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Dentures: restoring smiles in the elderly

Dentures: restoring smiles in the elderly

Loss of teeth is a common occurrence among the elderly. Dentures are an absolute saviour, bringing back lost smiles apart from the ability to chew
Loss of teeth is common among the elderly. Dentures greatly benefit them while having a meal
Madhugiri Shivaram is all smiles after receiving his denture implants

Madhugiri Shivaram was having a scrumptious dinner one evening, in 2019. Suddenly, his meal was disrupted when one of his teeth fell off. It was ‘out of the blue’ for the 68-year-old engineer from Australia. “I thought it would be a one-off incident, but little did I know that I would go on to lose eleven more,” he says.

On his visit to the orthodontist in Perth, it was learnt that Shivaram had receding gums. “The recession led to increased exposure of the roots of the teeth, causing them to loosen and fall out.”


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This made Shivaram cautious every time he’d eat as he dreaded the prospect of a tooth springing out again. The relief was in the form of dentures that he got two years ago.

Shivaram is one among the many seniors whose smiles returned with dentures. He was treated with dental implants in Bengaluru a year ago.

Why are dentures needed?

According to Dr Srivats Bharadwaj, a Bengaluru-based dental surgeon and a council member of the International Association for Disability and Oral Health (USA), when there is a loss of teeth, important functions like chewing and speech are compromised. The missing teeth are replaced with dentures or false teeth to restore these functions.

Elaborating further, Dr Bharadwaj who treated Shivaram says, “Dentures have functions that are beyond cosmetic. The process of digestion begins in the mouth. Teeth break the food down for swallowing and further digestion.”

According to Dr Bharadwaj, not replacing missing teeth with dentures will increase dependence on the remaining teeth. “The reduced chewing ability will limit the range of food consumed. Swallowing unmasticated food can cause digestion issues and pose hurdles in the absorption of the food, causing nutritional deficiencies and weakness,” he tells Happiest Health.

Stressing the importance of using dentures in the elderly, Dr Bharadwaj says, “These issues will be more pertinent in the elderly, as absorption of nutrients is already compromised by ageing itself.”

The gum battle

Even before the loss of teeth, in Shivaram’s case, the receding gum created spaces where plaque accumulated, causing bad breath. “I was conscious of social interactions due to the foul smell; I frequently used mouthwash and mouth fresheners to navigate through social situations,” Shivaram recalls.

His gums grew increasingly sensitive, and it was common to witness blood oozing out while brushing and flossing. “Initially, the sight of blood frightened me, I thought I had a serious illness.”

While he underwent dental treatments for over a year, extracting the affected teeth was deemed the last resort to prevent further damage.

After the extraction of eleven teeth, Shivaram had to wear removable dentures. While the removable dentures gave him some respite from his plight, it was permanent dentures (dental implants surgically fixed into the jawbone) that worked better for him.

After two years of wearing removable dentures, Shivaram made a switch to implants and is relieved of all his tooth troubles. “It almost feels like my original teeth, my gum health has also improved abundantly,” he says cheerfully.

The denture implant has helped Shivaram regain his lost confidence, be it in social situations or while gorging on his favourite delicacies.

The types of dentures

Dr Bharadwaj lists the different types of dentures

  • Bridge

A bridge is a full permanent denture used when one or two teeth are missing. They are non-invasive and take support from the adjacent teeth.

  • Removable dentures

They  can be removed at night before sleep. In removable dentures, there are partial dentures for a few missing teeth and complete dentures when all the teeth are lost.

  • Denture Implants

Implants are invasive and a screw is fixed within the jawbone and teeth are placed over them. It is the latest form of denture.

Getting adjusted 

 According to Dr Richa Kapoor Miglani, chief dentist at Dr Richa Miglani’s dental care centre, Mumbai, in the initial few days of attaining dentures, people complain of ulcers, salivation, a heavy feeling in the mouth and difficulty adjusting to speech. She recommends wearing dentures consistently to get acclimatised to them.

“Performing functions like chewing and speaking with dentures will need some getting used to as our oral cavity which consists of the tongue, lips, cheek and other tissues has to get adjusted to the newly introduced prosthesis,” says Dr Bharadwaj.

“It may take a couple of months to get used to and may require adjustments during this period,” Dr Bharadwaj adds.

Dentures and oral hygiene

There are precautions to be followed, says Dr Tanvi Gujarathi, founder of Shining Smiles Dental Clinic, Mumbai, stressing that no food must accumulate in and around the dentures. The dentures should be cleaned every day with water.

“After every meal, it is recommended to remove the dentures and wash them with water. There are brushes, pastes and tablets specifically available for maintenance of these dentures,” says Dr Gujarathi.

Dr Bharadwaj also stresses the importance of maintaining good gum health. “If your gums get infected, due to the prosthesis or poor oral hygiene, gum infections can lead to a host of general health infections,” he says.

“Many senior citizens have diabetes and heart diseases. Gum health can have a direct impact on heart health and diabetic health. You must maintain oral hygiene to manage your diabetes. Diabetes can worsen your gum oral health. So, oral health is overall health,” says Dr Bharadwaj.

Dr Richa lays down some more measures to take care of oral health while wearing dentures.

  • Dentures must be cleaned before and after wearing them using running water at room temperature (do not use hot water), to reduce the possibility of fungal infections.
  • Once in 15-20 days, one must use a denture cleansing tablet. When not in use, it should be kept in an airtight container filled with water.

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