Denture breath: Testing for and curing it.

- A person's false teeth (full or partial) can, without question, be the source of their breath odor. / How to self-test for denture breath.

Graphic showing a denture soaking in cleaner.

To cure denture breath, you need to clean both your mouth and dentures.

The exact same types of bacteria and debris that accumulate on natural teeth and soft oral tissues will tend to accumulate on dentures too.

And since this includes the types of bacteria that produce the volatile sulfur compounds that are responsible for causing bad breath, people who wear false teeth (either a partial or full set) can find themselves having problems with denture halitosis.

What's the cure for denture breath?

Treatment for malodor associated with wearing dentures must approach the problem on two fronts.

  • A person must clean their dentures more effectively.
  • They'll also need to more thoroughly clean those parts of their mouth where bacteria tend to accumulate. (This includes both the tissues their dentures rest on and especially the posterior region of their tongue.)

Details -

A) Many people don't remove and clean their dentures often enough.

The space between a denture and the gum tissue it rests on is an ideal location for bacterial growth.

  • This space is relatively protected and therefore makes a cozy home for bacteria.
  • Food particles easily enter this area and provide a continual food supply for the halitosis-producing bacteria that live there.

As a way of stifling the growth of the bacterial colony that inhabits this space ...

  • Dentures (complete or partial) should always be removed after every meal for cleaning.
  • They should be brushed both inside and out.
  • Any denture adhesive that is present should be removed and replaced with new.
  • The tissue areas covered by the dentures should be wiped with a washcloth or gently brushed with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

B) On its own, just brushing your denture won't cure your halitosis.

On a microscopic basis, the plastic surface of a denture is quite rough. And that means that every one offers innumerable locations that the bacteria that cause bad breath can call home.

The problem with just brushing.

While all denture cleaning activities should start with a thorough brushing, the problem with just doing it alone is that the diameter of any brush's bristles is far larger in size than the microscopic holes in which the offending bacteria live.

Animation of a denture soaking in an effervescent cleaner.

Cleaning a denture in an effervescent denture cleaner.

As a solution ...

1) Use an ultrasonic unit.

One aid that can help is the use of an ultrasonic denture-cleaning unit.

The vibratory motion it generates provides an additional cleansing action. And it's been found that brushing in combination with ultrasonic cleaning is significantly more effective than just brushing alone.

2) Chemical cleansing and disinfecting.

After mechanically (brushing, ultrasonic) cleansing, a denture should be further cleansed and disinfected chemically. (Related content: Homemade soaks.)

That's because many of the bacteria that cause denture breath live in microscopic porosities on a denture's surface. Places where only chemical treatment can have an affect on them.

It seems most unlikely that anyone's denture breath can be cured without regular and frequent denture soaking.

3) How about using mouthwash?

Expecting that the use of mouthwash will be a solution for your denture breath suggests that you don't have a full grasp of what's really required to overcome it.

  1. For anyone with bad breath (denture wearer or not), just using mouthwash alone is seldom an effective cure. What's really needed is more effective cleansing of your mouth (here's why).

    For denture wearers, that means cleaning both the gum tissue your dentures rest on (via gently brushing or wiping it), and especially your tongue.

  2. You'll also need to insure that your dentures are thoroughly cleansed on a regular basis. Soaks can play an important role in accomplishing this but using mouthwash as one makes an ineffective choice.
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Testing - How can you tell if you have denture breath?

Here's a simple test you can use to see if your dentures (full or partial) are the source of your halitosis.

  • Take your dentures out and place them in a plastic bag (baggie), then close it.
  • Let them sit for several minutes.
  • Open the bag and take a sniff inside.

If things don't smell good, your dentures are causing at least some part of your breath problems. (We say "some part" because your tongue is probably a fault too.)

Our next page is our bad breath FYI page. It's an overview of all of the things our topic covers.



Topic Menu ▶  Bad Breath / Halitosis



Brushing gums.

Great website. Thank you. No wonder no one talks to me very long;-) At least my young granddaughter has no qualms about saying "Grandma your breath stinks, what's wrong." Thanks to you, know I know.

Since I have learned almost all I need to clean my dentures (and why don't dentists tell you?), does using just a soft toothbrush or cloth on the gums, tongue, posts, etc really remove the bacteria? Can toothpaste be used? My dentist and I argued about this as the posts I have are embedded in the bottom portion of teeth which I believe can use toothpaste (he doesn't). I don't really want to use soap to clean my mouth. What is the solution? I'll be waiting with baited (and bad) breath to hear from you.


In regard to dispensing with colonies of bacteria that cause breath odors, mechanical cleansing of your mouth is typically more effective than the use of chemical agents (rinses, toothpaste, lozenges, etc...).

Chemical agents can be used to enhance the cleaning process. We explain that point on our effective mouthwashes page (which discusses toothpastes too). But people usually place too much faith/reliance on them.

In your case, biggest expected culprit locations for smelly bacterial accumulation would be your dentures and tongue.

We have a page that explains effective tongue cleaning. (Brushing/scraping is the most important part.)

We also describe self-tests that you can use to determine if those locations (tongue, dentures) continue to be the source of odors and therefore need more attention.

While underneath-the-gum-line bacterial accumulations are an odor source for many, we'd expect that you don't have but a few "posts." And if they were a major harbor for bacteria it seems most likely that they would also have ongoing gum problems (which doesn't seem to be the case because your dentist doesn't seem overly concerned about them).

If the "posts" are dental implants, a toothpaste's antibacterial properties (if it has any) might provide some benefit. (However if bacterial accumulation around them is a problem, usually a prescription antibacterial rinse is used.) In the case of posts placed in the roots of natural teeth, they might also receive some protection from a toothpaste's fluoride content.

For other areas of the mouth (like gum tissue expanses which typically don't harbor large numbers of bacteria and therefore contribute less to a person's breath problems), cleaning as we describe on our pages (cloth, soft toothbrush) should be sufficient. But yes, if the use of a chemical agent is desired, as we describe on our mouthwashes page linked to above, that's a reasonable addition.

Anitspetic mouthwash.

I've used Listerine antiseptic mouthwash for years and think that it controls breath odors just fine. I used it for bad breath before I even had dentures.


We certainly don't think that just using mouthwash makes the most effective choice for controlling denture breath.

We don't doubt that you do notice an improvement after using an antiseptic rinse. But we anticipate that much of this effect is probably more associated with masking and perfuming agents it contains rather than effectively controlling the bacteria that cause breath odors.

As we describe above, to be really effective it takes mechanical cleansing of your gums (brushing, wiping with gauze) and tongue (brushing, scraping), along with mechanical denture cleaning (brushing, using an ultrasonic cleaner) combined with the use of a soak to effectively control the level of bacteria in your mouth that cause halitosis.

Mouthwash is generally considered a surface treatment, in the sense that it only has an effect on the bacteria that live on the surface layer of the debris buildup that has formed. Also, we're assuming that you do remove your dentures as part of your rinsing routine. Otherwise the bacterial living in between your denture and supporting gum tissue would be little affected.

Doesn't your taste bad?

My relative seems to have no clue how bad her breath is.... It is horrible and she is very sensitive. She does not remove her dentures for days and it shows. Shouldn't she be able to tell by how her mouth tastes?


There can be a lot of contributing factors involved.

Many of them can be associated with the person's age (we're presuming here that age equates with having dentures). As we age our sense of taste and smell deteriorate (what some people interpret as a loss of taste is actually related to a loss of olfaction).

As other explanations, people who don't maintain denture hygiene frequently have oral candidiasis (oral fungus). A side effect of this is a loss of taste.

Other conditions can also affect the sense of taste too: neurological conditions, nutritional deficiencies, endocrine disorders, local factors such as persistent sinus conditions and even viral conditions.

Some medicines can affect a person's sense of taste. People who have a chronically dry mouth experience problems with taste.

So, while there's no simple explanation, there's no shortage of scenarios that might explain her inability to taste her own denture breath.