3 common oral health conditions that you may not be aware of
It’s not uncommon to suffer from oral symptoms and be confused as to what they mean for your health. So, we’ve unpacked three common oral conditions that you shouldn’t ignore while keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
Dry mouth or xerostomia occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth. Dry mouth is often a symptom of an underlying condition, rather than a disease in itself. Dry mouth can lead to an increase in cavities, as saliva plays a role in protecting teeth against caries by neutralising acids produced by bacteria, and aiding in digestion1.
Causes of dry mouth are varied but can include prescription medication, medical treatments, dehydration, mouth breathing, autoimmune diseases, or infection1.
Common signs and symptoms of dry mouth include1:
- A sticky or dry feeling in the mouth or throat
- Frequent thirst
- Split skin at the corners of the mouth or cracked lips
- A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth or the tongue
- A rough, dry, red, or raw tongue
- Mouth ulcers
- Bad breath
- Oral thrush or infections of the salivary glands
- Difficulty with speech, taste, chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty wearing dentures
Treating options for dry mouth depend upon the underlying cause and may include options such as changing medication or dosages, treating any infections present and attempting to increase saliva production.
Where dry mouth is a result of an underlying condition and not necessarily able to be reversed/treated definitively, the symptoms can be treated to provide relief. Options for managing symptoms include sipping water regularly, use of non-alcoholic mouthwash and gels containing a lubricant and use of salivary substitutes. It’s also a good idea to avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking and dry or spicy foods for relief.
Bad breath or halitosis can have many causes but is commonly caused by sulphur-producing bacteria that normally live on the surface of the tongue and throat. Treatment depends on the underlying cause which can include, consuming foods such as garlic and onion, food particles trapping around teeth or dentures, smoking, dry mouth, dental infections such as periodontitis (gum disease), nasal or sinus infections. Halitosis can also come from odours from the gastrointestinal tract, or be indicative of underlying diabetes, liver, or kidney problems
Halitosis symptoms can include2:
- A dry mouth
- A white coating on the tongue
- A build-up of plaque and calculus or food debris around teeth
- A burning tongue
- Thick saliva
- A constant need to clear your throat
- A constant sour, bitter metallic taste
Treating halitosis depends on the underlying cause but good oral hygiene, including tongue brushing, is an important first step. The use of tongue scrapers as well as mouthwashes, lozenges and toothpastes can help remove bad breath. Drinking water frequently can also assist by removing any stagnated saliva which can contribute to bad breath and is one of the common causes of “morning breath”.
Gingivitis is an infection of the gums that, if left untreated can progress to periodontitis (disease of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth including the bone). Not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis and by itself is usually reversible. Gingivitis occurs when a build-up of bacteria in plaque adheres in a sticky film onto the surface of the tooth causing the adjacent gums to become inflamed
Gingivitis symptoms may include3:
- Gums that bleed when brushing or flossing
- Gums that are red, tender, or swollen
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- The presence of pus or exudate between teeth and gums
- Pain when chewing
- Sensitive or loose teeth
There are a variety of treatment options for gingivitis, which usually involve the removal of any plaque build-ups and of any rough edges of fillings that provide a safe haven for the build-up of plaque.
These conditions can be prevented by effective regular oral hygiene, but if you’re suffering from any of the above conditions or symptoms it is important to book an appointment and investigate any potential causes and to find the most effective treatment for you.