answered by reading this post. Just do not forget that we should seek advice from the dentist when we know that there is a repair needed on their dentures. I must admit that some people tend to repair the dentures on their own but this should not be the case.I’d love to read more from your post in the future. God Bless.

  4. I remember when my mom first started taking care of my grandma. She was pretty grossed out by the task of cleaning her dentures. The article mentions the fact that dentures can warp. My mom learned this the hard way when she accidentally left my grandma’s dentures out and they dried out a little too much. Thanks for the article!

    • Thank you Felice, we are happy that you enjoyed that information. Family caregivers always seem to have more to learn and each day is a new opportunity to try something new like cleaning dentures whether you want to or not! We wish you, your mother and grandmother much happiness and joy together!

  5. Wow, this is really helpful! My dad is getting to that point where I’m going to have to start taking care of him, and I’ve been having a hard time finding good information on things like this. Dentures are something not a lot of people think about when getting into a family caregiver situation. Thanks for writing, this has made me a lot better prepared!

    • Thanks Jack, glad you found it helpful. There are many (and I mean many) articles on our website that could help you as you embark on providing more care for your father that we hope you will check out! Good luck!

  6. Before reading this, I didn’t know there is a special brush for cleaning dentures. My mother is getting dentures and I have been looking for tips on how to keep them nice. When she gets them, I will make sure they are cleaned every night with the special brush. Thanks for sharing!

    • We are thrilled that you found this information helpful and timely Sam. Thank you for sharing with us and good luck with the new teeth! Let us know how it goes.

  7. My mom is getting to that point where she is considering looking into dentures. She didn’t take the best care of her teeth over her life so they are starting to “break down and fail” like you said. I think that it would be a very good think to consider if it would help her eat better and feel more confident. I will have to keep this information on hand for the future.

    • It is a hard decision to get dentures but when they fit right, they can make a big difference in eating and feeling like yourself. A smile can go a long way to really feeling happy! Glad this information came at a good time for you and your mom Aria! Good Luck!

  8. I will really appreciate any help, information, or ideas you have, on how to remove upper dentures.
    My Mom is an 86 year old with dementia. When is bedtime, we are having a really hard time getting her to open her mouth, so we can help her removing it, it is getting harder every day to remove them.
    Thank you very much for any advice you can give me

    • Elders who resist our attempts at care can be challenging and frustrating for caregivers. Sorry you are experiencing trouble Jackie. There are a few suggestions: 1. Try at a more calm time of day to talk them through it. 2. Place your hands over theirs and guide them through removal or the opposite, their hands on yours (you will have to put them there) and then remove placing finger at top and bottom of plate for quick removal 3. Instruct them to blow out like a whale spouts to help break the seal of the upper denture. What will happen if you hand her a wet toothbrush with no other directions (just step away) — will her muscle memory cause her to put it in her mouth to brush? This could be an opening for you to care for dentures. Good luck!

  9. I had no idea that dentures that don’t fit very well can lead to so many health concerns! How do you go about getting them adjusted? My mom is going to be getting some in the next few weeks and I want to make sure that I know how to help her take care of them. I’ll be sure to keep these tips in mind, thank you for sharing!

    • Ill fitting dentures can certainly affect a seniors overall wellness. Talk to your mom’s dentist about how they would adjust them in the future if they become ill-fitting as her gums change or she loses weight while he still has access to the plates that the dentures were made from. It is apparently easier to remake or refit when they have the molds. Be sure to keep them clean using the correct products to keep them in good shape too! Good luck!

  10. I didn’t realize that elders that need to use dentures are more likely to suffer from malnutrition. You also said that this could be due to trouble chewing food. I think it’s good to choose a dentist that can make your dentures as unique as you.

    • We agree Cindy, choosing the most appropriate dentist when dentures are needed and discussing all your needs ahead of time such as ‘how do you fix dentures if they get loose or break’ before they are made is important for seniors. Thanks!

  11. My father is currently living with us, and he has dentures. We want to help him keep them as well maintained as possible. As you said, I think it’s important that we never try to adjust or repair a denture by ourselves. We will be sure to keep all these tips in mind. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I live with my 87 year old mother who has dementia and very few teeth. When she was younger, she used to wear both upper and lower dentures, regularly visited the dentist, and had new dentures made to fit as required. However, due to her dementia, she no longer uses her lower back dentures and claims that she never ever used lower dentures. Her upper front dentures fit so poorly that they constantly shift in her mouth, while eating and even while talking. Obviously, eating is difficult, and due to several scares with chocking, I realized that I can only give her very soft food. Her diet has become progressively softer and softer with less and less variety as I eliminate any foods that cause problems. She refuses to go to the dentist and claims that there is no problem. Food gets stuck in the spaces where she has no teeth or dentures, so oral hygiene is very difficult and she continually sticks her fingers in her mouth to clean out the stuck food. It is disgusting. My next step will be giving her only pureed food, nothing that requires any chewing at all. Do you have any suggestions? She never leaves home and has mobility issues, so I cannot convince her to see a dentist. I love her dearly, and I wonder if the best thing for me to do is to prepare the most nutritious pureed foods possible (smoothies and creamed soups forever more)? Help!

    • If she refuses to wear her back dentures, it isn’t worth the fight. Pick your battles at this point. The front dentures that are flapping in her mouth could be helped with a foam insert you can find in the drug store and cut to fit her denture plate. Have you tried denture paste? Semi-soft foods such as those made for toddlers could be a good interim step for her before you go to puree but eventually if the dentures just won’t work, soft foods and some pureed consistency will be best for her. Some people do well chewing with their gums only. It will be trial and error for you both. There are some dentists now who will make house calls but she may be resistant to any efforts to make her dentures that fit. Good luck!

  13. Bad oral health for seniors can lead into a serious health concerns. Basic hygiene is once common issue for elders, they often ignore or don't get proper physical care. Caring an elder can cause stress and embarrassment for both to elder and to families. Being a trained caregiver it's our responsibility to give complete personal care including oral hygiene to the elder one and let the other member enjoy quality time with loved ones without worrying about their elder parents.

    • Family caregivers are fortunate to find caring, trained and responsible home caregivers to help with personal care including caring for teeth and dentures. We appreciate every one! Thanks!

  14. I appreciate the care tips here, especially how important it is to ensure regular trips to the dentist! It is certainly wise to make sure proper care is implemented to in order to avoid damage, although if dentures aren’t fitting well, a dental visit is in order.

    • Thanks for your input. Unfortunately some seniors can’t get to the dentist, so an office visit can be an obstacle to fixing dentures. Finding a dentist who can do a house call would be fabulous for many fragile seniors. Caring for our teeth, mouth and dentures is key to overall health as we age.

  15. My mother has Alzheimer’s . She is 94 and I have just been told she needs new dentures. She can only eat pureed food as she can’t chew and has trouble swallowing. She is in a high care nursing home. It was quoted $2668(which I know is a reasonable price). But what is the use if she only has pureed food.

    • Carol, there are a few questions to ask re: dentures. Does she like to have them in her mouth during the day to feel “normal” or to talk to others? Some older adults are embarrassed without teeth. She doesn’t really need them to eat foods when she is receiving pureed consistency so that isn’t the primary issue. More important is her dignity, will she care if she has them or not? Does she have dementia and may likely throw them away and lose them quickly if they are bothering her? Are you worried they might get broken in the nursing home? These are all factors in the decision since that is quite an investment. Is there a local dental college nearby who would make them at a lower cost? We wish you good luck in this decision. Let us know how it goes!

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