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Dental Care for Older Adults

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Topic Overview

Dental care for older people is much the same as for younger adults. But older adults do have concerns that younger adults do not. These include caring for dentures, having trouble holding a toothbrush, having gum disease, having tooth decay on the roots of teeth, and replacing missing teeth and broken fillings.

Dentures

Dentures are "false teeth." They can replace all the teeth in your mouth (complete denture) or only some of them (partial denture). If you need dentures, your dentist will measure your mouth and take impressions to create them.

You should care for your dentures as you would your teeth. It's also important to continue to care for your gums. Brush your gums, tongue, and the roof of your mouth (palate) every day with a soft-bristled brush before you put in your dentures. Continue to see your dentist on a regular basis.

To care for your dentures:

  • When you take your dentures out, stand over a folded towel or bowl of water. This way if you drop them, they will not break.
  • Store dentures in lukewarm water or denture-cleaning liquid overnight. Do not put them in hot water, and do not let them dry out.
  • Replace your dentures about every 5 years. Using your dentures daily "wears them out," and you will need to replace them.
  • Clean your dentures every day. Cleaning helps prevent dentures from becoming stained and helps your mouth stay healthy.
    • Rinse your dentures to remove loose food particles.
    • Wet the brush, and brush your dentures with a denture cleanser such as Polident or Efferdent. Do not brush with toothpaste. It can scratch your dentures. You may be able to use hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid. Do not use household cleansers, which may be too rough, or bleach.
    • Brush every surface, scrubbing gently to avoid damage. Use a brush designed for cleaning dentures or a toothbrush with soft bristles. Do not use hard-bristled brushes, because they can damage the dentures.

To care for your teeth and gums:

  • Examine your gums daily before you put in your dentures. Let red, swollen gums heal before you wear your dentures again. If the redness does not go away in a few days, call your dentist. White patches on the inside of your cheeks could also indicate poorly fitting dentures.
  • Give your mouth at least 6 hours of rest from your dentures every day. Your mouth heals more slowly as you age and needs time to recover from the friction of wearing dentures.
  • Don't put up with dentures that are too big, click when you eat, or don't feel good. It takes time to get used to dentures. But if they are still giving you trouble after the first few weeks, talk to your dentist about fitting them again. Don't try to "fix" your dentures yourself.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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