Outside of routine checkups and cleanings, many people don't go to the dentist for minor oral care issues. However, understanding what's going on in your mouth can be imperative to your long-term well-being, as minor problems can lead to chronic issues or reveal other conditions. Some mouth disorders are temporary and completely harmless, but others may require the diagnosis and care of a dental expert. For your own peace of mind and dental health, here are five little known oral conditions:
While this condition is completely harmless, it may be aesthetically displeasing for some. An amalgam tattoo is a small off-color spot in the mouth caused by metal fillings that can appear on the lips, gums, cheeks, roof of mouth or tongue. According to Simple Steps to Better Dental Health, amalgam tattoos can occur during various dental procedures or form over time from contact with a nearby filling.1 These innocuous spots are caused by metal particles embedded in tissue and have to be surgically removed by a dental professional. If you notice a dark spot, it's important to have it looked at by a dentist because if it is not an amalgam tattoo, it may be a potential sign of oral cancer.
"Thrush is most common in babies and seniors."
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), thrush is a yeast infection of the tongue and mouth lining.2 This condition is caused by a buildup of fungus in the mouth called Candida. While this fungus is normally found in the mouth, it can grow in excess due to a weakened immune system, and therefore is more common in babies and seniors. The NIH notes that poor-fitting dentures can also cause thrush.2 Thrush causes white, velvety sores and may make it hard to swallow. It's important to get thrush diagnosed as soon as possible, because it can potentially spread and cause more serious problems if it is not treated.
Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) can be tough to diagnose because the cause is often unknown, but sometimes it is linked to underlying medical conditions. The Mayo Clinic states that BMS is characterized as a burning sensation on the tongue that can sometimes occur in other parts of the mouth, causing dry mouth and a loss of taste.3 The source notes that BMS often occurs and dissipates spontaneously, but can last for months or even years. When clinicians can find no cause of this condition, it is called primary BMS, whereas secondary BMS can be caused by dentures, bad oral habits, dry mouth, stress, allergies and acid reflux, among other conditions.3
Pizza palate is exactly what it sounds like. Almost everyone has dived into a piping hot slice of pizza and felt the cheese cling to the top of their mouth. Consuming hot foods or drinks too quickly can burn the roof of your mouth, causing blistering and loss of taste. This condition is temporary and doesn't cause any long-term harm, but it may take a few days for you to fully regain your sense of taste. Simple Steps to Better Dental Health recommends seeing your dentist if this condition doesn't clear up within a week.4
An oral irritation fibroma, also known as a traumatic fibroma, is the buildup of scar tissue caused by long-term irritation to a specific area of the mouth. Fibromas can be caused by chronically biting your cheeks or lips, teeth grinding or wearing dentures. Fibromas have to be surgically removed and should be looked at by a dental professional.
1 "Amalgam tattoos," Simple Steps to Better Dental Health, March 1, 2013. http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSSPrint/r.WSIHW000/st.32219/t.29810/pr.3/c.339271.html
2 "Thrush - children and adults," National Institutes of Health, April 24, 2015. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000626.htm
3 "Burning mouth syndrome," by Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic, Feb. 7, 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/burning-mouth-syndrome/basics/definition/CON-20029596?p=1
4 "Pizza palate," Simple Steps to Better Dental Health, March 1, 2013. http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSSPrint/r.WSIHW000/st.32219/t.25036/pr.3/c.308388.html