Health Conditions that Affect Denture Fit

by sasha der avanessian


Your dentures won’t fit firmly forever. There will come a time when they begin to loosen and lose the suction that once held them snugly in place. Age, trauma, and a number of other direct and obvious factors can impact how your dentures fit, but there are also a few less obvious ones. 

What follows is a list of some health conditions that affect how your dentures fit. 

Gum Disease

Gum disease can cause gum recession, affecting how your dentures grip your gums and potentially making them loose and uncomfortable. Gum disease is a very common issue in the United States and one that affects a sizeable percentage of the population. In the early stages, it’s relatively harmless and will produce only mild symptoms, including bleeding gums and redness. 

If it goes untreated, these initial symptoms can progress into something much more serious. The bacteria will literally eat away at the gums, affecting how they hold the teeth in place and leading to noticeable gum loss and bone loss. 

Gum disease is particularly problematic for denture wearers as their gums are constantly inflamed and sensitive. Not only does this affect how the dentures fit in the mouth, but the irritation they cause when they move around may lead to uncomfortable oral sores and bleeding. 

Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss and one of the reasons why people get dentures in the first place. The issue needs to be fixed before dentures can be fitted, so it’s unlikely that you will have serious gum disease soon after acquiring dentures, but it can develop thereafter. 

Just because you don’t have real teeth, doesn’t mean you can neglect your gum health. Just because you don’t have gaps that bacteria can hide inside, doesn’t mean that you can’t get gum disease. 

You need to remove your dentures every night and soak them overnight. You should also rinse your mouth out and gently brush your gums, removing any food and bacteria that has accumulated.  

Diabetes

Diabetes is thought to affect over 30 million Americans. It’s a condition that can be managed with lifestyle changes and/or medications, but it’s also associated with higher morbidity. Diabetes patients are more likely to suffer from a range of ailments, some of which impact oral health. 

For instance, if you have diabetes then you are more prone to the effects of gum disease, leading to inflammation, bleeding gums, gum loss, and even bone loss. As noted already, it’s a big problem for denture-wearers and you will need to be extra vigilant if you have diabetes. 

Diabetes is thought to increase the risk of dry mouth, as well, and while that might not sound like a serious issue, it can be very problematic for denture wearers. In fact, if you have chronic dry mouth and have suffered from the condition for many years, it may be one of the reasons you lost your teeth in the first place! 

Speaking of which… 

Dry Mouth

Saliva is an incredible thing. It’s not just there so soccer players can spit or your kids can blow bubbles and gross you out. It is lubricating, anti-bacterial, and it contains many helpful minerals that strengthen your teeth and keep your gums healthy.  

Saliva can even reduce the acidity in your mouth, which is very important when you consider that it’s hit with a wave of acid every day, from the coffee and orange juice that you drink to the stomach acid that occasionally fights its way up the esophagus (as is the case with GERD sufferers). 

You need saliva, and if you have a dry mouth, either resulting from medication use, drug abuse, or a preexisting condition, then you’re lacking a crucial part of your body’s natural defense. 

Of course, you don’t need those minerals to strengthen your teeth and even the acidity levels aren’t that much of a problem. Once you swap real teeth for fake ones, the game changes. You no longer need saliva to carry minerals to your teeth, but you need it to create suction for your dentures and to allow the adhesive to work. You also need lubrication, because if your dentures are moving around in a dry mouth, they’re more likely to cause irritation and inflammation. 

If you have a chronic dry mouth, you may notice that your dentures don’t fit as well as they once did, and your dental adhesive doesn’t work as efficiently. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, making sure you get at least 8 glasses and that you increase your intake when you’re sweating more than usual. 

Chewing gum can help, as well, just be sure to stick with a brand like Freedent, which is designed with denture wearers in mind. Other tips include reducing your alcohol intake, giving up cigarettes, and swapping your alcohol-based mouthwash for an alcohol-free one. 

Some of the conditions and medications that cause dry mouth include: 

  • Stroke 
  • Diabetes 
  • Yeast Infection 
  • Seizure medications 
  • Antidepressants 
  • Opioid-based painkillers 
  • Antihistamines 
  • Blood pressure medications 
  • Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • HIV/AIDS 

Dry mouth is more common in older adults, partly because the body becomes less efficient at staying hydrated but mainly because they are more likely to have preexisting health conditions and to take medications. It can also be caused by certain lifestyle factors. And these may have more of an impact than you realize. 

For instance, if you are overweight and sleep on your back, then you may be sleeping with your mouth open. The air will dry out your mouth and over the course of many hours, it will leave it very dry, uncomfortable, and foul-smelling. Breathing problems can cause many of the same issues, because if you’re constantly breathing through your mouth then you’re drying it out and not giving your saliva time to accumulate. 

You can fix some of these issues by changing your habits and using a humidifier. If you find that you’re breathing with your mouth open throughout the day, you can try chewing gum, thus stimulating the flow of saliva. 

Cancer

Mouth cancers are quite rare in the United States and account for a very small percentage of the total cancers diagnosed every year. But that’s still over 50,000 cases, and if you are a senior and a man, the risk increases significantly. You are also more at risk if you smoke or drink and they tend to be more common in black men and white men. 

Mouth cancers can present with lumps and sores inside the mouth and on the lips. The sores may be white or red and may or may not cause difficulty swallowing. 

The problem with mouth cancers, like many serious conditions, is that the symptoms can mimic more harmless issues. For instance, it’s common to get canker sores and these can be painful and last for a couple of weeks.  

They’re unusual, and if you’re not used to them, they can also be alarming, but they are harmless. You may also notice small sores and discoloration in your mouth if you suffer from GERD and dry mouth. In such cases, these symptoms may be combined with difficulty swallowing and even a feeling like you have a lump in your throat, mainly due to issues with stomach acid, undigested food, and a dysfunctional esophageal sphincter. 

Wounds may also appear if you accidentally bite your tongue, cheek, or lip, and it’s possible to cut your gums and cheek when you eat foods like tortilla chips and potato chips. 

Generally, you shouldn’t worry unless the issue has persisted for at least 2 weeks and is showing no signs of subsiding. The sore may present with pain and discomfort, and it can be big or small. In many cases, especially when it is left untreated, mouth cancers can alter the shape of the gums and the mouth and lead to changes in denture fit. 

Your dentures may struggle to fit over a swelling on the gums and you may feel discomfort if they are pressing up against a lump. You should always book an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms, and while you can afford to be more reserved if the issue hasn’t persisted for a couple of weeks, you should be more vigilant if you are a white/black man with a history of heavy smoking and drinking, as that places you in a very high-risk category. 

As with all forms of cancer, getting an early diagnosis is key. Cancer can be diagnosed and removed, thus preventing it from spreading to other parts of the body. It’s not something that will go away, and persistent lumps are definitely not something that you can afford to ignore!  

Bruxism

Bruxism is a relatively common condition and, for the most part, it’s harmless. But where your dental health is concerned, it’s a silent killer and can do some serious damage without you realizing it. 

Bruxism comes from the Greek word “βρυχή”, which roughly translates as “teeth gnashing” and pretty much tells you all that you need to know. This teeth “gnashing” or “grinding” occurs at night when the individual is asleep and, often, completely unaware. Many times, they are informed of the issue by their partner, but on occasion, they wake in the middle of the night and catch themselves doing it. 

If you have real teeth, then bruxism can grind them down. It may even crack them, and while mouthguards can be prescribed to remedy this issue, they may cause the teeth to become misshapen if the issue persists and/or the guard is not fitted properly. 

As a denture-wearer, bruxism becomes a non-issue if you remove your dentures (as advised) before going to bed. However, if you leave them in, either because you don’t have the time to clean them, are very tired, or are sleeping in a hotel and don’t have access to your usual cleaning supplies, then your dentures will be exposed. 

And if you thought that bruxism was bad for real teeth, wait until you see the damage it can do to fake ones! 

Bruxism can also occur during the day, either as a subconscious habit or when you’re taking a nap. And even if you’re not wearing your dentures, it can still be a problem. 

You may be forcing your gums together, placing great stress on your jaw. This has been known to increase the rate of bone reabsorption, potentially hastening the speed at which your mouth changes shape and requiring a realignment much sooner.  

If you suffer from bruxism, you should always remove your dentures before you sleep, even if you’re just napping for a few minutes. If you find that your jaw is aching when you wake in the morning, you should speak with your dentist and see if they can find a solution. 

Denture-Related Stomatitis

Stomatitis is an inflammation of the mouth and while there are several causes, dentures are some of the most common. As the dentures move around in your mouth, they can cause irritation and inflammation. When Candida bacteria are introduced to these sores, they will become infected. 

These yeast infections shouldn’t cause any major problems in the long-term, but they can be problematic for people who suffer from immune-related conditions and may also affect how dentures fit in the short-term. 

To prevent stomatitis, you need to remove your dentures every night and make sure they are cleaned. Your mouth should also be rinsed, and your gums cleaned. Prolonged contact between dentures and gums will allow bacteria to accumulate underneath and become trapped. Regular cleaning will fix this problem and eradicate any bacteria that has amassed. 

Swabs are taken to diagnose stomatitis and it can be treated with thorough cleaning, improved dental hygiene practices, and topical antifungal medications. Speak with your doctor if you suspect that you may have stomatitis. 

Other oral infections can change the shape of your mouth, as well, potentially leading to a swelling of the gums. In most cases, the inflammation will present with symptoms such as tenderness, pain, or redness. 

Other Things that Affect How Your Dentures Fit

During the first few months that you have dentures, they will feel tight and snug, just like they should. But after a while, a few changes will take place that cause your dentures to loosen and lead to some desperate calls to your dentist!  

The problem is not actually your dentures but your mouth. 

Your mouth changes shape over time and there are a number of things that can trigger these changes. One of the most common is also the most unavoidable: Age.  

Unfortunately, as the sands of time fall, your body gradually changes shape. You experience changes that you were desperately hoping to avoid, and they impact everything from the clothes you wear to the activities you perform. You are more prone to diseases like osteoporosis, which can shrink your jawbone, and to general tissue loss. 

The fact that your gums are no longer holding onto real teeth also triggers a series of changes. Your dentures will help to support your face and your smile, but over time, there may be some shrinkage inside the mouth. It’s often too minor to notice directly, but you will feel it in your dentures. They will become looser and the perfect form that held them to your gums will disappear, causing them to move around and potentially requiring adhesive to keep them in place. 

Fortunately, these changes are minor and easy to fix. Book an appointment with your dentist and arrange for a realignment. It is usually a very quick, easy, and inexpensive process and if it occurs shortly after the dentures were fitted, or you have some kind of guarantee from your dentist, it may be provided free of charge. 

Summary: Keep Checking and Fixing 

As you can see, there are multiple things that can cause your mouth to change shape, your gums to shrink/grow, and your saliva levels to drop. All of these things and more can affect the way that your dentures fit and work, and that’s why it’s important to keep an eye on them and to talk with your doctor and/or your dentist if you are worried about how they are affecting your health. 

Making regular appointments with your dentist is one of the best things that you can do for your dental health. Many denture-wearers see their fake teeth as a “get out of jail free card” that they can pull whenever they have an appointment coming up 

“I don’t need to see the dentist,” they insist. “It’s not like I’m going to need a filling or an extraction”. But while you don’t have real teeth to worry about, you’re still walking around with a very expensive and essential piece of kit in your mouth and it’s important to maintain it. 

Not only can your dentist help you with realignments and repairs, but they can also spot and fix issues before they have time to develop and become problematic.

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