Brushing up

I’m sure we all need reminders about things from time to time, and denture cleaning is an aspect of dental health that is frequently overlooked.

Some patients come into the surgery with their dentures wrapped up in a handkerchief and we never even see them, but when they are removed in the surgery I take a sneaky look.

It is usually easy for the trained eye to see if dentures are clean because they are supposed to be shiny, particularly the palatal surfaces. If these are dull I disclose them, or get the nurse to do this. Frequently patients with less than perfect oral hygiene also have dirty dentures.

At some point during the session I show them the stained areas and explain that this is the same plaque that grows on their teeth. If they have brought their toothbrush with them this can be useful in cleaning off the plaque, and it enables them to see if their toothbrush is the right shape for the job.

Some of these weird brushes are utterly useless. Otherwise, I use a prophy cup, but this takes longer. Normally I advise using a separate brush for denture cleaning because it can be allowed to dry off between uses, a dry brush is much more effective than a wet one.

Patients have no idea how long it takes to remove the sticky plaque from those rough palatal surfaces and it helps them to see it being done. They just don’t think of cleaning anything but the outside surfaces and are genuinely amazed when they see the dirt coming off when the right technique is applied.

I advise them to disclose their dentures at home using blue or green food colouring until they become proficient. I also make a note of it so I can check up next time and give them some praise if they are clean.

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