A broken denture is one of the worst things that can happen to a denture-wearer. These sometimes occur without warning due to biting into a particularly hard piece of food or accidentally biting down on your fork or spoon. Other times, dentures can be dropped and accidentally stood upon. Short of crushing your partial dentures with your foot, small breaks occur more frequently and can lead to major problems with your dentures, whether they be a full set or removable partial dentures.
But when is a broken denture a dental emergency, and when can it be put off? Can or should you repair your dentures at home or take them to a denture clinic for assessment and repair?
What is a Dental Emergency?
Dental emergencies can be considered anything causing excruciating oral pain or discomfort, preventing you from going about your daily functions. These can vary from broken or chipped teeth to cavities, abscesses, or bacterial infections like gingivitis causing unbearable toothache.
Despite dentures aiding in regaining a beautiful smile following the loss of teeth due to an extraction after an accident or severe tooth decay, sometimes dentures can become problematic and require a visit to a denture clinic for emergency denture repairs.
Understanding Dentures and Their Function
Dentures have existed since 700 BC in various forms, from wooden teeth to the perfectly sculptured resin or plastic denture plates we see today. Dentures come in two forms: partial dentures or full dentures. Short of a catastrophic loss of all of your teeth, denture clinics will likely recommend partial dentures tailored to the number of missing teeth.
Modern dentures are 3-D printed with a resin printer after imaging and measurements are taken of the mouth during an initial consultation at a denture clinic. Dentures are made of a base (usually colour-matched to the light pink of your gumline), and artificial teeth are then permanently glued to the denture base.
Aside from the aesthetics of once again having a full set of teeth and restoring a beautiful smile, dentures perform a key role in the rehabilitation of patients with reduced oral function due to tooth loss (due to pregnancy, illness, disease, or catastrophic accident), or loss of jaw function. Dentures restore one’s ability to ‘bite’ down on things and increase the function of the jaw bone and facial muscles.
Common Causes of Denture Damage
Damaging a denture is a massive cause for concern for denture wearers, as it will most likely either reduce the effectiveness of the denture or worse, cause pain and discomfort, rendering the dentures unusable.
The most common causes of denture damage include:
Poor Fitting: Sometimes, dentures can become a poor fit for your mouth, as the tissues of your jawline and gums change over time. This can mean that your dentures may no longer fit you and you’ll need to visit a denture clinic to have them re-fitted.
Accidentally Dropping Them: While dentures are a hard, plasticky material, they can still be susceptible to breakage if dropped. This usually occurs when cleaning, inserting or removing your dentures. If your dentures are accidentally dropped, visually inspect them for obvious signs of damage. If these signs don’t appear, you should still make an appointment with a denture clinic to have them inspect your dentures more closely.
Biting Hard on Tough Food: One of the most common ways dentures can break is by biting down on food. For example, accidentally biting a bone in a piece of meat or biting down a kernel of popcorn causes the denture to crack or chip. While this may not cause immediate pain or discomfort, it compromises the aesthetic appeal of partial dentures. Be careful when eating hard foods with your dentures!
Broken Metal Clasp for Partial Dentures: Wearers of partial dentures will know that a small metal clasp attaches your partial denture to your gumline by attaching it to the rest of your teeth via a metal clasp. Sometimes, this clasp can unexpectedly break due to wear and tear over time. While this is not necessarily a dental emergency, it is something that denture repair professionals will need to have a look at.
Recognising a Broken Denture
As a denture-wearer, one of the best things you can do for your denture health is to recognise the signs of a broken denture. Take time each day to visually inspect your dentures for signs of wear and tear – discolouration of the base, chips in the teeth or pink of the base, small cracks in the teeth. You may also notice that one more of your denture ‘teeth’ are starting to feel loose in your mouth. This is also a key sign that something is wrong with your set of partial dentures or full sets.
Alternatively, you may also feel discomfort in your mouth when wearing dentures. Do not ignore this discomfort! It’s a sign that your dentures aren’t fitting you properly and are rubbing against the tissues of your gums and jaw. This can lead to open wounds and infection, becoming a dental emergency quickly.
If you suspect anything is wrong with your dentures, contact your local emergency denture repair clinic to schedule a consultation.
Steps to Take When Facing a Broken Denture
Let’s say you’ve just broken a denture! Either you noticed a chip missing, or you dropped them and have noticed a small crack in one or more of the teeth or the base. The worst. What should your next steps be?
- Don’t panic! Things like this happen. If possible, carefully remove your denture from your mouth (pick it up if dropped) and place it in a clean glass with Polident or other denture-cleaning solution.
- If you have a spare denture set (maybe an older one that still fits), place them in your mouth instead of your newer set as a temporary measure, but do not do this without thoroughly cleaning them.
- Call your denture clinic and schedule an emergency denture repair immediately.
- Never try to fix your dentures by purchasing a DIY denture repair kit. They may seem like a good temporary option until you can see your dentist at the denture clinic, but you may be doing more harm to your dentures, thereby causing more harm to your mouth, even if you think you’ve fixed them.
Importance of Seeking Professional Dental Care
Dentists and denture specialists are the experts because they have the knowledge, experience and training to properly assess, care for and solve your dental health problems. While DIY can be a good way to save money, it’s intended for specific types of construction jobs and lawn care and not something to do for your health beyond the odd bandage application or putting plaster on a cut.
Even if you’ve visually inspected your removable partial dentures and everything seems to be in order, micro-cracks can occur in the denture base or teeth that are invisible to the human eye. This can lead to debris from eating and drinking trapped in those small cracks, leading to decay and issues over time. If you think you may have damaged your dentures, contact a denture repair professional immediately.
Temporary Solutions and Home Care
Despite calling your denture clinic, you may not be able to get a consultation immediately. In this case, there are a few temporary solutions that you may deploy to tide you over till you can get the necessary appointment. This temporary fix will depend on how your denture is broken.
If a piece of the pink base has fallen off, it may be able to be repaired temporarily. Similarly, if a tooth has fallen out or there is a small crack, you can finagle a temporary fix. But, if a denture has broken in half, it is completely unfixable by anyone other than a skilled prosthodontist.
Once you’ve determined if temporary denture repair is possible, you’ll want to pick up a denture repair kit. These can be found online but should probably be purchased directly from your pharmacy or denture repair clinic to ensure the validity of the kit’s contents.
Using the resin provided by your denture repair kit and wearing sterile nitrile gloves, gently fill any cracks with resin and let them dry completely before re-wearing your dentures. Most ‘self-curing’ resin dries within 10 minutes, although you can gently prod the area with a gloved finger to ensure it is dry before replacing the dentures in your mouth.
Denture Repair vs. Denture Replacement
Depending on how badly damaged your denture(s) are, you may get away with a repair, rather than a replacement of the set of dentures. Although, this depends on the type of damage done. Suppose you’ve stepped on or dropped and completely broken your dentures. In that case, you’ll likely need a replacement, or if the denture repair clinic decides that your dentures are misaligned, it may be easier for them (and cheaper for you) to replace your dentures entirely.
Denture repair or replacement will come down to how the dentures are damaged and how much it will cost to repair them versus ordering a replacement set. If you can afford it, buying two pairs of dentures might be better and keeping one as a temporary set if you break your primary set.
Tips for Keeping Your Dentures Safe
As a denture-wearer, keeping your dentures safe is your primary concern. Here are a few tips for keeping your dentures safe from harm.
● Taking good care when removing them from your mouth so as not to drop them, try to do it over some sort of padded surface (if they’re usually removed over the bathroom, consider placing a clean facecloth in the bathroom sink to catch them if they fall out).
● Keep them in a sterile solution overnight, such as Polident and warm water (but not hot water, as this will cause the plastic to warp).
● Take care when eating harder foods such as popcorn or granola bars.
● Take care when using eating utensils like knives and forks not to make excess contact with your dentures.
● When travelling with your dentures, keep them in a sterile case.
As denture repair professionals, we at Aesthetic Dental & Denture Clinic understand what a pair of dentures can bring to your life. Whether you’re just getting dentures for the first time or are on your third pair, we know what it’s like to have your smile back again, and we want to ensure that you protect your investment in your oral health.
If you’re experiencing discomfort with your current dentures or think you may have damaged them somehow, call our clinic to schedule an appointment.