Common Problems of the Oral Cavity
Most people associate dentistry with teeth. But the fact is, our focus is on the continued good health of your entire mouth–the oral cavity, as we dentists call it.
It’s a highly helpful indicator of what may be going right–or wrong–inside the mouth. A smooth, or red tongue might suggest some sort of vitamin or mineral deficiency, while a chronically painful tongue may simply suggest poorly-fitting dentures.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Beyond just being uncomfortable, dry mouth (also called Xerostomia) amounts to a breach in your mouth’s defenses. That’s because the saliva coating our teeth and soft tissue acts as a protective layer against bacteria, infection and other outside irritants. Without this protection, the mouth experiences a significant increase in cavities and oral ulcers. Dry mouth can occur more frequently with age, but fortunately there are ways to treat the condition if it becomes a chronic problem.
Canker Sores/Fever Blisters
The only good thing about canker sores is, they’re hidden inside the mouth. Beyond that–they’re painful, annoying, and bound to erupt at the worst possible time. They usually disappear within five to ten days, and (though they are common) we still don’t know their exact cause or how to prevent them. Emotional stresses, food allergies, hormone imbalance, and vitamin B deficiency have all been suggested.
A very different type of mouth sore is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). These oral herpes sores are often called cold sores or fever blisters and are typically found on the lips or surrounding the mouth. There is no cure for herpes (though there are medications available to treat an outbreak), and it is very contagious, so those affected should take care to avoid physical contact and refrain from sharing drinking glasses or water bottles.
Mouth Sores that Don’t Heal
A mouth sore that won’t heal could be a serious problem, and it’s well worth making an appointment with our office immediately. The bad news is that it could be oral cancer, the good news is that it’s treatable when caught in its early stages. Symptoms include small white or gray patches inside the mouth, or red velvety patches on the mucous lining of the mouth or throat. These patches may become ulcers that are easily mistaken for canker sores. Most victims of oral cancer tend to be men over 45 who have used smokeless tobacco.