Denture care: How to brush false teeth.
Dentures aren’t maintenance-free. The same debris that accumulates on natural teeth (microorganisms, dental plaque, tartar, stain, food particles) will tend to accumulate on them too.
That means in order to keep your false teeth fresh and clean and your mouth healthy, you’ll need to perform daily maintenance.
What kind of daily care is needed?
A two-stage cleaning approach is required. That’s because neither step is totally effective on its own.
1) Mechanical removal of debris.
a) Denture brushing.
Scrubbing dentures with a brush is the most common form of “mechanical” denture cleansing. And as unglamorous as this method may seem, there’s essentially no substitute for it.
Brushing is able to quickly remove film and soft buildup from denture surfaces. And beyond the obvious benefits this provides, it also helps to set the stage for chemical cleansing (denture soaking) and aiding it in being as effective as possible.
But note, and like this page outlines, guidelines must be followed (choice of brush and cleanser) so damage to your false teeth doesn’t occur.
b) Ultrasonic cleaning.
As a second form of mechanical cleansing, the use of an ultrasonic cleaner can make a valuable addition to a person’s daily denture care.
These devices on their own don’t replace brushing. But they do help to make your overall cleaning efforts more effective.
We explain these units in detail (what they do, how they work, what home models are available, costs) on this page.
2) Chemical cleansing.
Brushing can only accomplish so much.
That’s why chemical cleaning (soaking) is needed too.
Instructions for brushing false teeth.
Any type of cleaning process should always begin with brushing. It’s the quickest, most effective way to remove large amounts of debris (dental plaque, residual food) from denture surfaces.
A) What kind of brush should you use?
You can use pretty much any type of brush you want. The only real requirements are:
- It should be one that’s moderately soft-bristled.
- And it should have a shape that’s able to access all of your appliances’ curves and recesses, both inside and out. (More than one size/shaped brush may be needed.)
Stiff bristles can scratch your denture.
Any method of brushing, even when using just plain water, will tend to scratch the polished surface of false teeth. And that means, in some cases a part of the difficulty a person has in keeping their appliances fresh and clean is actually related to the way they clean them.
Keeping this type of damage to a minimum is important because microorganisms have an easier time attaching to rougher denture surfaces (Verran). And stain accumulation tends to be more of a problem with scratched surfaces too.
Look for a “soft” brush.
As you might expect, research suggests that the amount of wear and tear that takes place during denture brushing corresponds with the stiffness of the brush that’s used. (Pascaretti-Girzon)
Zilinskas evaluated the scratching effect of a “low abrasion” toothpaste when used for denture cleaning (a practice that is NOT recommended, see below) using “soft,” “medium” and “hard” bristled toothbrushes (like those made for brushing natural teeth).
Significantly more wear took place when a “hard” brush was used as opposed to a “soft” one.
▲ Section references – Verran, Pascaretti-Grizon, Zilinskas
Using a denture brush makes a good choice. This type of product typically has a dual brush head design.
A brush specialized for denture cleaning.
- One has a tapered form so it can fit into the internal (concave) aspect of dentures (the part that rests over your jaw’s ridges). And, in the case of partial dentures, in and around its clasps.
- The other side of the brush features a broader, more conventional bristle design. This is intended for cleaning the convex and broad surfaces of appliances.
- The stiffness of the bristles is designed specifically for scrubbing plastic appliances.
- For people who have impaired manual dexterity, some denture brushes have thicker, easier to grip handles than others.
- Perpetually moist brushes can be a favorable environment for microorganism growth, so allow yours to air dry between uses.
These brushes are not expensive items. We found “name brand” products listed online for less than $5.
Suction-cup dentures brushes.
For one-handed cleaning, suction-cup denture brushes are available. With some models, the cups are positioned right on the brush handle. With others, the brush is mounted upright on a plastic stand that has 2 or 4 suction cups.
As mentioned below, it’s safest to clean your denture over water (to soften its fall if it’s dropped). With suction cup devices, you might mount (or glue/silicone) your brush(es) in a plastic dishpan that’s used just for this activity.
Using a toothbrush as a denture brush.
Seemingly, many people end up cleaning their false teeth using a toothbrush. And evidently doing so makes a reasonable choice.
- Per our discussion above, it makes sense to choose a “soft” one.
[This seems to the the standard recommendation and choice of research studies: Pascaretti-Girzon, Zilinskas, Freitas-Pontes, Silva-Lovato.]
- It’s important that you dedicate this toothbrush to just the task of denture cleaning. Residual particles of toothpaste will tend to scratch your denture’s surface (see below).
- The size and shape of the brush you choose must be one that can access all surfaces of your denture, both inside and out. (Using both a child-sized and large-sized adult brush can make a good choice.)
- Nishi found no difference in the overall level of microorganisms found on appliances maintained using a toothbrush vs. a denture brush. Silva-Lovato generally found no differences between using either type.
- If you have problems with manual dexterity, some toothbrushes come with over-sized handles. Or large handles can be purchased that you then insert your brush into. (Suction-cup brushes are discussed above.)
- Perpetually moist brushes can be a favorable environment for microorganism growth, so allow yours to air dry between uses.
▲ Section references – Pascaretti-Girzon, Zilinskas, Freitas-Pontes, Silva-Lovato, Nishi
Can you use an electric toothbrush as a denture brush?
Some research studies have evaluated the use of electric toothbrushes for denture cleaning.
- Andrade concluded that both conventional manual and powered brushes were equally effective in removing biofilms from the surface of false teeth.
- While this paper did not evaluate surface roughness changes, it did state that Heasman found that brushing with an electric resulted in fewer surface scratches, due to the minimal pressure that’s needed when one is used.
- Pascaretti-Girzon used an Oral-B electric (utilizing its pressure control sensor, a soft brush head and 2-minute brushing periods) to study abrasion of denture plastics.
- This study found that this technique when used with water alone created “limited abrasion.” When used with various cleaning pastes and powders, all did cause scratching.
▲ Section references – de Andrade, Heasman, Pascaretti-Girzon
Should you use an electric?
There doesn’t seem to be any great clinical advantage, or disadvantage, to using a powered brush with false teeth.
Using one might be an asset for disabled persons. Given the cost of replacement brush heads, this method is more expensive than using a manual brush.
For more information about electric toothbrushes in general, these pages outline both the Sonicare and Oral-B product lines.
B) Denture brushing instructions / technique.
- As a first step, you should rinse your appliance thoroughly with cool water. This will wash away any loose debris. It will also provide the proper environment for your cleaning activities.
Important! – You should never scrub a dry denture, or use a dry brush. Only perform your cleaning activities in the presence of water. This helps to minimize surface scratching.
- With your moistened brush (or brush with cleanser applied to it, see below), gently scrub every surface of your denture both inside and out. Lightly and thoroughly is the key, as opposed to scrubbing harshly.
[In the case where a soft lining has been placed inside your denture, be gentle so you don’t damage it. For temporary lining materials, using your finger or a cloth might make a better choice than a brush.]
- All remnants of denture adhesive should be removed, either before or as you perform your scrubbing. If it’s not, as each new layer is applied, a thick layer of buildup can form that’s often very difficult to remove.
- Once you’ve finished brushing, thoroughly rinse your appliance off with cool water.
- As a general rule, dentures should not be allowed to dry out. If they do, their fit may change.
So, if you’re not going to put your false teeth back into your mouth, they should be fully immersed in water. Or, as your next step of denture care, in soaking solution.
C) What type of cleanser should you use?
It’s possible to increase the effectiveness of denture scrubbing by using some type of cleansing agent on your brush. But choosing the wrong type can cause damage.
1) What not to use –
▲ Section references – Freitas-Pontes, Zilinskas
b) Household cleansers.
Scrubbing powders like Ajax and Comet make exceedingly poor choices. These products are excessively abrasive to denture plastic and should never be used.
2) Better choices –
a) Dishwashing Detergent.
Cleaning your false teeth using some type of soap, like dishwashing liquid, makes a good, probably best, choice. It’s cheap, non-abrasive and everyone already has some of this in their home.
- Make a mild soap solution by mixing a little dishwashing liquid with water.
- There’s no reason not to prepare a quantity of this mixture ahead of time so you can just squirt it out on your brush and denture as you need it.
- In a paper addressing this subject, Rathee states that: “There is no experimental evidence that brushing with a toothpaste or polishing paste is more efficient than using soap.”
b) Store-bought products.
If you’ll check the shelves of your local store, you’ll find commercial pastes and powders specifically made for cleaning false teeth.
- These products are formulated to be “less” abrasive on plastic surfaces (as compared to toothpaste that’s intended for natural teeth).
That’s not to say that they’re non-scratching. The formulations of most still contain some level of abrasive particles because they do enhance a product’s cleaning results.
- An overview of the subject by Oussama states: “All powder and pastes increase the damage to dentures.”
As an advantage of using this type of product, it’s suggested that the actual scratch grooves created by denture paste are smoother and more rounded than those caused by toothpaste. (Sorgini)
This is important because, as mentioned above, rougher denture surfaces are easier for microorganisms to adhere to.
It’s a trade-off.
Due to the abrasives they contain, commercial cleansers generally are better at removing stains than our dishwashing liquid recommendation above. But this comes at the expense of creating a higher level of surface damage, which may tend to make it harder to keep your dentures clean in the long run.
▲ Section references – Oussama, Sorgini
c) Baking soda.
Beyond the use of soap, another homemade/natural alternative that’s sometimes used for cleaning false teeth is baking soda (sodium bicarbonate powder).
- Just like with commercial products, using baking soda on your brush will cause some increased level of surface scratching.
- Zilinskas evaluated the abrasiveness of sodium bicarbonate powder on denture plastic (as measured by changes in surface reflection). It was found to be more abrasive than toothpaste due to the presence of sharp undissolved crystals.
- In comparison, Pascaretti-Girzon found that baking soda toothpaste scratched plastic surfaces less so than other types due to the easily dissolved nature of the sodium bicarbonate crystals it contained.
▲ Section references – Zilinskas, Pascaretti-Girzon
D) How often do you need to brush false teeth?
As you might expect, studies show a correlation between a person’s cleaning habits and their incidence of denture-related stomatitis and traumatic ulcers (Baran). So, practicing proper denture care is important.
- Ideally, all types of dentures (full, complete, partials) should be taken out and brushed after every meal.
- If circumstances prevent you from doing that, you should at least remove your appliances and thoroughly rinse them with cool water.
There should be one time during the day when you give your false teeth exceptional care. This should involve both meticulous brushing, as well as cleaning and disinfection via the use of a chemical soak.
Don’t forget the rest of your mouth.
Besides just your dentures, there are other things that need cleaning too. (Remember to use a separate brush for these activities, see above.)
- The tissues that lie under your false teeth (jaw ridges, palate) need cleaning. After all, the same types of debris and microorganisms that build up inside your appliance accumulates on them too.
Cleaning and massaging can be accomplished via the use of a soft toothbrush, a moist cloth placed over your finger or even just your finger alone if need be.
- If you have any natural teeth, they need to be brushed and flossed.
If you wear a partial denture, pay particular attention to cleaning those teeth it clasps on to. Dental plaque will tend to accumulate in this protected location. If it causes problems with even a single tooth, the fit and function of your partial may be ruined.
- Even your tongue needs cleaning at least once a day. Here are instructions for doing that.
Precautions to take when cleaning dentures.
a) Preventing accidents.
It’s easy enough to break false teeth by dropping them, even from a height of just a few inches. As a preventive measure, you should use a routine where if this does occur something will cushion their fall. Here are some suggestions.
- When brushing, hold your denture over a sink (or safer yet, a plastic dishpan) that’s been filled with a few inches of water.
- If you brush over a hard countertop, cover its surface with a fluffy folded towel.
- If you have impaired dexterity and you’re using a standing suction-cup denture brush (see above), anchor it first and then bunch a fluffy towel around it.
As an alternative, anchor your brush in the bottom of a plastic dishpan and then surround it with a few inches of water.
b) Other denture care precautions.
As generalized best practices for false teeth that have a plastic component –
- Your appliance should not be allowed to dry out. If it does its fit may change. False teeth should either be kept in your mouth or fully immersed in water or soaking solution.
- Don’t expose your appliances to elevated temperatures. (This includes soaking or rinsing in hot water.) If you do, their fit may change.
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Page references sources:
Baran I, et al. Self-reported denture hygiene habits and oral tissue conditions of complete denture wearers.
de Andrade IM, et al. Effectiveness of manual and electric brushes in the removal of biofilm from full dentures.
Felton D, et al. Evidence-based guidelines for the care and maintenance of complete dentures.
Freitas-Pontes K, et al. Mass loss of four commercially available heat-polymerized acrylic resins after brushing with three different dentifrices.
Heasman PA, et al. A comparative study of the Philips HP 735, Braun/Oral B D7 and the Oral B 35 Advantage toothbrushes.
Nishi Y, et al. Examination of denture-cleaning methods based on the quantity of microorganisms adhering to a denture.
Oussama M, et al. Materials and methods for cleaning dentures. – A review.
Pascaretti-Grizon F, et al. Abrasion of 6 dentifrices measured by vertical scanning interference microscopy.
Rathee M, et al. Denture Hygiene in Geriatric Persons.
Silva-Lovato CH, et al. Efficacy of biofilm disclosing agent and of three brushes in the control of complete denture cleansing.
Sorgini D, et al. Abrasiveness of Conventional and Specific Denture-Cleansing Dentrifices.
Verran J, et al. The effect of dentifrice abrasion on denture topography and the subsequent retention of microorganisms on abraded surfaces.
Zilinskas J, et al. The effect of cleaning substances on the surface of denture base material.
All reference sources for topic Complete and Partial Dentures.