Denture-related stomatitis, often referred to as denture sore mouth, is a potentially painful and debilitating condition that affects many denture wearers. Despite this, not a great deal of public awareness exists regarding its symptoms and how to treat it. This article can help educate you on the condition. 

What is denture sore mouth, and what causes it?

Denture sore mouth is actually a fungal yeast infection, caused by one of the Candida fungal species that cause thrush. This fungus exists naturally in every human being's mouth, but is generally harmless - however, certain factors encountered by denture wearers can cause it to form a full-blown infection:

  • The most common cause of denture sore mouth is poor denture hygiene. Dentures that are not cleaned regularly are a common culprit, as well as dentures that are not removed regularly enough. Food, plaque and particulate matter builds up in the space between the gums and dentures, allowing the fungus to thrive and reproduce.
  • Poor dental hygiene in general is also a contributing factor. Brushing and flossing dentures can often be awkward or painful, particularly if they're new or poorly fitted, making it less likely for a denture wearer to able to thoroughly clean their mouth.
  • Certain medications can give you a dry mouth, which reduces the ability of the mucous membrane in the mouth to fight off infection. Certain varieties of blood thinners and painkillers often cause dry mouth.
  • Antibiotics can cause generalised thrush infections across the whole of the mouth, with denture wearers particularly at risk.
  • Diabetes (both type I and type II) can contribute to yeast infection, as it leaves the sufferer with a weakened immune system. Other conditions that affect the immune system, such as lupus and HIV/AIDS, can also leave a sufferer vulnerable to denture sore mouth.
  • People who require steroidal treatments, such as corticosteroid injections and asthma inhalers, are also more likely to develop stomatitis.

What are the symptoms of denture sore mouth?

Obviously, if you suspect you have denture sore mouth, you should visit a dentist as soon as possible to get a professional diagnosis. However, you can recognise the condition yourself with the following common symptoms.

  • The most obvious symptom of denture sore mouth is a bright red swelling of the affected gum tissue. In advanced cases, you may notice some purple spots on the affected gum tissue, caused by subcutaneous bleeding. 
  • In some cases, the corners of your mouth may become swollen and potentially painful. You may also notice a slight, painless swelling of the lips.
  • Despite the condition's common name, in some cases, denture sore mouth does not cause pain. If you're one of the unlucky ones, you will notice a tender soreness where the affected gum meets the denture. The inflamed area may also itch.
  • If the swelling beneath the denture becomes large enough, it may force the denture out of proper alignment, making biting, chewing and talking more difficult.

How can denture sore mouth be treated?

  • The most common and effective treatment for denture sore mouth is antifungal medication -these may be taken orally, or applied directly to the inflammation by your dentist in a topical gel. You may also be given antifungal lozenges, designed to be sucked or chewed.
  • Improving dental hygiene is also an important aspect of treatment and will prevent the infection from coming back if used effectively. Besides the usual advice on brushing, flossing and using mouthwash, you should also make sure to take your dentures out every night. Leave them to soak in a suitable antiseptic solution (if you can't find specialised denture cleaning liquid, solutions used to sterilise baby bottles are just as effective), but make sure not to use a solution containing bleach if your dentures contain metal.
  • Make sure to regularly clean your dentures while they're not fitted to your gums. This gives you a chance to thoroughly clean the parts of the denture normally hidden under gums and should be done with a soft toothbrush and ordinary toothpaste. 
  • Reducing the amounts of carbohydrates in your diet can also help, as they provide an easy food source for fungi.
  • In extreme cases, deposits of pus may develop beneath the gums, as well as painful abscesses. These should be lanced and treated by a dentist.

If you suspect you may have denture sore mouth, contact a local clinic like Jeffcott Dental Clinic to schedule an appointment for diagnosis and treatment.