Denture Stomatitis

Denture stomatitis causes redness, swelling and tenderness in the mouth. While the condition is most common among denture wearers, it can affect anyone. You can reduce your risk for oral stomatitis by practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly.

Overview

What is denture stomatitis?

Denture stomatitis (or oral stomatitis) is usually caused by candida — a type of fungus (yeast). It’s normal to have small amounts of candida in your mouth. But when there’s an imbalance, the candida can grow out of control, resulting in a fungal infection. Stomatitis caused by candida is also commonly referred to as thrush.

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Who does denture stomatitis affect?

As the name suggests, people who wear dentures may be at risk for developing denture stomatitis. The condition can also affect:

  • People with diabetes.
  • Those with poor oral health.
  • Individuals who take steroids by mouth or through an inhaler.
  • People undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Those taking certain medications, such as wide-spectrum antibiotics and corticosteroids.

What does denture stomatitis look like?

People with denture stomatitis may notice redness, irritation or swelling in the mouth, especially on the palate (roof of the mouth). Thrush — which looks like light-colored patches — may appear on the gums, lips, inner cheeks, tongue and palate. Some people develop cracking at the corners of the mouth.

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How common is denture stomatitis?

Denture stomatitis is one of the most common conditions affecting denture wearers. Research studies have shown that the condition affects up to 70% of denture wearers. Statistically, people who wear full dentures are more likely to develop the condition than those who wear partial dentures.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of denture stomatitis?

People with denture stomatitis may develop varying symptoms. Some of the most common include:

  • Pain or discomfort when swallowing.
  • Soreness in the mouth or throat.
  • White or red patches on the tongue, gums, lips, inner cheeks or roof of mouth.
  • Sores or cracks in the corners of the mouth.
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What causes denture-related stomatitis?

There are several factors that can result in the development of denture stomatitis. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Wearing your dentures for prolonged periods of time (such as while you sleep).
  • Poor oral hygiene.
  • A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates.
  • Smoking.
  • Alcohol use.
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age (the condition occurs more often in people ages 65 or older).
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Endocrine dysfunction.
  • Immunosuppression.

Is denture stomatitis contagious?

Not usually. Denture-related stomatitis isn’t contagious in people who aren’t already at risk. However, those who are prone to oral thrush can develop the condition if candida is passed to them.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is denture stomatitis diagnosed?

Generally, oral stomatitis is diagnosed during a dental examination. Your dentist can tell if you have the condition based on the pattern of redness in your mouth. They may also swab your mouth and submit the sample to a pathology lab to confirm your diagnosis.

Management and Treatment

How do you treat denture stomatitis?

There are a few different treatment options for people with oral stomatitis:

  • Anti-fungal treatment: The first line of defense is usually anti-fungal medication, such as nystatin or miconazole. These medications are often given as lozenges. In some cases, you may be prescribed anti-fungal ointments to reduce your symptoms.
  • Laser therapy: Your dentist may use low-energy laser therapy to treat oral stomatitis, especially when anti-fungal medications don’t work.
  • Surgical removal: Some patients develop small nodules on the roof of their mouth. This can interfere with your denture and prevent it from fitting properly. In these cases, your dentist may perform minor surgery to remove those nodules.

In addition, your dentist will clean, polish and glaze your denture to prevent micro-organisms from contaminating your appliance. They’ll also check your bite and make any necessary adjustments. In some instances, a new denture may be necessary.

How can I manage denture stomatitis symptoms at home?

Prompt dental treatment will help reduce painful symptoms and promote healing. However, proper denture care at home is essential for long-term oral health. Here are some recommendations for managing your symptoms:

  • Remove your dentures and leave them out as much as possible while you’re healing.
  • Clean your dentures thoroughly before wearing them.
  • Soak your dentures in water or denture solution every night.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Keep your mouth as clean as possible by practicing good oral hygiene.

How soon after treatment will I feel better?

Healing times can vary from person to person. However, most people feel better within two weeks of starting treatment.

Prevention

How can I reduce my risk for denture stomatitis?

The best way to prevent oral stomatitis is to practice excellent oral hygiene. Brush your teeth and gums at least twice a day and swish with an antimicrobial mouthwash. You should also avoid smoking, as it can increase your risk for oral infections. Finally, be sure to take your dentures out for at least eight hours every day (such as when you’re sleeping). This will give your tissues a rest and prevent denture sores from developing. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about teeth and gum care.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

It’s normal for people with dentures to experience gum irritation from time to time. However, if you notice red, swollen or patchy areas, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist right away. They can rule out more serious issues and design a personalized treatment plan to help you feel better.

Additional Common Questions

Are there alternatives to traditional dentures?

Though traditional dentures effectively restore your appearance, they may not fully restore function. For example, they can shift, slip or wobble when eating or speaking. Many people also develop sore gums from dentures. If you want to upgrade your dentures, ask your dentist about dental implants — threaded posts that replace missing teeth roots. Dental implants can be restored with crowns, bridges or dentures. Implant-supported dentures provide additional stability and reduce the risk of many oral health problems, including denture stomatitis.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Denture stomatitis can be uncomfortable and frustrating. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to treat the condition and reduce your risk for future flare-ups. If you think you’re developing oral stomatitis, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible so you can receive the treatment you need and deserve.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/19/2021.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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