If you're about to receive your first set of full or partial dentures, you need to do everything you can to look after them. Dentures can be a significant investment and of course, they are vitally important in your day-to-day life. Sometimes it can feel like your dentures can change their shape or even their size. But how is this possible? In some instances it might be due to improper care on your part (which is very easy to avoid), or it might be a natural part of the aging process. So how can you avoid having your dentures changing their shape or size? And what can you do if this happens despite your best efforts?
You need to be careful about the temperature of the water in which you wash or even rinse your dentures. Hot water is not recommended. The dental plate (the pink plate to which the prosthetic teeth are attached) is made from a durable acrylic resin. While this plate might feel rigid, it in fact is somewhat pliable. It's not as though you can bend it with your hands, but hot water can cause the dental plate to change its shape, much like how plastic can melt. This change is barely noticeable, but it can greatly alter the effectiveness of your dentures. When their shape has been changed due to hot water, the dentures will no longer fit your hard palate (the roof of your mouth) or the base of your mouth. While you can still use them, this improper fit can cause irritation as your dentures rub against the interior of your mouth in their new shape. This irritation can even lead to small sores. If the reshaping has created a small hollow, this can give bacteria a space to pool, leading to bad breath and leaving your natural teeth more susceptible to periodontal issues. In short, only wash or rinse your dentures in cold or lukewarm water.
It's also possible for dentures to dry out and become too rigid. If you remove your dentures at night, they will need to be soaked. You can use standard tap water, or tap water with an added denture cleaning solution (which is usually in tablet form). These tablets contain components classed as alkaline peroxidases, which release tiny oxygen bubbles when they come into contact with water. This bubbling action helps to clean your dentures. Your dentures need to stay moist, whether this is by being kept in your mouth or by being soaked overnight. If your dentures dry out, they can become too rigid, removing any semblance of pliability. This can mean that they will feel like they have changed shape.
Even if you take exemplary care of your dentures, it might eventually feel like they have changed their shape or size. This might not be the case, and it might be that the contours of your mouth have in fact changed. This is known as gingival recession, and a US study showed that 71% of those aged 50–59 years old were affected. This is thought to be a natural part of the aging process, so it might be that a comparable percentage of Australians will be affected. It's not a major issue, and yet it can cause your dentures to no longer fit properly. This is easily remedied by having your dentures relined, which involves having an additional layer of acrylic resin applied to the dental plates of your dentures. They will then fit perfectly once again. Have a word with your dentist if you feel that you're due to have your dentures relined.
Your dentures need to fit as well as possible to ensure their effectiveness (and your comfort). If you have inadvertently damaged your dentures with hot water or by allowing them to dry out, please see your dentist as soon as possible so that they can be reshaped as necessary.