Denture stomatitis is a fungal infection that occurs under a denture. It is relatively common but should not be ignored as it can cause soreness and swelling of the tissues of your mouth. Denture stomatitis is also known as oral thrush. The fungus that causes oral thrush is called candida.
What does denture stomatitis look like?
The area of gum covered by the denture will usually appear bright red and possibly slightly raised. There are often very clear lines between the red, inflamed gum and healthy gum that is not covered by the denture. The gum might be soft and spongey to touch and it is often sore or painful.
Sometimes, it will not be painful or uncomfortable at all and you will only know that you have denture stomatitis if your dentist tells you. Even if it is not causing pain, it is important to treat oral thrush as it may cause issues with the fit of dentures in future.
What causes this infection?
As mentioned above, the cause is candida (fungal) infection. This infection will usually affect people with poor denture hygiene and/or a weakened immune system.
For example, patients with diabetes are more prone to denture stomatitis because their immune response is impaired.
Most commonly, wearing your dentures too much and not cleaning them enough leads to this type of infection. If you wear your dentures overnight, the gum covered by the denture doesn’t get a chance to breathe and remove material trapped under the denture.
How is denture stomatitis treated?
The key is to improve mouth and denture hygiene. Make sure that you are brushing any remaining teeth at least twice a day with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
Brush your dentures twice a day with a soft bristled brush and some soapy water. Do not use toothpaste on your dentures because toothpaste is abrasive and it will damage the plastic. Make sure that you clean the area of the denture that is in contact with your gums as well as the rest of the denture.
You may wish to use a denture soak every so often. Be sure to follow instructions from the manufacturer found on the packet. If your denture has any metal parts, make sure that you do not use a soak with bleach in it as it will corrode the denture. If you are unsure if you can use a particular soak with your denture, ask your dentist.
Make sure that you do not wear your dentures while asleep. Take your dentures out overnight to allow your mouth to clear any muck that got underneath the denture.
If this does not solve the issue of thrush under your denture, speak to your dentist. Your dentist may be able to prescribe you an anti-fungal medication.
Are there any other forms of oral thrush?
Patients with asthma who use a steroid inhaler can develop oral thrush at the back of their mouth. This is where the steroid spray is left on the palate and uvula as it is breathed in (see diagram below). The steroid impairs the mouth’s ability to fight off infections and the opportunistic candida infects the area.
This may again look red and raised. It may also present as white spots or patches that can be wiped off. It may be uncomfortable and is most commonly seen on the soft palate, right at the back of the mouth and on the throat.
This can be avoided by rinsing your mouth with water after using your inhaler. The water will wash away the steroid and keep your palate healthy.