We consider a nonlinear fourth-order diffusion equation that arises in denoising of image densities. We propose an implicit time-stepping scheme that employs a primal-dual method for computing the subgradient of the total variation seminorm. The constraint on the dual variable is relaxed by adding a penalty term, depending on a parameter that determines the weight of the penalisation. The paper is furnished with some numerical examples showing the denoising properties of the model considered. © 2013 Springer-Verlag.