Sunday, January 23, 2011

How To Care For Your Dentures

What’s the point of visiting the dentist every year if you’ve already lost them? To keep smiling and stay healthy. Unfortunately, too many people figure there’s no point to seeing a dentist once they started to wear dentures; as many as 70 percent of them haven’t been back to the dentist in five years. But it’s a mistake. Even denture-wearers should see their dentist once a year.

Dentures need inspection. They could be irritating the gum, inducing sores and tumors in the mouth. Poorly fitting dentures can damage the jaw joint and speed the loss of supporting bone. What denture wearers too often overlook is the fact that the shape of the mouth changes, albeit slowly. The supporting bone recedes about two millimeters every five to eight years. And that is bound to affect a patient’s appearance, causing deep wrinkles around the mouth, or a thin-lipped look, or a jutting chin, or pronounced lower jaw pouches. As a result, most dentures need to be replaced in time.

Between regular checkups, a denture wearer can help cut down on bone loss and keep the mouth healthy by consciously chewing straight up and down with equal weight on both sides of the jaw. Sideways chewing or favoring one side of the mouth can make dentures slip and lead to excessive wear.

The denture wearer also needs to brush the soft tissues beneath the denture to stimulate blood circulation and keep the gum healthy. Then, too, the denture should be removed for several hours every day. And when a denture breaks or comes loose, the wearer shouldn’t try to fix it but rather should see a dentist. Look for a dentist who specializes in the needs of senior patients.

Robin Westen writes about health for national magazines.

She is the author of “Ten Days to Detox: How to Look and Feel a Decade Younger.”

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