If you wear dentures, cleaning them properly could help you prevent an infection from Staph or MRSA in the mouth, or even pneumonia. A few weeks ago, a new study showed that you can kill MRSA and Staph biofilms living on your dentures in three minutes using a common household appliance.
It’s been known for a while that Staph, MRSA and other bacteria can live in saliva, on your teeth and on dentures (Bull Tokyo Dent Coll. 1994 Nov, Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2005). These bacteria form tough protective shells or layers called biofilms on denture surfaces.
I talk quite a bit about biofilms (on medical implants or in wounds) because they are one of the big reasons why MRSA and Staph can be so hard to get rid of. Importantly, MRSA or Staph in your mouth can also be breathed into your lungs, potentially causing pneumonia. Many elderly people are more immune-compromised, so knowing about this potential source of MRSA is very important, as is knowing how to eliminate these biofilm structures.
Cleaning methods for removing Staph and MRSA
Now, most people simply rinse their dentures in the shower of soak them in a denture cleaning solution. Unfortunately, these methods for cleaning dentures don’t cut it when it comes to removing biofilms and killing Staph or MRSA on dentures.
The good news is that a study in the Journal of the Journal of the American Dental Association (2012 Mar) shows that microwaving your dentures in water for three minutes completely disinfects them of bacterial biofilms. This is great news because microwaving is not only fast and simple, it saves you from using harsh chemical disinfectants.
Microwave precaution: In the study, dentures were microwaved inside a container full of water. Microwaving dentures dry without submerging them in water can cause them to melt. Beware that some websites reporting on this study fail to mention that the dentures were submerged in water. Also, dentures containing metal should never be microwaved. Because dentures can be made from different materials, some may melt or deform in a microwave. If you are unsure about microwaving your dentures in water, be sure to ask your dentist if it is safe.
The study also found that 1 percent bleach solution and 2 percent Chlorhexidine gluconate killed biofilms after a 10 minute rinse. I always prefer to minimize the use of chemical disinfectants, and as such, essential oil studies show that more natural options can also kill biofilms.
For example, Listerine mouthwash which has some essential oils, appears to kill biofilms even better than Chlorhexidine (AADR Meeting, March 23, 2012). Also, essential oils of tea tree, rosemary and peppermint show biofilm killing activity in laboratory studies (Letters in Applied Microbiology, Sep 2009). And oregano oil is one of the most powerful against bacteria and biofilms (Journal of Medical Microbiology, Dec, 2006).
Below are tips for cleaning dentures to kill Staph and MRSA biofilms:
- Check with your dentist first to see if your dentures are safe to microwave in water (some may melt!).
- Place dentures inside a microwave-safe container and fill with water to totally submerge the dentures.
- Microwave the submerged dentures for 3 minutes. Dentures containing metal should not be microwaved.
- After cooling, scrub dentures mechanically with a brush using a general cleaning solution.
- Brush your teeth. And remember to brush your tongue too – your tongue also harbors biofilms.
- Do a quick mouthwash rinse on your dentures before use.
To your best health,
Microbiologist and Natural Health Expert