As the main opening to our body, the mouth is a gateway for wonderful things like tasty foods and drinks but unfortunately, it must also deal with a constant influx of potentially harmful infiltrators such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Disorders of the mouth can affect anyone, but certain systemic diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and AIDS can increase one’s risk for oral ailments. More than 120 disorders of the mouth are recognized by the World Health Organization. Here are few of the more common ones we treat:
Dental and Periodontal Infections
The most common diseases of the mouth involve the teeth and gums. Most affect those 18 and older although rare conditions can be seen in children. Improved public awareness and community measures have increased accessibility to oral care and oral health has improved greatly over the last 50-60 years.
Also known as dental caries, cavities indicate that areas of the tooth have become decayed or rotten due to an abundance of bacteria in the mouth.
Characterized by the slow detachment of the periodontal ligament to the gums, periodontitis can cause significant damage to the oral tissues, teeth and jawbone. It often contributes to the premature loss of teeth and bad breath.
Infections of the Oral Mucosa
The soft tissue that lines the mouth is known as the oral mucosa. Like the teeth and the gums, the oral mucosa can fall victim to infections and conditions such as various sores and even cancer. Here are a few:
Recurrent Stomatitis or Aphthous Ulcers
Also commonly referred to as canker sores, aphthous ulcers are the most common and generally benign disorder of the oral mucosa. Ulcers are typically small and shallow but can cause significant pain and difficulty eating and even speaking. Theses sores are common in the general, healthy population but can also be associated with systemic illnesses, especially autoimmune disorders. Treatment typically involves topical therapies and/or addressing any underlying medical condition.
Oral candidiasis (a.k.a. thrush) is caused by Candida, a species of fungi commonly referred to as yeast. Candida is usually kept in check by the normal flora, the “good bacteria” of the mouth. However, medications and illnesses that weaken the immune system can lead to an abundance of Candida which in turn causes swelling and painful swallowing. Oral candidiasis is treated with antifungal medication.
Herpes Simplex Infections
Infections caused by the herpes simplex virus are extremely common and usually cause small blisters on or around the lips. These blisters are often referred to as “cold sores”, although they have nothing to do with the common cold. Occasionally, the virus will cause ulcers on the gums and insides of the cheeks. Break outs of these sores or blisters are recurrent and typically last a week to ten days. There is treatment to manage symptoms and decrease the frequency and severity of the breakouts, but unfortunately, no cure.