Why Your Dentures Smell Bad (and how to clean them properly)
Do your dentures smell? You’re not alone. It’s one of the most common problems reported by denture wearers and can be very difficult to deal with.
The good news is that it’s easier to know if you have bad breath as a denture wearer, because if your dentures smell, there’s a good chance that your breath will smell. The solutions are relatively easy as well, and it’s those fixes that we will look at in this guide.
Why do Dentures Smell?
Bad breath is caused by bacteria. Bacteria accumulates between the gaps of your teeth, on your gums, on your tongue—there’s no escaping those nasty little microbes. Even if you brush regularly, you can still suffer from bad breath if you don’t floss or scrape your tongue, or if you have a digestive issue.
It’s often assumed that all of this goes away when your teeth are removed and dentures are installed. But the bacteria are in your mouth regardless. They’re not attracted to your teeth, they don’t feed off your enamel, and even when those teeth are removed, the bacteria will remain.
It’s possible, therefore, to have bad breath with dentures, even if you do your best to keep them clean.
Causes of Smelly Dentures
It’s fairly easy to clean and maintain your dentures, much more so than real teeth. To make sure you stay on the ball and keep those dentures fresh and healthy, keep an eye out for the following causes of smell dentures.
Not Removing Your Dentures Enough
Flossing may not seem relevant here, but it helps to highlight a very important point.
When you have real teeth, you need to floss regularly because bacteria become trapped in-between your teeth and the longer you leave it, the more it’s allowed to grow. If you don’t floss at all, the bacteria will begin to eat away at your enamel.
Your breath smells, your teeth begin to decay, and all because you didn’t remove those trapped pieces of food.
It’s like a rotten piece of fish that your cat hides underneath the couch. In the beginning, there is a slight fishy smell that you don’t really notice, but if you don’t remove it, the rot will set in and the smell will begin to take over your house. It’s much the same with your mouth, and that’s why it’s important to floss regularly.
As a denture wearer, you’re exposed to similar issues as your dentures press against your gums and trap the bacteria inside. It creates the perfect place for the bacteria to thrive, and just like the rotting fish under your couch, if it’s left untouched, it will cause some serious olfactory distress.
You can eradicate this problem by removing your dentures every night, soaking them in an XODENT kit, and rinsing out your mouth. Not only are you reducing the risk of the bacteria multiplying, but you’re also removing any bacteria that has already accumulated.
You can’t stop that bacteria from spreading, just like you can’t stop your cat’s mischievous adventures, but you can deal with the problems when they arise and prevent them from becoming serious.
Food in Your Dentures
Any food that sticks to your dentures or becomes trapped between the teeth needs to be removed. As noted above, it can lead to bacterial growth and bad smells if it remains.
When you soak your dentures overnight, you need to give them a light brush to ensure that stubborn pieces of food are removed. Starches from foods like chips and candy are particularly problematic. Not only are they sticky and hard to remove, but they produce more of the toxins that damage your dentures and gums.
Bacteria on Your Tongue
As noted at the outset of this guide, your tongue can be just as problematic as your teeth and dentures when it comes to bacteria. A film of bacteria can attach to the surface of your tongue and if you don’t deal with it, the problem will just keep getting worse.
Bacteria is everywhere in your mouth and it attaches to any surface it can find. The more of it there is, the harder it will be to remove. You might have some luck removing the bacteria by rinsing with mouthwash, but a significant amount will likely remain and continue to cause problems.
To remove it completely, you will need to use a tongue scraper or your toothbrush. A tongue scraper does exactly what its name suggests, scraping over your tongue to remove all of the bacteria that have accumulated there.
If you’re going to use a toothbrush, you will need to be gentle to avoid damaging the delicate tissues on your tongue. Some toothbrush heads contain a dimpled silicon back designed to gently scrub your tongue. For others, you just need to use the brush while taking care not to scrub too hard.
Make sure you rinse your mouth after scrubbing your tongue to get rid of every last bacterium. If you notice that you spit brown-tinted water when you rinse, it could indicate that there was a lot of bacteria on your tongue.
Dry mouth is one of the biggest causes of bad breath in denture wearers, as it’s a problem that becomes more common with age. Your body becomes less adept at using and storing water and this makes you prone to dehydration. More importantly, seniors are more likely to take medication, and a large number of OTC and prescription medications list dry mouth as a side effect.
Opioids, for instance, are notorious for causing dry mouth and if you’re taking these tablets multiple times a day every single day, it’s a problem that won’t go away easily. Blood pressure medications, heart medications, sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety drugs, and even allergy medications can also cause dry mouth.
It’s tricky to tackle this problem, but it’s not impossible, and there are a few things that you can do.
Firstly, you should make sure that you’re drinking enough fluids and consuming plenty of fresh whole fruits and vegetables.
It’s often said that you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day. This is true, but it’s also misleading. If you eat a diet rich in whole foods, there’s a good chance that you’re getting more of your liquid from that food, in which case you don’t need to worry about getting the full 8 glasses.
On the flip side, if you are exercising frequently and you live in a hot region, you may need to increase your water intake, as you will lose a lot of liquid through sweat.
To keep things simple, just try to drink as often as you can throughout the day. Drink a glass of water when you wake, have a glass every time you eat, and drink a little whenever you feel that your mouth is very dry.
You may still suffer from dry mouth on occasion, especially if you’re consuming large amounts of problematic medications or are predisposed to the issue, but the bad breath that this causes should be reduced significantly.
In addition to increasing your water intake, you should chew gum. It’s good to have a pack on standby when you’re out of the house and don’t have access to water or simply need an easier way to freshen up.
Make sure the gum is sugar-free and look for something that has a strong minty flavor. Some brands, including Freedent, are highly recommended for denture wearers as it’s advertised as a “gum that won’t stick”, which means it won’t pull out your dentures like some other gums might.
Your Dentures Don’t Fit
Loosely fitting dentures allow food to sneak through the gaps. It’s generally not as big of an issue as ill-fitting crowns, because you’re constantly removing and cleaning those dentures, but it can still be an issue and one that is exacerbated by the irritation, inflammation, and oral sores that loose-fitting dentures cause.
Your gums change shape as you age and you may need your dentures refitted. Book an appointment with your dentist and see what they can do for you.
Excessive Use of Mouthwash
Mouthwash will freshen your breath…for a few minutes. The problem is that many mouthwash brands also contain alcohol and will dry your mouth out. As soon as that initial freshness fades, you are more likely to experience bad breath.
If you already have a dry mouth, this will just intensify the problem.
Look for a mouthwash that doesn’t contain alcohol. There are other anti-bacterial solutions and many of them won’t dry your mouth and will still provide the deep clean that you need.
Everyone knows that garlic makes your breath pungent enough to knock the socks off Count Dracula himself, but it’s not the only food that lingers on your breath.
Milk, butter, and dairy have a way of staying around long after you’ve swallowed your last mouthful and those smells may intensify if you have dry mouth or digestive problems. In fact, bad breath is more common in sufferers of GERD and may be intensified following the consumption of specific foods.
You should know which foods cause you the most problems, but these can change as you age. It’s important to pay attention to how your body reacts to certain foods and to avoid those that cause you more digestive issues. Generally speaking, if you taste the food every time you burp for many hours afterward, it probably doesn’t agree with you.
How to Clean Your Dentures
In addition to all of the tips outlined above, there are a few things you can do to keep your dentures clean and your mouth fresh. Just follow these steps:
1. Always Remove and Rinse After Eating
Foods can and will latch onto your teeth and find their way into every nook and crevice. A simple rinse will remove this detritus before it can rot or harden.
As unpalatable as the mental image might be, it’s like rinsing your dishes after eating, as opposed to leaving them on the side and letting all of that food harden.
2. Soak and Scrub
Using the XODENT kit, you can soak your dentures overnight and then give them a gentle brush before replacing them in the morning. XODENT contains everything you need to clean your dentures and your partner’s dentures for many months to come.
Buy the kit, follow the instructions on the box, and keep those dentures clean!
3. Clean Your Mouth
You wouldn’t shower and then climb into dirty and unwashed clothes, so why would you put clean dentures into a dirty mouth? Every time you remove your dentures to rinse or wash them, you need to give your mouth the same treatment.
If you’ve just eaten, rinse your mouth out with water to ensure that you’re not trapping any pieces of food when you replace your dentures. If you’re preparing for bed and soaking your dentures, use a soft bristle brush to gently clean your gum, before rinsing afterward.
4. Rinse Before Replacing
Many denture-wearers simply pop their dentures back in their mouth after soaking and brushing, but they always need to be rinsed first. Not only will you remove any stains that have been loosened by the cleaning solution, but you’ll also remove the cleaning solution itself.
Clean water will suffice. You don’t even need to soak it. Simply run your dentures under the faucet for a few seconds, being sure to cover every part.
5. Be Gentle
Always be gentle when cleaning and handling your dentures. It won’t do much to prevent bad breath, but it will ensure that your dentures stay strong for many years to come. They are much more fragile than you might think, and this becomes more apparent the older they are.
FAQs About Smelly Dentures
Still have a few questions about why your dentures smell and what you can do about it, take a look at these FAQs.
Can I Just Use Mouthwash?
Mouthwash is not an effective cleaning solution for your dentures. You definitely cannot rely on just rinsing with mouthwash every now and then and you should also refrain from soaking your dentures in mouthwash.
It wasn’t designed for this purpose. Not only might it harm parts of your dentures, but it may also not clean them as effectively as you need.
Why do They Smell Even Though I Clean Them?
If you have a clean mouth, don’t suffer from dry mouth, and clean your dentures regularly, it could be that you’re not using a strong enough cleaning solution.
Some denture wearers seem to believe that water will suffice in cleaning their dentures while others rely on the occasional splash of mouthwash. Water wouldn’t be adequate for your real teeth and it definitely won’t suffice for your dentures!
You need a tailormade cleaning solution and that’s where XODENT comes in. It was designed to quickly and easily clean your dentures and ensure they are fresh and ready the following morning.
How Can I Tell if My Dentures Smell?
One of the easiest ways to tell if your dentures smell is to place them inside a ziplock bag, seal it, and leave it to one side for a few minutes before opening and sniffing. If you detect a really bad smell, there’s a good chance that you have bad breath.
If your dentures don’t smell and yet you still have bad breath, the issue lies elsewhere, potentially with your gums or tongue.
What About Partial Dentures?
Partial dentures can accumulate bacteria as well, and they can cause just as many problems. Your mouth is a haven of bacteria. It’s warm and it’s moist—the perfect conditions for microorganisms to thrive. Anything that you put in your mouth and leave for many hours at a time will accumulate bacteria and potentially cause bad breath.
Summary: Smelly Breath for Denture Wearers
A study published in 1997 found that the bacteria that cause bad breath were significantly higher in denture wearers than a control group that didn’t wearer dentures. They didn’t find a direct cause for this increase in odor-causing bacteria but it’s likely that one or all of the points discussed above are at fault.
It could be that denture wearers are less likely to practice good oral hygiene, as they believe that they no longer need to. It could also be a result of the dry mouth issue that we highlighted above. After all, when your mouth is dry, it means you’re not producing the saliva you need to neutralize acid and to maintain a healthy balance in your mouth.
We can’t say for a fact that denture wearers are less likely to take good care of their mouths than people with real teeth, but we do know that seniors are much more likely to both wear dentures and have dry mouths.
Whatever the reason, the solution is clear: Keep your dentures clean, your mouth fresh, and your body hydrated. Your breath will be fresher, cleaner, and less likely to scare your friends and family members away.