Your elderly mother has gum disease and needs several of her teeth pulled. Many aging in place seniors suffer from poor dentition, resulting in speaking and chewing difficulties that oftentimes place their health and wellbeing at risk. Mom’s dentist suggested dentures to replace the teeth once they’re extracted, but she’s hesitant to do so because of concerns that they’ll be too uncomfortable. What should you do? Getting your stubborn mom to agree to dentures won’t be easy, but learning more about them first may help make it happen.
Dental Problems Seniors Face
Countless seniors experience dental problems caused by:
Gum Disease – Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissues around the roots in response to plaque buildup. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress into full-blown gum disease, which not only damages the afflicted teeth, it can also produce harmful toxins that can enter the bloodstream.
Root Decay – This occurs when a tooth’s root is exposed to acids that cause decay as the gums start to slowly recede.
If one or more consecutive teeth are removed and the resulting space isn’t filled, it can cause further dental problems. When caring for a senior with one or more missing teeth, it’s best to convince them to get something like dentures to prevent further complications.
Types of Dentures
If your mom does decide to go with dentures, there are several types to choose from:
- Partial – Used to replace 1 to 3 consecutive teeth, partial dentures attach to the remaining natural teeth and are easily removable for cleaning or while sleeping.
- Full – Also known as “complete” dentures, full dentures replace large sections of a patient’s natural teeth and are removable.
- Immediate – These temporarily replace one or more consecutive teeth until other teeth targeted for extraction have been removed and a permanent set of dentures created.
- Overdentures – When an elderly patient has trouble adjusting to traditional dentures, these are an alternative. Overdentures can be fitted over the roots of remaining teeth, while resting on those teeth or on dental implants. Overdentures are very comfortable and easy-to-remove for cleaning or sleeping.
If mom is still concerned about her dentures being noticeable and/or uncomfortable, newer denture products have eliminated many of those concerns, and are also more durable than ever before. And, if your mom doesn’t have dental insurance to pay for dentures, most dentists offer affordable monthly payment plans.
Caring for new dentures is also important and relatively easy to do for a senior once they’ve learned how. Here are some denture-care tips:
- Remove the dentures daily and brush them with a mild soap or denture cleaner and very soft toothbrush or denture brush. Do so above a soft surface, like a folded towel, in case the dentures get dropped.
- While the dentures are out, clean the gums and existing teeth using a soft toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. If a brush is too harsh on the gums, try wrapping their fingers in a wet, soft washcloth and then gently rub the gums.
- Dentures should not be worn while sleeping. Before retiring to bed, they should be removed and totally immersed in warm (not hot!) water to prevent drying out. If the dentures don’t have any metal parts, a commercial denture-soaking solution is fine.
- Leaving tougher foods, like meat, on her dinner plate may mean that mom needs her dentures refitted because they’re causing chewing discomfort.
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