What Should You Do With Dentures After a Death? 11 Options

Updated

When people think about their estate, they generally decide who gets big items like cars, houses, heirlooms, and money. The executor then has the responsibility of allocating the remaining items that didn’t make it into a will, such as non-heirloom furniture, clothing, and miscellaneous goods. But what about dentures? 

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What should you do if you find your loved one’s extra pairs or dentures? Dentures fall into the same category as other medical devices that cannot be reused in the medical community. Though there may not be a significant demand for these items, you still have options including repurposing, recycling, and donating.

Do People Typically Remove a Deceased Loved One’s Dentures?

Whether or not a deceased loved one’s dentures get removed is largely up to the family. If they are worn at the time of death, they do not need to be removed. 

If a loved one plans on getting buried traditionally, dentures can be kept with the person and buried with them. 

If a person is planning to get cremated, they can be cremated with their dentures in. Just like metal tooth fillings, dentures don’t need to be removed for the cremation process.

Things to Know Before Recycling Dentures

Recycling dentures is possible but it's important to understand the steps and costs associated with the process. 

Dentures must be cleaned

Whether you send dentures into a recycling program, repurpose them, or find another use for your loved one’s dentures, they must first be cleaned and disinfected.

The easiest way to clean a pair of dentures is to purchase a cleaning solution made for dentures. To disinfect the pair, soak them in a solution made of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water for thirty minutes. After the thirty minutes are up, remove them, rinse them, and let them dry completely.

There might be cost involved when donating

Most opportunities to donate common household goods come with no cost to the person donating. This is because there are many opportunities to donate common items such as clothing in the United States. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for dentures. 

The only program that accepts used dentures for recycling purposes is located in Japan. This means that there will be shipping costs associated with your donation if you choose to send them in.

Options for Getting Rid Of or Recycling a Deceased Loved Dentures

When you’re navigating what to do when a loved one dies, figuring out what to do with old dentures probably isn’t too high on your list of executor duties. Eventually, though, as you work on allocating personal belongings after death, you’ll encounter objects on the more miscellaneous side, such as old dentures. Here are several things you can do with them if you find a pair or two.

Send them to Japan

The United States doesn’t have a recycling program for dentures. Japan, however, does. The NPO Japan Denture Recycling Association wanted to tackle the waste issue associated with unused dentures and solve another problem: malnourished and underprivileged children.

The association launched its denture recycling program and pushed hard to work with dental clinics and local Japanese governments to set up denture donation boxes. To date, the Association has raised over a half-million dollars for UNICEF projects by taking unwanted dentures and recycling them. 

There are two ways to donate unwanted dentures to the JDRA program:

  • If you’re in Japan, you can drop them into one of the denture donation boxes placed around the country.
  • If you’re in the US, you can mail them in. After disinfecting them, wrap them in paper or tissue padding and place them into a clear plastic bag. Put them into a padded envelope or box and address your package to:

3-16-10 Nishisakado, Sakado City, Saitama Prefecture 350-0247, Japan
NPO Japan Denture Recycling Association
Tel: 049-299-4521

Note: The program currently only accepts dentures that contain metal. If your loved one’s dentures are made entirely of plastic, then consider one of the other options below.

Donate to local schools

Check with local elementary, junior high, and high schools in your area. Ask if any of their science or health classes are in need of dentures. 

Call local junior colleges and four-year institutions to ask whether they are in need of denture donations for their science, health, nursing, or medical departments.

Inquire with local dentistry schools to see if they have any need for denture donations. Dentures are often used for demonstrations in classes, and sometimes students can benefit from using them for various projects.

Donate to dentist and orthodontist offices

Though not all dentists or orthodontists need an extra pair of dentures in their offices, both of these businesses use teeth sets as models to demonstrate concepts to their patients. Call around to local dentist and orthodontist offices to see if anyone would like a pair of model chompers.

Use for art projects

Though this option certainly isn’t for everyone, if you’re on the crafty side, you might find a use for a pair of old dentures. Use them to create a smile on a sculpture or comical garden figurine, create a spooky doorbell surround to use during Halloween, or make a fake face for your garden by creating a pair of eyes, a nose, and dentures to make a face for the front of your tree or bush.

Use as a gag gift

Again, this option isn’t for everyone, but if your loved one was a joker, they’d probably love this idea. 

Package the pair of dentures in a clear display case. Attach a tag and label it “spare parts.” Then, gift this to someone during their 40th birthday when “over the hill” themes are commonly used. 

You could also use this gag gift idea for a true “white elephant” gift exchange with a group of older friends.

Donate to local artist

You never know what types of items local artists might be in need of and use. Artists that use alternative mediums, especially, will be interested in more obscure and interesting items such as a pair or two of dentures. 

How do you find local artists? 

Depending on where you live, a quick Google search might reveal the names and websites of several artists in your area. If you can’t find anything that way, call your local library and see if they can provide information about local artists. Finally, call up your local colleges that have art programs. Ask for the art department director, and inquire about whether they might need a denture donation for any upcoming projects.

Use for Halloween decor

This is one season where items like dentures can find their place. Here are several decor ideas that feature dentures as the star if you’re a fan of Halloween:

  • In a candy bowl. Like giving out candy to trick-or-treaters that come by? Place a bunch of candy in a bowl, and nestle the dentures down into the middle. This will make your candy bowl just a bit creepier than normal.
  • In a punch bowl. Planning on hosting friends for the holiday? If you’re making a giant bowl of punch, consider dropping disinfected dentures into the bottom of the clear punch bowl for an extra shot of Halloween vibe.
  • On an appetizer table. If you’re serving any kind of food at a Halloween gathering, use a pair of dentures to add to the decor already present. Place them on the table, nestle them into the bowl of dip, place them into the bowl of chips, or find some other amusing location to feature the pair of pearly whites.
  • In a carved pumpkin. Want to give your pumpkin carving an authentic smile? Place a pair of dentures into the cut-out smile, and you’ll instantly up your jack-o-lantern game.
  • In a jar. If you’re going for spooky decor, fill a jar with liquid tinged yellow, green, or blue with food coloring. Drop the dentures inside, and place the sealed jar somewhere on your table, mantle, or around other decor pieces.

Contact your dentist

Some dentist offices have the ability to dispose of dentures or recycle denture parts. Though not common, it’s worth a shot to give your dentist a call and ask if they have a recycling program for old dentures.

Ask around

You might be surprised to find that people are looking for dentures for a wide variety of reasons. If you’re computer-savvy, Google “denture donation” and see what pops up. Read through available blogs and comments to find people looking for denture donations for art projects, craft projects, and other ideas.

Note: If people are asking for dentures because they need a pair of their own, it’s not a good idea to send yours to them. Dentures are custom-made to fit each individual’s mouth. Dentures are not reusable, as such, and this type of request should not be encouraged.

Use for demonstrations

Do you have a child or grandchild who struggles with brushing their teeth or flossing? Use the pair of old dentures to demonstrate how to properly brush and floss their teeth. Sometimes a visual might just be the thing they need to wrap their mind around the process.

Throw away

Sometimes you just need to check an item off your list and move on. If none of the above options appeals to you, then you can always throw them away. It may not feel like the best thing to do, but the local landfill can handle these types of items. Throwing them away is a perfectly acceptable solution. 

Reusing Old Items

Reusing and donating a person’s old belongings, such as clothing, collectibles, and household goods, is quite common. Though not as widespread, denture donation is slowly gaining steam. As more of the world looks to find ways to promote sustainability, you’ll likely see more opportunities to donate dentures and recycle them for a good cause.


Sources:
  1. “How to Send Dentures.” Donate, Japan Denture Recycling, 2021. ireba-recycle.com/jdra_004.htm.  
  2. “Japan Denture Recycling Program.” Denture Recycling, Japan Denture Recycling, 2021. ireba-recycle.com/index.html
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