Six Uncommon Oral Health Problems
by Donna Pleis
Tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease are two of the most common oral diseases you and your family may experience at some point in your lives. Injuries to the face and head can also compromise the health of your teeth. However, here are a few less common oral health problems that may be worth seeking help with from your dentist or doctor.
Herpes isn't just a sexually transmitted disease, nor is it as stubborn as its reputation may suggest. Nonetheless, it is a fairly contagious virus that infects many children orally as well as adults. The first exposure to the herpes simplex virus is called "primary herpes," and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describes its symptoms as sore, swollen and red features affecting the gum tissue. It may also increase saliva flow and develop blisters inside your or your child's mouth. Although these sores heal in seven to 14 days, the virus remains in the body inactively. It can then become active again when dealing with stress, fatigue, fever or sun exposure. The good news is over-the-counter medication such as Colgate® Orabase® or antiviral medications can help shorten an outbreak of "cold sores" or "fever blisters" and alleviate your discomfort.
Oral cancers account for only 2 percent of the cancers diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The main risk factors are tobacco and alcohol use, but sun exposure often causes cancer of the lip. No matter what the ultimate cause, prevention and early diagnosis can't be stressed enough. Your dentist regularly checks for signs of oral cancer during dental visits, so this is an important reason not to miss a checkup appointment.
Temporomandibular Joint Pain
You can close and open your mouth, chew, speak and swallow through the actions of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) located on both sides of your head. But if these joints or surrounding muscles and ligaments don't work properly, you can end up with a painful TMJ disorder. The American Dental Association (ADA) says joint pain can be caused by arthritis, poor jaw and tooth alignment, an injury or dislocation or from grinding your teeth.
Many medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, can affect the amount of saliva in your mouth, as can radiation treatments, chemotherapy and certain health conditions like AIDS and Sjögren's syndrome. The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) explains that without saliva, you aren't able to wash away harmful bacteria in your mouth; therefore, aside from causing discomfort, an extremely dry mouth can lead to bad breath, mouth sores, gum disease and a higher risk of tooth decay.
Burning Mouth Syndrome