Oral health is one of the most crucial health aspects that can have a significant effect on your overall health and well-being. We all are familiar with common dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease, periodontal issues, and tooth loss. However, there are several oral health conditions that people are unaware of.
Some of the oral health conditions include developmental disabilities, oral infections, tongue disorders, salivary gland disorders, and dry mouth. Most of the oral health conditions are caused as a result of underlying health disease. However, some oral health conditions act as a portal for disease spread in the body.
Treatment for every oral health condition depends upon the cause and underlying systemic problem. A dentist can identify the early signs of some acute oral conditions during a regular dental check-up. Today’s article will highlight the different types of oral health conditions and management.
Types of oral health conditions
Dental developmental disabilities
Developmental disabilities are categorized as long-term problems with adverse health effects. Some of the health challenges include mental capabilities, behavioral changes, neuromuscular problems, seizures, allergies, and many more.
People with dental developmental disabilities are prone to tooth decay, gum disease and periodontal breakdown, malocclusion, oral malformations, and damaging oral habits. Several reasons can lead to developmental disability. Some of them include –
- Genetic abnormalities such as down’s syndrome
- Infections during pregnancy
- Preterm birth
- Prenatal exposure to substances such as alcohol or smoking
Following are the common developmental disabilities that have adverse oral effects –
Down’s syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the trisomy of 21 chromosomes. This malformation disrupts to be orofacial and skeletal development. Moreover, the soft oral tissues, for example, the tongue becomes fissured and protrusive. (1)
People with down syndrome have a characteristic facial appearance with narrow dental arches. This makes swallowing difficult and affects the speech. Periodontal disease is more prevalent in young adults between the age of 16 and 20 years. Tooth anomalies in down’s syndrome include –
- Reduced tooth size
- Delayed eruption
- Reduced root to crown ratio
Dental treatment and management for down’s syndrome mainly focus on the maintenance of good oral hygiene. Dietary precautions and patient education are a continuous part of the treatment plan. A comprehensive dental approach is preferred to treat the malocclusions and monitor the periodontal disease.
Cerebral palsy is another developmental disability that has great potential to cause oral hygiene conditions. Most of the common oral manifestations in children with cerebral palsy include –
- Severe malocclusions
- Oral bacterial infections which increase the risk of periodontal disease
- Gum swelling
- Traumatic injury
- Damaging oral habits like teeth grinding and lip biting
- Uncontrollable facial muscles may affect swallowing, speech and interfere in regular oral health practices (2)
- High risk of tooth decay
Dental treatment for patients with cerebral palsy usually includes prophylactic cleaning and tooth filling. A team of orthodontists, gum specialists, and speech therapists work together to treat the dental alignment and facial muscle control. This improves the smile of the patient and also eases the functions of the mouth.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which primarily affects the social abilities of the person and his response to stimuli in the surroundings. Autism is a lifelong disorder which can not be cured. However, behavioral therapy and constant support can help the patient to function well.
Patients with autism are also prone to dental malformations such as tooth decay, periodontal problems, self-inflicting oral habits like lip biting, teeth grinding, and tongue thrusting. (3) delayed tooth eruption and gingival hyperplasia are other common oral health conditions found in patients with autism.
Communication is the first key to make the patient comfortable. It is essential always to make sure the patient is being informed about every step during the management. This helps to build-up trust and ease the process of a dental procedure.
Dental treatments follow a symptomatic approach. Conscious sedation and general anesthesia can be used as adjuncts to make the patient comfortable during the dental procedure.
Bacterial infections constitute the majority of the infectious conditions in the mouth. Some of the common disease-producing oral bacteria include staphylococcus and streptococcus. These bacteria usually affect the soft oral tissues. However, tooth decay is also an associated problem with bacterial infections. (4) Some of the common symptoms of oral bacterial infections include –
- Severe mucositis
- Painful sores on the lip
- Bleeding gums
- Inflammation of the affected tissue associated with discomfort
- Increased risk of bacterial endocarditis
Usually, treatment consists of a symptomatic approach. Antibiotic coverage is recommended before performing teeth cleaning and tooth filling. Moreover, gum problems are evaluated and corrected by gingivectomy or graft surgery.
Viral infections of the mouth are another common type of oral infections which can have devastating effects on the oral tissues. Some of the common viral infections include –
- Herpes simplex virus
- Hand foot and mouth disease
- Human Papillomavirus
Some of the healthy oral tissues affected by the viral illness include lip, tongue, palate, the floor of the mouth, gums, and inner lining of the cheek. Clinical presentation for viral infections usually includes painful ulcers, lumps, or nodular growth in the mouth or gums, redness, and inflammation of the affected area.
Diagnosis of viral infections is typically based on clinical features and histological study. Treatment and management of viral infections are usually symptomatic and supportive. Anti-viral medications play a crucial role in reducing the symptoms. Extensive growths or umps may be surgically removed. (5)
Oral fungal infections constitute a majority of the candida infections. Candida is a type of yeast that usually lives in the mouth without causing any harm to the oral tissues. However, during sudden changes in the oral environment, such as poor oral hygiene, candida can multiply to cause fungal growth in the mouth.
Typical symptoms of an oral fungal infection include –
- Formation of white patches on the tongue, palate, floor of the mouth and inner cheeks
- Redness and painful ulcers
- Loss of taste
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Soreness around the corner of the mouth
Fungal infections are also considered as opportunistic infections that develop due to a decrease in the immune defense of the body. Such conditions are a significant indicator of an underlying disease, for example, cancer or HIV/AIDS. (6)
Diagnosis is made by examining the clinical features and characteristic lesions of the mouth. Microscopic study of the tissue is used as a confirmatory test. Treatment of fungal infections includes the use of topical antifungal medications like clotrimazole and fluconazole for 7-14 days.
Mouth sores are one of the most painful oral conditions that usually forms on the soft tissue components of the mouth. Some of the common types of mouth sores include cold sore and aphthous ulcers. Some of the typical signs and symptoms of mouth sores include –
- Formation of round or oval ulcers with a white or yellow center and red border
- Presence of tingling or burning sensation around the lesions
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing (7)
- Pain and discomfort
- lesions can vary from a single pinpoint ulcer to multiple clusters of ulcers
Usually, mouth sores are caused by a traumatic injury, allergic reactions, vitamin deficiency, viral infections, or hormonal changes in the body. It is essential to immediately contact the dentist to identify the underlying cause and treat the symptoms.
Dry mouth, clinically known as xerostomia, is a condition that affects the salivary production and flows in the mouth. Most of the times it results from dehydration, systemic illness, or salivary gland duct obstruction.
Saliva is one of the most crucial aspects of digestion in our body. Moreover, saliva keeps the oral tissues moist and prevents the teeth from tooth decay or gum disease. Reduced salivary flow can potentially increase the incidence of poor oral hygiene.
Typically, dry mouth can be caused by several potential factors that may include –
- radiotherapy of the head and neck
- Autoimmune disease like Sjogren’s syndrome
- Botulinum poisoning
- Salivary gland duct stone
- Stress and anxiety
- Oral habits like smoking tobacco or marijuana
- A consequence of aging
- Excessive use of tranquilizers
In most cases, dry mouth occurs as a temporary mouth condition. Usually, a symptomatic and preventative approach is followed to treat dry mouth symptoms. These treatment modalities include –
- Hydrating yourself by drinking plenty of water throughout the day (8)
- Suck on ice cubes
- Switch to a healthy diet like fresh fruits and vegetables, which will increase the salivary flow. Avoid the consumption of tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Try to limit your salt or sugar intake
- Salivary substitutes like pilocarpine can help to increase salivary flow in the mouth. However, always consult a dentist before taking any salivary substitutes.
- Chewing sugarless gums have proven to increase salivary flow in the mouth
- It is beneficial always to maintain good oral hygiene
Wisdom teeth and associated problems
Wisdom teeth are the third molars that erupt between the age of 18-25 years. Tooth impaction is the most common problem that people suffer from a wisdom tooth. Often impacted wisdom teeth result in severe pain and discomfort. Other symptoms of wisdom tooth include –
- Inflammation and redness of the gums
- Bleeding of gums
- Constant dull aching pain in the jaw
- Bad breath associated with an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Difficulty in chewing and speaking
Impacted wisdom teeth are also prone to tooth decay, gum disease, and formation of bony cysts. Usually, the treatment includes surgical removal of the wisdom tooth. A dentist or an oral surgeon perform this procedure. Before starting the process, a complete dental x-ray study and blood work of the patient is recorded. Post-surgical instructions are crucial to allow proper healing of the extraction site. (9)
Halitosis is characterized as the bad and unbearable smell from the mouth. It is also the third most common dental problem that significantly affects the population. This condition can have a significant impact on the individual during social gatherings. One of the most common causes of halitosis is poor oral hygiene. (10)
Usually, plaque and bacteria develop a sticky layer on the tooth surface after every meal. As the bacteria ferments and breaks down the left-over food particles in the mouth, it produces sulfur compounds. Sulfur compounds are often foul-smelling. Some other potential causes of bad breath include –
- The habit of chewing or smoking tobacco
- Dry mouth
- Infections that involve the mouth, nose, and throat
- Systemic disease like liver failure
Treatment of halitosis consists of a routine regime of maintaining oral hygiene. For this, follow proper brushing and flossing techniques. Moreover, brush your tongue to remove the food debris and bacteria. If halitosis persists, consult a doctor to rule out systemic illness.
Bruxism is a parafunctional habit that involves aggressive grinding of the teeth. Bruxism is usually an unconscious activity that occurs while sleeping. Some of the potential causes of bruxism include excessive stress, anger, and anxiety. People with bruxism may feel jaw tightness or muscle pain, especially in the morning. Other clinical signs and symptoms of bruxism include –
- Fracture of teeth that involves chipping and flattening
- Loose teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Soreness of the gums
- Dull headache
- Sleep disruption
Treatment for bruxism usually consists of the use of a protective night guard. This is a custom-fit dental device made from a transparent thermoplastic material. The night guard prevents tooth contact during sleep and equally distributes the grinding forces.
Oral lesions are typically described as ulcerations or lumps that form in the oral cavity. Most of the times, the oral lesions are associated with many underlying systemic diseases. Other potential causes of oral lesions include –
- Traumatic injury from a sharp tooth or broken filling
- Oral infections like herpes (11)
- Dermatological conditions
- Recurrent aphthous ulcers
- Pre-cancerous lesions like oral lichen planus, melanoma, and leukoplakia
Clinically, these lesions are characterized as a break in the skin or mucosal membrane. The symptomatic approach is followed to heal the lesion. However, proper treatment depends on the type of cause.
Tongue disorders are a relatively common dental occurrence that can have a significant impact on oral health. Often these conditions alter the taste and make chewing or swallowing difficult. Other signs of tongue disorder include –
- Severe pain
- Change in the color of the tongue
- Difficulty in moving the tongue
- Loss of tongue papillae
- Taste alteration
There are a wide range of tongue disorders, some of the characteristic lesions include –
- Glossoptosis – abnormal positioning of the tongue that occurs due to genetic disorders like Pierre robin syndrome.
- Median rhomboid glossitis – a condition characterized by a smooth red patch at the center of the tongue. (12)
- Fissured tongue – tongue disorder typically characterized by the formation of multiple cracks and fissures on the surface.
- Tongue disorders caused by nutritional deficiencies.
- Glossitis – an inflammatory condition of the tongue that can change the color, size, and texture of the tongue.
Typically, the treatment of tongue disorders depends on the type of lesion, often symptomatic therapy too helps to heal the condition. Medication and antibiotic coverage for oral infections work well in managing the symptoms.
Salivary gland disorders
Salivary glands are the most crucial part of our oral cavity. They produce saliva which lubricates the oral tissues and flushes out the food debris and bacteria. There are three major salivary glands in the mouth namely –
- The parotid gland
- The submandibular gland
- The sublingual gland
Typical salivary gland problems include –
- Salivary gland duct stones which often causes inflammation of the associated salivary gland. Moreover, ductal stones lead to reduced salivary flow in the mouth.
- Sialadenitis – a painful inflammatory condition of the salivary gland caused by infections from streptococci, staphylococci, and other bacteria.
- Viral infectious lesions like mumps and coxsackie viral infection
- Tumor or cysts that may affect the functions of the salivary gland
Symptoms of salivary gland disorder usually include the formation of ulcers or lumps under the tongue, reduced salivary flow, oral pain, difficulty in chewing and swallowing and redness or inflammation of the oral tissues. The treatment of salivary gland disorder typically involves –
- Symptomatic treatment of infectious diseases
- surgical therapy for removal of cysts and tumors
- surgical removal of ductal stone to allow the proper salivary flow
Final words on oral health conditions
Oral health is one of the biggest portals of our body that has a significant effect on our overall health and well-being. However, oral diseases are often ignored by people. Oral health conditions are slightly different as compared to tooth decay or gum disease. These disorders require more attention and care as it significantly damages the delicate tissues of the mouth.
Some of the common oral health conditions include dental developmental anomalies, bad breath, bruxism, wisdom tooth problems, tongue lesions, oral infections, and salivary gland disorders. It is essential to know about different oral conditions so that you can identify the signs and symptoms of the disease at an early stage.
Treatment of oral health conditions depends on the type, underlying cause, and symptoms of the disorder. Regular dental check-ups play a crucial role in the early diagnosis of such oral conditions. The best way to have a healthy mouth is to take good care of your oral hygiene.