Drugs and Other Substances that Affect Denture Fit
by sasha der avanessian
In previous articles, we have looked at the many health conditions and other problems that can affect denture fit. We’ve warned you about the potential issues caused by everything from gum disease and dry mouth to cancer and more. Even age will alter the shape of your mouth and change the way that your dentures fit.
But there are many more factors at play here, including medications and recreational drugs. It seems bizarre to suggest that these could alter the way that your dentures fit, but it’s true, and if your dentures have been a little loose lately, one of the following substances could be to blame.
Opioids (Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Codeine, Tramadol, Morphine) are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. They are also some of the most commonly abused, but you don’t need to abuse them to suffer from the many side effects associated with these narcotic medications.
Two of the most common side effects of opioids are also two of the most common ailments suffered by seniors: constipation and dry mouth. They can both be managed, but as long as you’re taking opioids then they will remain, and as you will know if you have ever taken a course of these drugs, both conditions can be pretty severe.
Of course, constipation doesn’t affect how your dentures fit, but the same can’t be said for dry mouth. Opioids suck all of the saliva out of your mouth and even if you drink lots of water, you’ll still feel those effects soon after you’ve taken your last sip.
Your dentures need saliva to work. Saliva helps to create suction around your gums and will also allow the dental adhesive to do its thing. If your mouth is constantly dry, the suction won’t be there, and the adhesive won’t work. But that’s not all, as saliva also helps to combat tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and general acidity, all things that have a major impact on your dental health and all things that are adversely affected by opioid consumption.
So, what should you do? Well, it’s often better to have dry mouth and loose dentures than crippling pain. You were prescribed those drugs for a reason and shouldn’t stop just because you’re worried that your dentures will fall out when you’re at a restaurant. Not only will cessation cause a recurrence of the initial problem, but if you have been taking them for a long time, it may trigger unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
If it becomes a series problem, you can speak with your doctor and/or your dentist about reducing your dose or looking for alternatives, but you can also try the following tips:
- Take Only What You Need: Dry mouth is much more prevalent in recreational users because it hits the hardest in higher doses. Take only what you need to numb the pain. Speak with your doctor if you find that you’re taking more than they recommended and are still not getting the results you seek.
- Wait Between Doses: Opioids are often consumed in intervals of 4 to 6 hours, as it allows plenty of time for the drug to wear off. If you’re taking doses just 2 hours apart, the side effects may intensify without necessarily increasing the pain-killing benefits. Dosing like this is more likely to cause severe dry mouth, itchiness, fatigue, and other adverse reactions.
- Drink Lots of Water: Try to stay as hydrated as you can. You won’t always feel thirsty when you’re taking these drugs, so it’s important to keep a glass or bottle on standby and take sips every now and then. If you find that you’re still forgetting and neglecting to drink, try taking your tablets with one or two glasses of water. If you dose 4 times a day and drink 2 glasses each time, you’ll be consuming the minimum recommended 8 glasses a day.
- Chew Gum: Chewing gum and mints can help to keep your mouth hydrated when you’re not drinking water. The constant chewing will promote saliva flow and keep your mouth moist. As a denture wearer, you should avoid “normal” chewing gum and opt instead for something like Freedent. As for mints, most are fine as long as they are not too hard and you’re sucking and not crunching.
- Avoid Alcohol Mouthwash: Mouthwash keeps your mouth fresh and hydrated, but if it contains alcohol, it will have the opposite effect. Alcohol is great for killing germs, but it also saps the moisture out of your mouth and should be avoided if you’re prone to dry mouth.
- Stop Drinking Alcohol and Smoking: By the same token, consuming alcohol regularly will give you a dry mouth when you’re drinking and when you’re hungover. You should also refrain from smoking, as it will have a similar effect and is generally very bad for oral health.
It’s often said that drinking alcohol will damage dentures made from acrylic. The materials used in dentures are soluble when exposed to alcohol for prolonged periods of time and this leads some to conclude that excessive alcohol consumption will weaken and damage the dentures.
The truth is a little less clear-cut and a lot less worrying. It’s true that alcohol exposure can cause this problem, but that really only applies to isopropyl alcohol, which is commonly found in cleaning products and not in consumables. It’s one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t soak your dentures in alcohol and strong cleaning supplies and why you should always stick with gentle and tailormade dental tablets like those supplied in our XODENT kits.
But before your rush off and start downing wine and whiskey and assuming that your dentures are safe, there are still some risks and issues to be aware of.
Firstly, strong wine, whiskey, and other colored-drinks can stain your dentures over time. What’s more, if your drinking is excessive and continues for many years, you may damage those temperamental acrylic materials, although this generally takes a lot of time.
Alcohol also causes dry mouth, and as noted above, this is something that can cause a great deal of oral irritation and discomfort.
A few other issues to be aware of when consuming alcohol include:
You Might Get Lazy
If you’re drunk, tired, and ready for bed, you probably won’t feel like removing, cleaning, and soaking your dentures. You are more inclined to leave them on the nightstand, where they are at risk of drying out. In the morning, when the hangover kicks in, you’ll be equally averse to cleaning them and may just give them a quick and ineffective risk.
It’s something that you can get away with once or twice but repeat this several days in a row or even once or twice and week, and it will take its toll on your dentures. If you have bruxism, a condition characterized by night-time teeth grinding, it takes just one lazy night to completely destroy your dentures.
It’s Not Advisable After Surgery
Most patients have dentures fitted after having their teeth extracted. A tooth extraction can be a pretty big deal, especially if you had several of them removed, and it’s best to avoid alcohol after such a procedure.
Your dentist will tell you how long to wait, but typically you will need to give it at least 48 hours before consuming alcohol. Make sure you ask them any questions that are on your mind and read through any wellness instructions that they give you.
You Need to Wait Longer After Implants
If you have been fitted for implant-supported dentures, also known as snap-in dentures, then you may need to wait a little longer before you can have your first drink. Alcohol may slow down the healing process and implants are drilled through the gum and into the bone, so there is a lot of healing that needs to take place.
You need to give your body every chance you can. Stay away from alcohol, follow any other instructions provided to you, and you’ll heal quickly, safely, and without any complications.
You probably know that smoking is bad for your health and terrible for your oral hygiene, but did you know why?
The general consensus is that tobacco contains tar, and this tar accumulates on your teeth and gums. People make this connection after noticing that many life-long smokers have blackened and stained teeth, but there’s actually something more sinister at play.
Smoking irritates and hardens the gums while nicotine slows down the healing process. Not only does this cause a problem after you’ve had teeth extracted and dentures fitted, but it also limits the body’s ability to heal itself. Minor inflammation becomes chronic, small issues become serious ones, and over time, gum disease sets in.
If you’re a lifelong smoker, there’s a good chance that your habit is the reason you were fitted for dentures in the first place, but just because you don’t have your real teeth anymore, doesn’t mean you have a get-out of jail free card.
If you continue to smoke, then you’ll continue to expose your gums to harm. Not only are you at risk for mouth cancer, throat cancer, and a host of other issues, but you may notice bleeding, irritation, and even recession in your gums. When this happens, your dentures may loosen, move around, and begin to irritate your already-inflamed gums.
Studies also suggest that smokers lose more bone density, and this is already a major issue for denture wearers. Once your teeth have been removed, your bone is no longer needed to support them, and so it gradually deteriorates. Smoking will accelerate this decline.
Last but not least, as you suspected all along, smoking also stains teeth and it has the same effect on dentures, albeit to a lesser extent. The tar and other chemicals found in tobacco can stain the teeth and the base of your dentures and when this happens, there isn’t much you do about it.
If you have ever tried to remove yellow nicotine stains from walls, doors, ceilings, or even your fingertips, you will know how persistent it can be. Real teeth can be whitened but your dentures may be a lost cause.
It’s never too late to stop smoking, but even that won’t fix your issue, at least not straight away. Once you kick the habit, your gums will undergo a regenerative process as they seek to restore the soft outer tissue. It’s a natural and healthy process, and it’s one that you want to experience, but it may also make your dentures feel a little tighter.
The good news is that a refit is quick and easy, and once your gums heal and your dentures are molded around them, you should have fewer issues in the future.
There are a few misunderstandings when it comes to hot coffee/tea and dentures. Some wearers are of the belief that they need to avoid hot drinks lest they “melt” their dentures, but while the materials can melt, the temperatures required are several times higher than your coffee or tea. If you ever do make coffee that is somehow strong enough to ruin your dentures, it’ll likely burn your lips before it even reaches them.
Excessive coffee consumption can stain your dentures, and this is a genuine issue that you need to be aware of, but again, it’s not a major problem and as long as you rinse, brush, and soak on a regular basis, you will be fine. In fact, most dentures are made to be more stain-resistant than real teeth, and even if you’re drinking several cups a day you likely won’t notice a difference.
It can be a different story with caffeine, though. It can dry out your mouth and this may irritate the gums and cause your dentures to move around. It’s okay in smaller doses, but as you get old, you become more sensitive to its effects and less capable of staying hydrated, creating a perfect storm that may affect how your dentures fit in your mouth.
That doesn’t mean that you need to give up your morning coffee. You can still enjoy the occasional cup without worrying too much about how it affects your dentures. But if you also smoke, drink alcohol, and take medications, you should be more aware of the impact it has on your mouth.
You will also be more susceptible to harm if you have GERD, a condition that can harm the throat and the mouth and one that will be exacerbated by caffeine consumption.
Dental adhesive is designed to help and not hinder, but excessive use can have a detrimental effect in the long-term.
The main problem is that dental adhesive covers up a bigger issue. If your dentures don’t fit properly, they may need to be realigned or you may have a health condition that needs to be addressed.
By opting for dental adhesive instead of a visit to your dentist, you’re fixing a long-term problem with a short-term solution. Eventually, the problem will get bigger, and you won’t notice just how bad it’s gotten, just like when you delay a visit to the opticians.
Dental adhesive has also been linked to potential health problems, from minor allergic reactions and irritations to cancer and zinc overexposure. Many of the substances used in commercial dental glues are known carcinogens. It’s a scary thought, and while it’s perfectly safe when used as directed, it can become a problem if you begin using too much too often.
As you become more reliant on adhesive, you’ll expose your mouth to more issues and may forget how your dentures were supposed to fit in the first place. It’s best to avoid this substance whenever you can.
What to Do When Your Dentures Don’t Fit Anymore
As you can see, some of the substances that affect denture fit are avoidable. You can stop smoking, reduce your alcohol intake, and even cut back on the caffeine. It might not be a decision you’re comfortable with, but if it’s impacting the way that your dentures fit and causing you a lot of stress, it’s one you might want to consider.
But you can’t be so flippant when it comes to prescription medications like opioids. It doesn’t matter how loose those dentures are, you shouldn’t stop taking a prescribed medication just because you want to save a few bucks in dental appointments and realignments.
Keep doing what is best for your health and recommended by your doctor. If you notice a change in your dentures, book an appointment with your dentist and they’ll make some slight adjustments. The sooner you book, the easier and cheaper the fix will be. As with real teeth, if you put off seeing your dentist out of fear, procrastination, or monetary problems, you’ll just make the problem worse and create bigger issues down the line.
It’s perfectly normal for your dentures to lose their grip and not fit as snugly as they once did. There are a few steps you can take to reduce these risks, but ultimately, you just need to accept that it will happen eventually and make sure you deal with the problem when it arises.