Why do I have to take my teeth out at night? I’ve always worn my dentures to sleep.
Your gums, or periodontia, are made of bone, nerves, arteries, veins, connective tissue, and skin. The bone was created and engineered to support natural teeth, which are held in by millions of tiny “cables”. These cables, called the periodontal ligament, suspend each tooth in the tooth sockets. Each of these cables pulls and tugs on the bone during chewing to strengthen the bone, to stimulate the flow of blood and nutrients to the tooth and surrounding tissues, and to protect the tooth and bone from excess forces. A special reflex mechanism tells the chewing muscles to lighten pressure or shift forces to other teeth, which is how we can determine how tough or soft the food is that we chew.
When all of the natural teeth are removed, as is the case for those who wear complete dentures, the periodontal ligament no longer exists. Therefore, the bone and accompanying tissues are not stimulated nearly as much as when teeth were present. As occurs in any bone with decreased use, atrophy (“shrinking”) occurs to the bones of the jaws. Even with very properly made and well-fitted dentures, this bone shrinking continues throughout life.
Since dentures depress the gum tissues when they are in place, blood supply to the skin is also reduced. Just as bed sores occur in hospitals when patients can’t move regularly, again because of hindered circulation to the skin, the tissues of the mouth deteriorate with prolonged denture wearing without at least 8 hours of relief per day. This is why so many of the patients that we see have very sore, irritated mouths with very frail skin, especially on the roof of their mouths. A secondary problem that can occur from not taking your dentures out at night is yeast. Yeast, candida albicans, loves to grow in warm, dark, and moist environments. It is slow growing and requires relatively long periods to develop. What better place for yeast to grow than underneath a denture that hasn’t been removed all day?
The solution: Remove your dentures every night before you go to bed and clean them thoroughly. If you notice any sore spots, red or white areas on the roof of your mouth, or if your dentures are loose, it is very wise to seek the advice of a dentist who is well-trained in denture care. Poorly fitting dentures can increase the speed of bone shrinking, and many of these “sores” may indicate other more severe conditions like malnutrition or cancer.