10 Reasons You Should Never Sleep in Your Dentures
by sasha der avanessian
We’ve all been there: It’s late, you’re tired, and you don’t have the time or will to remove your dentures and soak them. You know it’s necessary. After all, it’s the advice that your dentist gave you, and it’s plastered across all denture hygiene products and guides, including the ones you’ll find here at XODENT.
But surely it can’t hurt to sleep in them for just one night?
Actually, every time that you sleep in your dentures you create minor issues that could snowball into something much bigger. In this guide, we’ll highlight some of the potential issues and discuss the reasons why you should not sleep in your dentures.
1. It Could Cause Serious Infections like Pneumonia
A very concerning study published in 2015 found that wearing dentures at night doubled the risk of pneumonia. The study reported that poor dental hygiene and oral health are major risk factors for pneumonia, before noting that the risk increases in individuals who wear their dentures when they sleep.
The study selected 524 seniors at random, recording an average age of 87.8 years. It conducted some initial tests to establish a baseline and then followed up when the subjects were first hospitalized for pneumonia. In a three-year period, it recorded 48 such events, 28 of which were described as “acute hospitalizations for pneumonia” while the other 20 were recorded as “pneumonia-related deaths”.
It found that these events were significantly more common in individuals who wore their dentures when they slept and deduced that the increase was roughly 2.3x. In other words, denture wearers were 230% more likely to contract pneumonia when wearing their dentures during sleep.
There could be some correlation vs causation at play here, which is to say that just because people who sleep in their dentures are more likely to have pneumonia, doesn’t mean it is a direct cause. Maybe they are more tired and have more mobility problems, which means they don’t have the energy or the will to remove and clean their dentures.
Maybe it suggests that they are less likely to follow medical advice, such as that given by their dentist, which could also suggest they adopt similar attitudes with their doctor and other health professionals. It’s certainly possible and it might explain away some of the cases, but the link is strong, and it seems likely to suggest there is some causation at play.
In fact, researchers noted that subjects who wore their dentures during the night were more likely to experience breathing problems, dental plaque, and a build-up of oral bacteria as a direct result of their night-time habit. This allows all of that oral bacteria to run rampant, and it will eventually make its way down into the lungs.
It makes sense. After all, if you’re not swallowing as much or as easily as you should, it means you’re more prone to suffering from dry mouth, which allows your oral bacteria to accumulate. Eventually, when it has reached potentially dangerous levels, the bacteria are swallowed or inhaled, and because a senior is more exposed to infections and breathing difficulties, it allows for conditions like pneumonia to develop.
It’s a very serious issue and while the risk is slim overall, it’s still an alarming increase.
2. It Creates a Breeding Ground for Bacteria
Your mouth is full of bacteria. There are billions of them from hundreds of different species. They are introduced to your mouth when you breathe, eat, drink, and kiss, and because it’s a warm and moist environment, they thrive once they are there.
When you wear dentures, they press against your gums and trap all of that bacteria in place, preventing it from being exposed to the air and even to your saliva, and allowing it to keep growing.
All of that bacteria can do a lot of damage and the longer your dentures remain in your mouth, the more damage it will do.
When you remove your dentures, you get rid of this tight seal. By adding your dentures to an XODENT bath, you’ll remove all of the bacteria that have accumulated on the surface and ensure that when you return them to your mouth, they will be fresh and clean.
3. It Causes Bad Breath
Think back to the times that your flossed your real teeth after not flossing for many days, or the time that you had a crown that fell out. The stench that comes from that area can be horrendous because the bacteria has been given time to flourish and do its thing.
It’s a similar story with dentures. When all of that bacteria becomes trapped and is allowed to flourish, it begins to smell. You might not notice it, but your friends and family will.
If you’re waking up, jumping straight out of bed, and continuing with your day, you may notice that people start to give you a wide berth!
4. It Dries Out Your Mouth
Seniors are more likely to suffer from dry mouth than younger people. The body becomes less efficient at using and storing fluids, and seniors are also more likely to suffer from ailments and take medications that cause dry mouth, including conditions like diabetes and medications like opioids.
Wearing your dentures during the night means you’re more likely to keep your mouth open and to suffer from swallowing problems, which makes your mouth very dry and smelly. A dry mouth is very bad news for your dental hygiene and your overall health, and it can make life difficult for you.
Firstly, your dentures may struggle to adhere to your gums if your mouth is dry. They are designed to fit snug against your gums and saliva provides the suction that they need to stay in place. If they keep moving around, not only will it be very annoying and potentially embarrassing, but it may also lead to gum irritation due to the constant rubbing against dry tissue.
Secondly, your saliva plays an important role in the fight against bacteria and gum disease. It reduces the acidity in your mouth and helps to protect your gums.
Reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth and you greatly reduce its effectiveness, allowing bacteria to do more damage.
Thirdly, if you have GERD, a condition whereby the stomach acid escapes and causes damage to the esophagus and throat, then dry mouth will likely worsen your condition and create a very acidic environment in your mouth.
Saliva is your body’s first defense against acidity. It will reduce the acidity in your mouth and when you swallow, it will calm the acid in your stomach as well. If you’re not producing a lot of saliva, and you’re struggling to swallow, you may find that the condition is exacerbated by the time morning arrives.
Last but not least, dry mouth is a major cause of bad breath. It’s one of the reasons that “morning breath” has such a repugnant reputation, because you can’t drink, eat, or chew gum throughout the night, so you have nothing to fuel saliva production.
If you already suffer from dry mouth, you will be making things much worse for yourself by sleeping with your dentures in.
5. It Could Accelerate Gum and Bone Loss
As a denture-wearer, you are more prone to bone loss. Your jaw bone doesn’t have any teeth to support and so it begins to deteriorate, gradually disappearing, shrinking, and impacting the shape of your mouth.
Once your bone begins to disappear, your gums will follow, and this will change the shape of your mouth and make it so that your dentures don’t fit as well as they once did.
It’s not something that you can avoid as a denture-wearer, but by sleeping in your dentures you could be unnecessarily hastening the rate of bone loss.
When you wear your dentures during the night, you’re applying pressure to your gums and your jaw bone, and this is what accelerates the loss. The risk is minor, but it adds up to something much more substantial when combined with the other risks associated with sleeping in your dentures.
6. It Shortens the Life of Your Dentures
Not only is the inside of your mouth riddled with bacteria, but it is also very acidic, and this creates a toxic environment for your dentures. The longer that they spend in your mouth, the shorter their lifespan will be.
You need to remove them for at least 6 to 8 hours a day to get the maximum use out of them. Placing them in water, along with a denture-cleaning tablet, will refreshen them, remove the bacteria, neutralize the acid, and undo some of the damage that gradually accrues.
If they are spending all of that time in your mouth, there is no time to refresh, no time to sanitize, and you may reduce their lifespan by many months.
Dentures are expensive, but the longer that you keep them, the cheaper they become. It means that you don’t have to cough up another $2,000 or so to buy a new set in just a couple of years. It also prevents all of those repeat visits to your dentures as you get them re-aligned, professionally cleaned, and repaired.
By the same token, removing your dentures and placing them in water will ensure that they don’t dry out. One of the worst things that you can do is leave them on your nightstand or windowsill, where they will be exposed to the elements and dry out.
This can happen in your mouth, as well, as it becomes very dry during the night.
7. It Causes Inflammation
Denture wearers may develop a condition known as stomatitis, which is an inflammation of the mouth that’s caused by bacteria. It’s a generally harmless condition but one that becomes much more problematic for individuals with compromised immune systems.
Stomatitis can impact your ability to talk and eat and may make your mouth very uncomfortable throughout the day. It can be caused by accidental tongue or lip biting, but ill-fitting dentures and wearing dentures to sleep are some of the most common causes.
8. It Causes Irritation and Sores
Oral sores are irritating, even if you have real teeth and an otherwise healthy mouth. If you’re a denture wearer who suffers from conditions such as dry mouth, they become a living nightmare, making it difficult for you to eat, sleep, talk, and even breathe.
The risk of developing these sores increases substantially when you wear your dentures to sleep. They rub, grind, graze, and cut. Some of the most common sores occur on the inside of the cheeks and the lips, as they press up against the dentures during the night and lose the protective layer of saliva that would otherwise keep them lubricated.
9. It Could Destroy Them in One Night
It’s rare, but there is a chance that you dentures could be chipped, cracked, and even destroyed in a single night.
If you have bruxism, a condition characterized by heavy teeth grinding, often without the sufferer realizing it, it can do serious damage to your dentures. It often occurs during the night and many individuals don’t know they have it until they are informed by their partner or their dentist.
Your real teeth can take the pressure of constant grinding. They may lose their shape a little as they are ground down, and if you have had a lot of work done, including fillings, they may also chip and break. Generally, however, it’s not a massive issue and it can be fixed by wearing a mouthguard.
As a denture wearer, bruxism is a much more serious issue. Fake teeth aren’t as strong, and the fittings are temperamental. A single night in which you don’t remove your dentures could be enough to warp, chip, or break your fake teeth.
If you have been diagnosed with bruxism in the past, you need to make a conscious effort to remove your dentures every single night without fail. Even if you’re too tired to clean them, make sure that you pop them in a glass of water and don’t leave them in your mouth.
If you regularly woke with jaw pain and headaches, and/or you ever caught yourself grinding your teeth after waking in the middle of the night, you should also practice extreme caution.
It’s never a good idea to sleep with your dentures, but while some people can get away with it every now and then, bruxism sufferers may suffer the consequences as soon as they wake.
10. It Could Cause Respiratory Infections
In addition to serious infections like pneumonia, wearing your dentures during the night could also expose you to common colds, fungal infections, and other throat and lung infections. Some of these are minor, others are serious, but all are problematic and can be avoided by removing your dentures before you sleep.
When you wear your dentures to sleep, you’re reducing your body’s ability to breathe easily and increasing the number of bacteria that enter your throat and your lungs. Removing your dentures won’t eradicate this risk entirely, but it will reduce it.
Just make sure that your add your dentures to an XODENT bath to eliminate all of the bacteria. You should also wash your mouth with an anti-bacterial solution and use a toothbrush to gently rub your gums. The brush will remove some of the bacteria on your gums and will also stimulate blood flow, ensuring that they can continue to heal themselves and will stay strong and healthy.
In the morning, when you wake, you just need to remove the dentures, give them a quick run under the faucet, give your mouth another rinse with mouthwash, and replace your dentures. You won’t remove all of the bacteria from your mouth, and they will start accumulating again once you begin your day, but at least it will be starting from ground zero.
Summary: Sleeping in your Dentures
Let’s be honest, you’re not going to destroy your dentures or cause a serious infection just because you slept in your dentures for one night. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. A single cigarette probably won’t kill you, but it’s not healthy, it’s easy to fall into a habit, and before you know it, all of those issues have compounded, and your health has suffered.
Of course, we’re not for a minute suggesting that smoking is akin to wearing your dentures while you sleep, but it serves to illustrate the point. It’s very easy to adopt bad habits and every time you sleep in your dentures, you’re taking a chance and increasing the risk of harm.
It’s important to remove your dentures every night before you sleep. Soak them in warm water and make sure you add a denture-cleaning tablet to remove all of that bacteria and those potentially damaging stains.
If you don’t have time to go through that ritual and simply want to take a quick nap without harming your dentures, add them to one of our denture baths or pop them in a glass. As long as they remain in water and there is no risk of them drying out, you will be fine.