Yeast is a fungus that is present in and on the bodies of almost every living person in some form. There are many different types of yeast, and many of them are healthy. In fact, what makes yogurt a healthy snack is live yeast. Yeast also causes such things as “jock itch” and “athlete’s foot.” When it occurs in the mouth, sometimes it is called “denture stomatitis.” However, it can also occur in people with natural teeth, since yeast is often part of the normal germs that exist in our mouths.
Oral yeast infections can take the form of bright red tissues, white coated tongues, small ulcer-like lesions, red cracks at the corners of mouths, etc. Some of these infections are very painful and some are not. In infants, the condition is called “thrush.”
Usually, yeast infections are more common in the elderly or the very young. This is because yeast is an opportunistic infection that attacks people when their normal body defense mechanism is crippled somehow, either by nutritional deficiencies, medications, or illness. Normally, in a healthy individual, yeast is kept at bay by the other germs that exist in our mouths. However, when those germs are occupied or diminished, yeast can multiple. This is also why people that take broad-spectrum antibiotics are very prone to developing yeast infections in their mouths as well as elsewhere in their bodies. Yeast infections can range from very mild irritations to severe systemic and life-threatening illnesses, which is why it’s very important to recognize yeast infections early and get them under control.
Treatment often involves only topical medication therapy, aimed at controlling yeast at the site of infection. Sometimes, referral to medical specialists may be needed for systemic evaluation. Since acrylic is porous, yeast loves to live in dentures. Therefore, dentures often need to be remade or relined in order to assist in controlling an oral yeast infection. In any case, dentists are usually trained in recognizing yeast infections and should be consulted if one is suspected.