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What are the most common mouth problems?

What are the most common mouth problems?

Here at Vitality, we believe oral care goes way beyond your teeth. It’s as important to have a healthy mouth, free from ailments, if you are serious about your dental wellbeing. Today, we take a look at some of the most common mouth problems- and what you can do about them.

Oral thrush

While perhaps not the most appealing disease to consider, it’s important to realise that bouts of oral thrush can strike anyone at any time- it’s not just a disease limited to babies, although it is more commonly seen there. Fortunately, and unlike many other common mouth diseases, this one is easy to differentiate and spot. Creamy white lesions on your tongue, or white-tinted mouth sores, are the classic thrush symptoms. It’s caused by a fungal overgrowth in the mouth and typically strikes when the immune system is weak or run down. You will need a doctor’s help to beat oral thrush, but treatment is very simple- usually an antifungal lozenge, course of pills or mouthwash.

Mouth sores and mouth ulcers

Mouth sores and mouth ulcers are among the most common mouth problems you will suffer. Sudden sore patches on the tongue, gums or lips may simply feel sore, tender and abraded [‘mouth sore’] or show more characteristic signs of ulceration like depth, seepage and colour changes [‘mouth ulcer’]. Severe mouth ulcers may lead to bleeding and a coppery taste in the mouth.

As these are one of the most common mouth problems out there, there’s a staggeringly wide host of reasons you could be finding them. True mouth ulcers are brought on most frequently by bouts of stress, ill health or immune system overload in susceptible individuals. Some vitamin deficiencies [notably B12, but also Iron, Folic Acid, Zinc and other B vitamins] can also trigger their development, as can certain types of medication.

The wide-ranging term ‘mouth sores’ has a likewise huge spectrum of possible causes. Rarely, but most critical to note, these sores can be a sign of developing cancer, but it’s far more likely to have a different trigger. Some other chronic diseases [Crohn’s disease, Lupus etc] and vitamin deficiencies can also cause long-term issues with mouth sores but are unlikely to lie behind one or two short-term sore patches.

While that may seem very gloomy, take heart in knowing that by far the majority of these common mouth problems are caused not by disease, but simple mechanical damage. Biting down too hard, or accidentally biting your lip/cheek or tongue, as well as consuming acidic sweets and drinks, abrasive or hot foods, and even some of the more acidic fruits, will all cause these sore patches and are the most likely culprits in your day.

Many mouth sores and mouth ulcers will clear up in a day or two by themselves. Oral numbing agents will help with particularly bad cases, and some topical ointments are available. Monitor any canker spots you notice, and feel free to discuss them with your oral health practitioner if they remain open for long periods, heal very slowly, or do not disappear after a week or two.

Cold Sores

Cold sores, which typically cause abraded patches at the corner of the mouth that ‘split’ and pain when you move your lips, but can also manifest on the lips themselves, are a product of infection with the herpes simplex virus [not to be confused with the much more concerning herpes STD]. While you never really can shake the virus [it behaves similarly to malaria in that it goes ‘dormant’ and re-emerges], this common mouth disease is easily treatable with topical cream and can be managed by avoiding stress and supplementing with the amino acid lysine. While irritating, cold sores are nothing to really worry about.

Lumps in the mouth

Swelling and lumps in the mouth are not a particularly common mouth problem, but they do occur with some regularity. They should be treated with a little more concern than mouth ulcers and sores, as they are less likely to be caused by simple mechanical injury, but have many benign causes too. That said, you should consider if you have bitten down on something particularly hard, or suffered a knock to the face, before being too concerned about a lump in the mouth. Likewise, if it is a hard, fibrous ‘polyp’, it is most likely caused by incorrect pressure on that area of the mouth than anything else. Monitor the polyp, but don’t be too concerned. Calcium blocking drugs, gingivitis and even some gum disease treatments like chlorhexidine, can also lead to gum swelling.

If you are certain mechanical injury can be ruled out, then monitor the lump for size and texture changes, and consider speaking with your dental practitioner. A rapidly-growing swelling in the mouth may be a sign of a gum boil or abscess, which will need proper treatment by a medical professional. Slower, more persistent growth can be a cancer sign.

Loose pieces of skin and fuzzy teeth

If you have the sensation of corn silk caught in your mouth, but discover the obstruction is part of the gum matter instead of trapped food, you may find yourself particularly concerned, but you can rest a little easier. This is a common mouth problem and is typically caused by a mechanical factor. The most typical cause is use of an overly-harsh toothpaste, excessive tooth brushing at the gum line, damage from harsh, fibrous food or ‘burns’ from hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes or baking soda whitening treatments. Vitamin C deficiency can contribute but is very rare.

‘Fuzzy’ or ‘furry’ teeth are another common mouth problem with a simple cause. Plaque has built up more quickly than usual on your teeth, or your last brush did not destroy the plaque ‘film’ on the tooth enamel. Some foods will also leave you with this sensation. It can all be cured by a good brushing with quality toothpaste.

While many common mouth problems like mouth sores and mouth ulcers have very simple solutions and will go away with gentle handling for a day or two, do monitor any persistent areas of concern and be sure to bring them up with your dental professional here at Vitality at your next appointment so you can rest with peace of mind.

This article has been approved by

Dr. Arvin Mirzadeh BDS MJDF RCS (Eng)

Dental Surgeon and Practice Principal

GDC 83757