Dentures and dementia
Dentures can be help people eat and speak properly, but there are challenges people with dementia may experience when wearing dentures, such as losing or breaking them.
Many people wear partial or full dentures (removable replacement teeth). These can help people to eat the foods they want, speak clearly, and feel good about the way they look.
Dentures that don’t fit well or are broken can also cause the gums to become painful and swollen. Bringing the dentures to the dentist will help them to adapt or repair them, or they might suggest making new dentures.
During the later stage of dementia, the person may have difficulty keeping dentures in their mouth. Ideally, they should continue to wear them for as long as possible as otherwise they may struggle to eat many of the foods they enjoy.
A special adhesive, known as denture fixative, can be used to help keep dentures in place. This can be helpful for some people, but for others it may be difficult as it needs replacing every day and can taste unpleasant.
Your dentist should be able to give you more information about looking after dentures and keeping them in place.
Lost or broken dentures
It’s common for someone with dementia to lose their dentures, or for them to get broken.
When this happens, a dentist may be able to get new ones made but it can take several appointments to get an accurate measurement.
The process may take many weeks to complete – and often much longer. If the person has advanced dementia symptoms, going through all these steps can be very challenging.
Without a denture, it can be harder to eat and speak comfortably. A person might need to eat softer foods that need less chewing. They may also get frustrated if what they say can’t be understood.
Once a new denture is made it can feel strange at first and a person may need some time to re-adjust to having them back in their mouth. Some people don’t manage to adjust to their new denture and so they end up not wearing them.
The best way to look after dentures is to keep them in a container overnight and make sure they’re marked with the person’s name.
Marking a person’s name on their dentures can be particularly helpful if they live in residential care or need to go to hospital.
Some new dentures are permanently marked with their owner’s name already, but if not, these tips can help:
- Thoroughly clean and dry the dentures.
- Use an unused kitchen scourer to remove the surface polish from a small area on the outside of the denture. Choose an area at the back where it will not be seen while the dentures are being worn.
- Write the person’s name on the denture using a pencil, or a pen that uses safe alcohol-based ink.
- Paint over the name with a thin coat of clear nail varnish and leave it to dry.
- Apply a second thin coat of varnish and leave it to dry overnight. Do this for both the top and bottom dentures.
Following these steps will mark the dentures for about 6 to 12 months. Alternatively, denture marking kits can be bought online.
Denture care and cleaning
Dentures should be removed and cleaned every night, and then put back in the mouth the following morning. This gives the person’s mouth a rest and helps to keep it healthy and free of ulcers and infections. It also helps to prevent bad breath.
Using memory prompts, such as alarms or notes on the bedside table, can help people remember to remove their dentures each night.
Many people with dementia can remove their own dentures but, in some cases, they may need help, particularly in the later stage of the condition.
Tips for cleaning dentures
- Remove the dentures from the mouth.
- Apply a special denture cleaning paste or soap to a toothbrush.
- Brush away any plaque or food debris from all surfaces of the dentures (especially around the clasps).
- Rinse the dentures with cold water.
- Place them in a labelled denture pot or container.
- Clean any remaining teeth and the rest of the mouth.
- Make sure to keep the denture cleaning tablets safely out of the way when they’re not in use as they can be very harmful if they’re mistaken for edible chews.