‘Why is the roof of my mouth sore?’ is a common question posed by denture wearers. If that is the reason you have landed on this page, then read on to discover why the roof of your mouth may be sore, how you might deal with the dilemma, and how you can avoid it in the future. We use the terms ‘roof of the mouth’ and ‘palate’ interchangeably.
What is a palate?
The roof of your mouth is also known as your ‘palate’ by dental professionals. It is a soft tissue barrier separating the cavities of your mouth and nose. When you wear a full top denture, part or all your palate is covered by your denture. The suction created between your palate and the denture is what holds the denture in place while you eat speak, laugh, or sing. While the suction serves you well in this regard, it can be a disadvantage if your palate becomes inflamed, infected, or harbours fungal growth.
What causes a sore roof of the mouth?
Palate inflammation is commonly caused by your denture rubbing against soft tissue often resulting in mouth ulcers.i Reasons for this can be a poorly made denture, an ill-fitting denture, or even an allergic reaction to the materials used in the denture base. Poor dental hygiene, a diet deficient in adequate nutrition, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can make you more likely to become victim to bacterial and fungal oral infections. People with poor health, those in treatment for cancer, on certain medications, or those with chronic health conditions like diabetes, are particularly susceptible to inflammation of the mouth. Irritation can also result if food becomes lodged between your palate and your denture.
Reasons for an infected palate can be due to irritation or damage to the soft tissue which allows infection to take hold. Continuing to wear your denture can exacerbate the situation, not allowing healing to take place.
Candida, or oral thrush, is a common yeast fungus affecting denture wearers.ii This fungus can cause inflammation, swelling and tenderness throughout your mouth including your palate. One such infection is denture stomatis, characterised by irritation, redness, or swelling of the palate. Lighter patches may be evident on the tongue, gums, and the soft tissue areas of the inner cheeks indicating the presence of thrush. Denture stomatitis is more common among those who wear full dentures rather than partial dentures.
Other factors that may cause inflammation of your palate
- Broad spectrum antibiotic use
- Advanced age
- Poor nutrition
- Immuno-suppressive drugs
- Dysfunction of the endocrine system
- In rare cases, oral cancer may be present
How can I fix my sore palate?
Firstly, try to determine what is causing your palate to be inflamed and painful. Your prosthetist will help to determine this by examining your mouth and asking questions about your lifestyle. They will also help you with ways to remedy the situation and give you tips on how to prevent it happening in the future.
If an ill-fitting or poorly made denture is the cause, your prosthetist will make adjustments to improve the fit. This might involve minor corrections, or a denture reline to restore your denture’s snug fit. As the term suggests, a lining is applied to the underside of your denture to rest between the denture and your mouth.
Other measures to improve stability include the use of good quality denture glue. This will secure your denture in place and prevent rubbing which is a common cause of inflammation.
Lifestyle causes of a sore palate, like smoking or poor diet require a proactive approach on your part. While medications causing roof of the mouth soreness may require a medical review by your doctor.
In the meantime, try to eradicate foods which require excessive biting or chewing like nuts or dense meat, which will exacerbate the rubbing action and further inflame your soft tissues. Avoid spicy foods which will irritate inflamed areas. Use frequent warm saltwater rinses to promote healing and over the counter medications like Ibuprofen for the pain.
How can I prevent the roof of my mouth becoming sore in the first place?
- First and foremost, aim for a good hygiene routine by brushing and flossing any remaining natural teeth twice a day. Clean your denture thoroughly and leave to soak. This will prevent harmful bacterial accumulation and discourage fungal build up.iii
- Rest your mouth by removing your denture for sleeping. Yeast overgrowth can occur beneath removable dentures because the flow of saliva and oxygen to the tissue beneath the denture is impeded thus producing an ideal environment for yeast overgrowth.iv
- Take care to maintain a nutritious diet.
- Don’t smoke or vape.
A final word on why the roof of my mouth is sore
If the roof of your mouth or palate is sore, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Seeking the help of your prosthetist to determine the cause will quickly rectify the situation and have you enjoying life again. Making a few minor changes to your oral maintenance regime or lifestyle can reduce the possibility of it occurring again.
i Scully C, Shotts R. Mouth ulcers and other causes of orofacial soreness and pain. West J Med. 2001 Jun;174(6):421–4. PMCID: PMC1071433.
ii Candida Overgrowth Symptoms & Treatment: How to Get Rid of Candida (parsleyhealth.com)
iii Candida Overgrowth Symptoms & Treatment: How to Get Rid of Candida (parsleyhealth.com)
iv Sampaio-Maia B., Figueiral M. H., Sousa-Rodrigues P., Fernandes M. H., Scully C. The effect of denture adhesives on Candida albicans growth in vitro. Gerodontology . 2012;29(2):e348–e356. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-
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