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6 Uncommon Oral Health Problems

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Most people have to deal with tooth decay and gum disease at one point in their lives. However, there are other oral health problems that you may not know about. Thankfully, these issues can be easily treated by a dentist or physician. Learn about six uncommon oral health illnesses, their symptoms, and common treatments.

1. Cold Sores or Oral Herpes

Cold sores and fever blisters—swollen and red blisters on the lips, gums, or inside of the cheek— are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores are a common problem among children and adults. 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 that over-the-counter medication or antiviral medications can help shorten an outbreak of sores and alleviate your discomfort.

2. Oral Cancer

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, oral cancer affects areas in the mouth and the back of the throat. It accounts for only 3 percent of the cancers diagnosed each year in the U.S. The top two risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco and alcohol use. Your dentist regularly checks for oral cancer signs during dental visits. So, it's important to keep dental appointments.

3. Temporomandibular Joint Pain

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) located on both sides of your head help you close and open your mouth, chew, speak, and swallow. But if these joints or surrounding muscles and ligaments don't work correctly, you can end up with TMJ disorder (sometimes called TMD). The American Dental Association (ADA) says joint pain can be caused by arthritis, poor jaw or tooth alignment, an injury or dislocation, or teeth grinding.

4. Dry Mouth

Many medications, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and certain health conditions can affect the amount of saliva in your mouth. The Academy of General Dentistry explains that saliva washes away harmful bacteria in your mouth. Therefore, a dry mouth can lead to bad breath, mouth sores, gum disease, and a higher risk of tooth decay. To combat dry mouth, you can try sipping water throughout the day or using a special mouthrinse from your dentist.

5. Burning Mouth Syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) causes a tingling or burning sensation on the tongue or other areas of the mouth, a dry or sore mouth, or even taste changes. BMS occurs mostly in middle-aged or older women, and possible causes include hormonal changes, dry mouth, nutritional deficiencies, fungal infections, and nerve damage. These burning or tingling symptoms may be constant or come and go. If you're struggling with BMS through any of these symptoms, see your primary care physician or dentist for treatment.

6. Thrush

Thrush is a fungal infection that can occur in your mouth when the yeast "Candida Albicans" grows unchecked. The Mayo Clinic describes oral thrush symptoms as sore, white spots on the tongue or other places in your mouth. Thrush is more common among young or elderly patients or those with weakened immune systems. It can also be caused by dry mouth, wearing dentures, or a bacterial imbalance following oral antibiotics.

These oral health issues may worry you. If you notice any of these uncommon oral health symptoms, visit the dentist as soon as possible. All of these issues can be treated with medication, surgery, or lifestyle changes.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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