Proper Denture Care
Unfortunately, everything eventually breaks and wears out. It does not matter how much money is spent on it or how good of care is taken, everything has a finite lifespan. Unfortunately, dentures are the same way. About once every other day I have a patient who has broken a denture, and it almost never happens at a good time. Also very few patients are able to go for more than a day or two without their teeth, and therefore things need to be mended rather quickly. I believe that it is important to know how to protect dentures from harm as well as the types of repairs that can be done in the office compared to the types of repairs that must be sent to the lab.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. The best way to repair a denture is to do everything possible to prevent it from breaking in the first place. The most common way I see dentures break is when it is not properly stored at night. Before going to sleep the denture must be removed from the mouth for two reasons. First, as everyone clenches and grinds their teeth at night with about three times as much force as they do during the day, the denture can break or crack under the intensive stress. Second, the denture can be taken out of the mouth when a person is dozing off to sleep and either fall down and crack, be misplaced, or be eaten by a pet. Dogs for example love to eat dentures. The next best way to prevent dentures from breaking is to not remove them when you eat. Often times a denture is taken out to eat, placed in a napkin, and then the napkin is thrown away with the denture in it. Last but not least, I recommend that every patient inspect the denture once a week to look for cracks forming in the acrylic. If a crack is noted before it goes through the denture, it is much easier and more predictable to fix.
Certain repairs can be predictably done in a dentist’s office, and patients often prefer these because they can be done quicker and usually done in one business day. The most common issue that I see is that a denture has a simple fracture with two pieces that can easily be fitted back together. If a denture breaks, do not super glue it back together as the super glue will not hold but it will prevent the dentist from fusing the two pieces back easily. If super glue is used, usually the denture needs to be sent to the lab for a repair. The other most common fracture is a tooth breaking off. If a tooth breaks off, much like a fracture, make sure to keep the tooth as it can be bonded back to the denture pretty routinely. If the tooth is not kept, I either have to match the tooth to limited tooth selection that I have or I need to send it to the lab where there is a much larger selection of teeth. The way that I fix a denture in my office is that I will piece it back together and take a mold of it. I will then shave the area that is broken and apply acrylic that is formulated for repairs so that it bonds both pieces back together. I then place the pieces held together by the mold into a pot of water that is pressurized to 30 psi which helps ensure that a good bond is formed. By using this technique, I am able to fix dentures predictably.
Occasionally, a denture will break where I need to have the lab repair it. The most common example is if a metal clasp breaks off a partial denture or if a tooth breaks off a flexible denture. The materials and techniques to fix these problems must be repaired in the lab. The next most common problem that a denture breaks but does fit well in the mouth anymore. In these cases the break is because the denture has pressure spots that a simple repair will not fix and the pressure spots are from where it doesn’t fit properly in the mouth any longer. Simple repairs will work for a time and usually last up to a month in my experience, but it does become tiresome when a prosthesis breaks over and over again. The final type of repair that must be done by the lab is if a denture breaks in more than two pieces. When this happens, a repair in the office is unpredictable because there are many moving pieces and much opportunity for error. The biggest concern that most patients have with lab repairs is that they cannot go much time with a smile. In cases with lab repairs, I will often make a temporary printed denture for no charge for my patient. The reason that I do this is that I do not want to be in a hurry to repair the denture and risk cutting corners to make it right. The second reason is that even if a patient can go a week without a smile, life usually gets in the way and having a backup set is useful.
I hope that this short blog has given you insight on how to care for dentures and what can be done to repair them if needed. Thankfully, repairs are infrequent and most of the time, they are routine and can be done in the office. If you are concerned about your denture or if you have broken it, please call my office at 504-392-5104, and my team and I will help you out.