How do I care for my parent’s dentures?
Dentures need continual care to get the longest, most comfortable fit. Dentures should not be worn continuously day and night. Doing so will create an unhealthy biofilm inside the denture that will lead to fungal infections. Removing the denture during the night and allowing it to soak in a commercial cleaner will prevent infections. This practice will also allow the tissues to recover from the bacterial environment they are subjected to during use. Avoid hard brushes or abrasive materials like toothpaste when cleaning the denture. Both can scratch the surface, making the denture retain more stains, odors, and bacteria.
How do I care for bridges or other types of dental prosthetics?
Non-removable fake teeth spanning an opening are referred to commonly as bridges. Crowning teeth on both sides of the vacant location gives a bridge its foundation. The enemies of bridge maintenance are the same as most other dental restorations. The difficulty in maintaining bridges is the nuisance of threading floss beneath the false tooth. Without flossing, plaque is allowed to build up in places along the margin of the tooth and crown. Decay will invariably ensue. Water pics are great when manual dexterity becomes an issue. Choose one that allows different mediums to be placed in the reservoir. Occasional placement of mouth rinse can be beneficial. A large reservoir is also preferred.
What about dental floss? What kind is the best, and are those small brushes or pre-strung floss devices a good idea?
Dental floss now comes in many different variations. Find a design that works well in your parent’s hands.
Is it better to use a manual or electric toothbrush? What type of electric toothbrush is the best?
There are numerous options for electric toothbrushes. A high quality electric toothbrush removes significantly more plaque and promotes a full 2 minutes of brushing. Electric toothbrushes are a must in high quality oral hygiene. Oral-B and SonicCare both produce excellent toothbrushes. Know how to use the specific brush you buy. Oral-B rotary heads should treat every tooth individually. SonicCare should glide over the gums, treating quadrants. Ask your local dental hygienist for suggestions on recommended use.
How often should I make a dental appointment for my parent?
Understand that each individual’s needs are different, and use these general principles to guide your care: First of all, listen to your trusted dental professional to get his/her thoughts on your specific situation. Elderly patients who have natural dentition including teeth with fillings and crowns should see their dentist at least every 6 months. Often, increasing professional cleanings to 3 or 4 times a year will help prevent disease and decay. Age is not the determining factor. Instead, the ability to maintain good oral hygiene should be the guiding factor. Patients also can get the idea that when all their teeth are gone and they are wearing dentures, they don’t need to see their dentist anymore. There are other concerns and significant problems that can arise. Simple solutions to inadequate salivation, or ill-fitting dentures are topics worthy of discussion at an annual exam. A well-fitting denture will not be well-fitted forever. The supporting bone is constantly remodeling and the fit will change through the years. Poor-fitting dentures can often be relined to extend their usable life. Missing teeth on the opposing arch can create instability of an otherwise great-fitting denture.
Not all dentures are created equal. Bone levels, quality of the work, height of muscle attachments, which arch is involved, previous experience, and implants all affect the function of a denture. A large percentage of patients tolerate a full upper denture very well, and function quite effectively. However, the front teeth are less functional and should be considered as aesthetic. Some eating behaviors will have to change.
Are there any types of food not recommended with dentures?
Most full denture wearers will never be able to bite corn off the cob, have difficulty biting into apples, and probably will not be able to eat lettuce the same way as before. The changes include cutting food into bite-size pieces and chewing on the back teeth. Most of these inabilities can be addressed completely by anchoring the teeth to the jaw with dental implants. Very few patients find the full lower denture as an acceptable option. Consider implants for the lower denture a necessity for function.
Check in later for answers to the following questions:
What type of product(s) should I use for their dry mouth?
Are there any oral conditions I should be looking for?
Are there any special mouthwashes or oral hygiene products designed for the elderly?