Earlier this month, new global guidelines on the best care and maintenance of full dentures were released. These guidelines were developed by the Oral Health Foundation with an independent global expert panel and had an educational grant from GSK.  The report looks at all the available evidence and goes into detail about how people with full dentures should look after them.

But why were the new guidelines necessary and what does it all mean? We sat down with Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation and member of the Global Task Force for Care of Full Dentures.  We spoke to Dr Carter to ask him why these new guidelines have been published and what we can all learn from them.

Hello Dr Carter. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Let’s start with the basics – what are dentures?

Thank you very much for having me, I’m delighted to be here.

Dentures are used to replace lost or missing teeth. Quite often you find that people who have lost all their teeth also lose a lot of confidence on their appearance and smile, not to mention of course how difficult it is to process food without any teeth. So full dentures are used to allow people to continue to enjoy a healthy diet and smile with confidence.

They’re made of either plastic or metal and depending on how many teeth you have missing you can get either full or partial dentures. Partial dentures fill in the spaces left by lost or missing teeth whereas full dentures are used as a replacement for all the natural teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Okay fantastic. So now that we have a good foundation about what dentures are, why do we need new guidelines on them?

I think the new guidelines have been needed for some time for three reasons - to end confusion caused by conflicting sources of information, to improve standards of health, and to address the growing needs of an aging population.

For many years denture wearers have been given a wealth of inconsistent and contradictory advice on the best care and maintenance of full dentures. Take cleaning for example. Research shows that people with dentures are using a range of different things to clean them. Some use soap and water, some use toothpastes and many others use bleaches and commercial products. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and confusion around how best to make sure dentures remain in their best shape for as long as possible.

Secondly, having poor denture hygiene can lead to poorer oral health and increase the likelihood of developing general health problems. There are people out there that have poor denture care but only because they don’t know how to look after their dentures, or sometimes even that there is any need to!

Finally, these guidelines are important in protecting the oral health of denture wearers in the future. By 2046, it is estimated that there will be more than 18 million people over the age of 65 in the UK. The older you get, the more likely you are to lose some or all of your natural teeth and need dentures. Given the age of the average person is increasing, it’s clear the number of people who need the correct advice will also grow.

Okay, so how should people be cleaning their dentures?

Before these guidelines were published, there was no clear and consistent guidance on how often to clean dentures and what to clean them with. People who have dentures should be taking actions to keep them clean and in good shape each day.

Just like you should brush your natural teeth, use a toothbrush or a denture brush to clean your dentures daily. You must not use toothpaste though as it is too abrasive and can scratch the denture. Instead, use an effective denture cleanser, which you will be able to find in your local supermarket in the dental health section.

Do you need to soak dentures or is there no need to if you brush them regularly?

Even if you brush your dentures each day, you should still soak them in a denture-cleansing solution daily. You could say it’s the second part of cleaning them that helps you cover all the bases.

Using a denture-cleansing solution will chemically breakdown any plaque that may still be on your dentures after you brush and is the best way to make sure they are as clean as possible.

What about keeping dentures in overnight? Does it really matter if you don’t take them out?

Unless you have a specific reason to leave dentures in, it is recommended that you take them out each night. Make it the last thing you do before you sleep. Taking them out overnight will also help to relieve any soreness and prevent infection so yes, it really does matter.  

How important is it to maintain regular visits to the dentist if you have dentures?

It is absolutely essential, as it always has been. No matter whether you have your natural teeth or dentures. It gives your dental team the opportunity to make sure that the dentures are in good shape your mouth is still healthy.

It’s also your chance to voice any concerns or ask any questions you might have about your dentures.

Thank you so much for that information. Finally, where can people go if they want to learn more about looking after their dentures?

The Oral Health Foundation website has some great information on denture cleaning and how to make sure they stay in their best condition for as long as possible.

You also have the option of calling the Dental Helpline on 01788 539 780, for free, impartial and confidential advice about your oral health. They are open every weekday between 9am and 5pm. If you’d rather email, then you can do so at [email protected]