Some users of dentures think they are just plastic teeth replacements that do not need much care. Some keep them on throughout the day, and then sleep with them on.
Many do not realise that bad habits in the use of dentures can result not just in a shortened life span for the dentures, but also damage the wearer's oral health.
It is important to take care of these replacements for missing teeth, said Dr Tay Chong Meng, associate consultant at National University Hospital and assistant professor at National University of Singapore's dentistry faculty.
Like natural teeth, they should be cleaned daily to make sure that any debris is removed. In particular, the surfaces in contact with the tissues in the mouth need to be properly cleaned.
Here are some things to take note of or consider when caring for your dentures.
An average toothpaste can damage your dentures.
Toothpastes commonly found here, including those from popular brands like Colgate and Darlie, contain abrasives so that they can adequately clean and polish the surface of our teeth, said Dr Neo Tee Khin, a dental specialist in prosthodontics with Specialist Dental Group.
If used on dentures, the abrasives in the toothpaste could leave scratches on the plastic that create a breeding ground for bacteria, he said.
Last year, GlaxoSmithKline principal scientist David Bradshaw said a study on denture cleaning done in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Japan and the United States showed that a large number of denture wearers who use toothpaste to clean their dentures are not effectively killing a fungus which can cause denture stomatitis (thrush).
This infection causes the gums and tissues to become red, swollen and painful.
Toothpaste also does not kill other forms of bacteria that can cause malodour and gum infections, he said. But our mouth is full of bacteria and it is hard to completely remove all of it, said Dr Neo.
What denture wearers can do is to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth as much as possible.
This can be done by cleaning the dentures with a toothbrush, using a non-abrasive detergent like liquid handwash and a denture cleanser, and visiting the dentist regularly, he said.
Always use a soft-bristle toothbrush, as a hard-bristle one can damage your dentures, dentists said.
Brushing helps to remove food particles and plaque from your dentures.
You will also need to brush your gums, tongue and roof of your mouth every morning before you insert your dentures, in order to stimulate circulation in your tissues and help remove plaque, according to the American Dental Association.
When cleaning dentures, do it over a bowl of water placed in the sink, suggested Dr Tay.
"Doing so will prevent the dentures from breaking, should they be accidentally dropped into the sink while cleaning," he said.
A folded towel would work too.
Soak dentures in plain water after cleaning them to maintain their shape, said Dr Tay.
The water must not be very hot as that could damage the dentures.
"Dentures must not be worn the whole day, especially when sleeping at night," said Dr Tay.
"Such a practice is strongly discouraged as it can cause inflammation of the gums and tissues under the dentures," he said.
This condition is known as denture-induced stomatitis, he said.
Denture cleansers aid in the loosening and removal of oil, plaque, stains and bacteria that have accumulated on dentures, said Dr Neo.
"When dentures are not being used, they should be constantly soaked in water at room temperature so that the plastic does not become deformed," he said.
However, to remove the oil, stains, plaque and bacteria accumulated on dentures, it is best to brush them lightly with a non-abrasive detergent and then soak them in denture cleansing solutions, he said.
Check the manufacturer's instructions on how long the dentures should be soaked.
CRACKED DENTURES AND WIRES
Dentures do not last a lifetime, so visit the dentist regularly to review the dentures and the inside of the mouth, advised Dr Tay.
"During such visits, the dentist will check for cracks or fractures on the dentures," he said.
"For partial dentures (those that do not replace all the teeth and are usually held in place with wires), the wires need to be checked to ensure that they do not injure the gums and soft tissues in the mouth."
Dr Neo recommends that people who use dentures visit their dentist every six months for a routine check-up.