Q: My dad is in a nursing home due to some health problems. Recently, he has been losing weight and his nurse tells me he can’t eat because his dentures are so loose that he can’t chew. I’m really concerned! Can you help?

A: First of all, if your dad can be cleared by his physician and is in any way able to see a dentist he should.

Dentures sit on the bones of the jaw which place pressure on them. This pressure over time causes the bones of the jaw to erode away making the denture slip and become uncomfortable. Weight loss will worsen this problem much more rapidly.

Typically, people who get dentures feel that they are done with the dentist forever. In reality, this can’t be farther from the truth. Dentures should be checked periodically and replaced about every five years.

Having a denture relined so it fits better is also an option but generally a temporary one. It doesn’t solve the problem but it can improve the fit and function for a period of time. Of course, this all depends on how long the person has had the denture and how much bone is left for support.

If the bone is inadequate, relining the denture will do little to help the situation. If that is the case and your dad is healthy enough, another option such as implants should be pursued.

Implants can secure the denture in place thereby achieving comfort and increasing his ability to eat a wider variety of more nutritious foods.
As we age nutrition plays an even greater role in overall health and well being. If at all possible this would be the best option. However, if your dad is too unwell to visit the dentist you and/or his nurse may need to rely on adhesives to keep the denture in place. Usually, only a small amount is required to do the job. I would suggest trying a few to see which work best.

Another thing you can try is a denture pad. This acts as a kind of cushion making the denture more comfortable and improving the fit. These do need to be replaced and you may need to check with your dad’s nurse to ensure it is being done regularly. Again the denture should be removed daily, preferably when not needed. They should be cleaned with a denture brush and liquid hand soap. Don’t use toothpaste as it will scratch the plastic. The dentures should then be soaked in a denture cleaner. It is also advisable to have the denture be identifiable by having your dad’s name embedded in the acrylic. All of the above items can be purchased at your local pharmacy.