If you have a full or partial set of dentures, you should be aware that many things can cause your dentures to not fit as nicely or to become uncomfortable in your mouth. One of the most common problems that faces denture-wearing seniors is dry mouth. You'll need more information about dry mouth and denture care in order to make sure that you are not suffering discomfort from this common condition.
What causes dry mouth in seniors?
Unfortunately, having a dry mouth is more common in seniors because those who are elderly are less likely to be properly hydrated and may be taking medications that lead to dry mouth. In fact, many medications (over 400!) used to treat common geriatric conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol, depression, and diseases like Alzheimer's can lead to dry mouth. If you are taking any medications, be sure to read the side effects. If dry mouth is listed as a common side-effect, you will need to talk to your dentist about methods of rehydrating your mouth in order to protect your dentures and your gums.
How does having a dry mouth affect your dentures?
Dentures work most effectively when there are normal levels of saliva present in the mouth. Saliva is needed because dentures need to "suction" to the gums. When the saliva is not present, the dentures will not seal as effectively, which can cause them to move around or to brush against the gums, causing soreness and tissue irritation. Saliva acts as both glue and lubricant for dentures. If dry mouth continues, the shape of the gums can change. They will recede further up toward the bone, which can result in your dentures no longer fitting your mouth-- necessitating the need for denture repair or a completely new set.
Also, even if you do not have actually teeth present in the mouth, you are still susceptible to gum disease. Saliva helps prevent bad bacteria from pooling in your dentures, reducing the chances of contracting periodontal disease.
How can you remedy the constant lack of moisture in your mouth?
There are several methods you can try to increase mouth moisture. Your dentist may prescribe a saliva replacement, especially if you are on medications that cause your mouth to be dry. You can also try mouthwashes. If dry mouth continues, it's time to ask your doctor if there are other medications you can take instead that have different side effects. You can also:
- increase your fluid intake. Try to help your mouth provide more saliva by making sure you are getting enough water to drink. Drinking water will help in two ways-- it will moisten the mouth as your drink, and it will increase your body's ability to produce the moisture your mouth needs.
- rinse your mouth after each meal. Saliva helps to sweep food particles away from teeth and gums. Rinsing your mouth out after you eat can help to reduce bacteria growth that will affect gum health.
- avoid salt. Salty foods, especially dry ones like pretzels and chips, have a dehydrating effect on the mouth. If you are going to eat crackers or other dry foods, be sure you take them with plenty of water.
- stimulate saliva production by sucking (not crunching) on candies. Be sure to choose sugarless varieties, as sugar is harmful to oral health.
- installing a humidifier in the room when you sleep. If you breathe through your mouth when you sleep, dry air can contribute to the lack of moisture in your mouth. Moistening the air in your home with a humidifier will help you to preserve the saliva you are producing.
If you have more questions about dentures, dental health problems, or dry mouth, talk to a professional in your area. They can give you more direction on making your dentures work for you.