Can dentures cause mouth ulcers?
You know the sort, small, inflamed crater-like sores on your gums or inner cheeks, otherwise known as mouth ulcers, can be very painful. If you have them, you are not alone. At some point in their denture journey, most denture wearers will suffer with mouth ulcers. But what causes them, and what can you do if you are suffering from them? The most common causes of mouth ulcers among denture wearers are:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor fitting or badly made dentures
- New dentures
- Bacterial and fungal infections
- Poor health, bad diet, cancer treatments, smoking
A look at each of these causes helps to determine how to avoid getting mouth ulcers in the first place, followed by what you can do if you already have them.
Oral hygiene and mouth ulcers from dentures
Do not underestimate how important oral hygiene is to being a successful denture wearer, never mind how important it is to your general wellbeing. Everything that passes through your mouth has access to your body via your digestive system and through your oral mucosal membranes into your bloodstream. Unfortunately, if you’re not attending to your oral hygiene this includes all manner of toxins, fungi, and bad bacteria, all of which can happily take up residence in the warm moist oral environment of your mouth. Thoroughly cleaning your denture and remaining teeth if you have them, to remove plaque and bacteria-harbouring food particles at least twice each day should become your daily routine. Soaking your denture in water or denture cleaner and resting it from your mouth overnight is an essential part of every successful denture wearer’s routine.
Poorly fitting or badly made dentures and mouth ulcers
Perhaps you’ve had your dentures for years. In fact, maybe you’ve had them so long you barely notice them anymore. But then suddenly, your gums are sore. Not everywhere, but just in one or two spots. A close look may reveal a small crater-like sore has formed. Painful to touch, the ulcer makes it unbearable to eat with your dentures in. Why has this happened? Because your mouth is constantly changing, with bone and tissue shrinking and receding over time your dentures may no longer fit snugly. They may become unstable and rub on your gums where they hadn’t before. A consultation with your prosthetist can quickly get you sorted. A new denture may be in order, but sometimes an adjustment or denture reline is all that is required to restore the snug fit. Once the source of irritation is removed, mouth ulcers generally heal quickly.
New dentures and mouth ulcers
After teeth extractions your gums and mouth take some time to heal. Healing tissue is sensitive to hard surfaces like dentures and will take time to adjust. Equally, if you are new to dentures, having a foreign device like a denture in your mouth takes some getting used to, as you learn how to bite and chew again. Sometimes your cheeks or tongue get in the way. Ouch! A small abrasion or ulcer occurs as a result. Careful attention must be paid to this little inconvenience, so it doesn’t become a much bigger one. Leaving your denture out overnight when possible, and rinsing with warm salty water will assist the healing process. Avoid biting down hard or chewing tough foods to prevent further damage. Choose softer, less spicy, or acidic foods until the ulcer heals.
Bacterial and fungal infections and ulcers from dentures
Addressing a mouth ulcer caused by dentures quickly will avoid infection. Sore, puffy or inflamed gums are symptoms of infection and if not addressed can turn into open sores. Often a course of antibiotics is required. See your general practitioner for appropriate treatment.
General health and mouth ulcers from dentures
People with compromised immune systems, those who are undergoing chemotherapy, or on certain medications, or who have poor general health are more susceptible to mouth ulcers.i If you are undergoing treatment for other health conditions, consult with your treating health professional who will advise you on the appropriate measures to take. See your pharmacist for over-the-counter remedies like antimicrobial mouthwash, gels, sprays, or corticosteroid lozenges. If the ulcer persists for longer than three weeks, or if it grows in size, or bleeds, see your doctor.ii While most mouth ulcers are not sinister, if you are experiencing these symptoms, it is wise to get checked to rule out mouth cancer. In addition, make sure you are not vitamin deficient by adopting a nourishing diet.
Sometimes mouth ulcers have nothing to do with wearing dentures. When smokers quit their habit, mouth ulcers are often a side effect iii Generally these ulcers are resolved within weeks by avoiding irritants and using treatments already discussed here.
Home treatments – what to do, what not to do
- Oral hygiene is paramount. It will help to avoid mouth ulcers becoming infected or lasting longer than they should. Begin your twice daily brushing routine by using a soft bristled brush on remaining teeth and gums. Be gentle with your brushing action and avoid any vigorous scrubbing. This will prevent any further damage to the ulcerated tissues. Rinse with warm salty water.
- Take care to eat slowly. This is especially relevant for new denture wearers who are still becoming accustomed to their dentures. Inner cheeks and other soft tissues can inadvertently be caught between your upper and lower teeth as you chew. Until the new denture wearer learns to manage bite and chewing pressure, undue force on sore areas may cause discomfort or shock to adjacent nerves.
- Avoid hot or acidic drinks, spicy or crunchy foods, which will irritate the ulcer further.
- Other effective measures include the use of frequent warm salty water mouth washes throughout the day. Gargling with sage tea can also help to alleviate pain and anointing the ulcers with clove oil which you can make yourself by soaking a few cloves in olive oil. iv
- Avoid smoking in all its forms
Ulcers from dentures can disrupt your quality of life, not to speak of the discomfort and pain they impose on a denture wearer. However, by following the advice given here and with a little effort, you can avoid getting ulcers from dentures in the first place, or at least speed up the healing process and suffer minimal pain and discomfort.
iii McRobbie H, Hajek P, Gillison F. The relationship between smoking cessation and mouth ulcers. Nicotine Tob Res. 2004 Aug;6(4):655-9. doi: 10.1080/14622200410001734012. PMID: 15370162.
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