Dentures, also known as false teeth, are prosthetic devices used to replace missing teeth. They come in two main types – complete dentures, which replace all the teeth in an arch, and partial denture, which replace only some missing teeth. While dentures restore the ability to chew and speak and improve aesthetics, they can also be associated with some health risks if not properly cared for. Being aware of these potential issues is important for denture wearers.
Oral Health Complications
One of the most common problems with dentures is the development of stomatitis – inflammation and redness of the oral tissues underneath the denture. This is often caused by bacterial and fungal infections arising from poor denture hygiene. Food debris and plaque can readily accumulate on the denture surface if it is not properly cleaned. This creates an environment for microorganisms to thrive. The presence of the denture prevents normal saliva flow in the area covered by the base, further increasing infection risk.
Ulceration and swelling of the oral tissues, bleeding, and pain are the typical symptoms associated with stomatitis. In severe cases, it can spread and involve the cheeks and tongue. Proper oral hygiene is crucial to prevent the inflammation. This includes cleaning the dentures thoroughly every day and removing them at night to allow the tissues to rest. Regular dental visits are also important to check for any issues. The dentist may prescribe medicated mouthwashes if the stomatitis is severe.
- Gum Inflammation and Bone Loss
Partial dentures that replace only some missing teeth can accelerate gum inflammation and bone loss in the remaining natural teeth. This occurs as a result of the changed distribution of chewing forces. The partial denture may transfer more force onto the tissues around the natural teeth, leading to progressive loosening. Meticulous daily cleaning is required to remove plaque from areas around the clasp attachments. The dentist should also adjust the denture periodically to ensure a good fit as the tissues change over time.
- Impact on Nutrition
Many people with dentures face difficulties in eating hard or chewy foods. Insufficient chewing from loss of biting force and reduced sensory feedback can make digestion harder. This puts denture wearers at greater risk of nutritional deficiencies. Choosing healthy foods that are naturally soft or can be cooked to soften is important. Consult a nutritionist for advice on maintaining a balanced diet. The dentist can also check the biting and chewing efficiency of the dentures. Refitting and relining ill-fitting dentures can go a long way in restoring normal chewing function.
- Effect on Facial Structure and Muscles
Long-term denture wearing leads to gradual bone loss within the jaw. This causes caving in of the cheeks and lower face. Lips become unsupported and may protrude. Changes also occur in the muscles used for chewing and facial expressions. This can make the face appear older and affect speech clarity. Dental implants to support the dentures can help prevent bone loss. Alternatively, implant-supported bridges and similar fixed solutions can be considered.
- Oral Cancer Risk
Poorly fitting dentures can constantly rub against and irritate oral tissues. Prolonged irritation increases the risk of precancerous lesions and oral cancer. A dental professional should promptly smoothen sharp or rough edges of the dentures. Regular dental check-ups are a must to monitor the fit and condition of the dentures. Ill-fitting or defective dentures must be repaired or remade immediately.
- Digestive Problems
Many people report problems like nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhoea after getting dentures. Dramatic chewing, salivary flow, and swallowing changes can upset the normal digestive process. Stomach ulcers may also occur in some cases due to altered dietary patterns. The digestive system usually adjusts within a few months. Difficulties lasting longer require medical investigation for underlying causes. Starting on soft, bland foods and slowly transitioning to a normal diet can help.
- Social and Psychological Issues
Getting dentures can also affect some individuals’ social, psychological, and emotional well-being. Self-confidence and body image may be impacted. Speaking and eating in public sometimes causes anxiety. Some also report feeling depressed. Joining support groups and counselling helps many overcome such issues. Maintaining good oral hygiene and optimal denture function goes a long way in improving comfort and self-assurance.
Overcoming the Health Risks
While dentures predispose to certain health problems, most can be avoided with proper care and precautions. Meticulous oral hygiene, a healthy diet, regular dental check-ups, and prompt treatment of any issues are key to keeping the oral cavity and overall health in good shape. Many of the risks are highest right after getting new dentures – taking time to adapt while following professional advice is crucial. With some care and maintenance, dentures can serve well for many years.
Dentures are an important treatment option for missing teeth, but they also carry some health risks. Being aware of these potential issues helps promote oral health and well-being. Maintaining good care practices, getting timely adjustments and repairs, and adopting preventive measures greatly minimize complications. With proper maintenance and precautions, dentures can be worn successfully for many years, improving comfort and quality of life. Most risks can be managed by working closely with the dentist and dental hygienist.