One of the most important parts of the body is your mouth. It has a variety of functions and allows you to like eat, breathe, sing, speak, and begins the digestion process. That’s why when you have a problem that affects your mouth, it’s important to see a dentist right away.
Oral infections are not uncommon – in fact, many only last a few days and can go away from simple at-home treatments. They are most common in small children and older adults who are more susceptible to infections due to weak immune system. Some of these oral infections are preventable with proper oral hygiene in place. However, other oral infections require the help of a dentist and professional treatments.
6 Common Oral Infections
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis is caused by a variety of bacteria in the mouth. It is the early stage of gum disease – when bacteria settles into the gum line and produces toxins. Gingivitis causes gums to become inflamed and swollen, which is why your gums may bleed when brushing. If left untreated, gingivitis leads to periodontal disease. It is very common – 50-90% of adults will experience gingivitis at some point in their lives.
- Periodontal Disease: When gingivitis goes untreated, it will worsen and cause periodontal disease. Bacteria spreads below the gum line and affects the bone and supporting tissue. This causes severe inflammation and bone loss, causing the teeth to loosen. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults – 8-10% of adults suffer from periodontal disease. Because the bacteria lives in your mouth, when you inhale, it can affect your lungs and cause pneumonia or make chronic lung conditions worse.
- Oral Herpes: Between 50 and 80% of adults carry the herpes simplex virus. The infection can cause flu-like symptoms, blisters and ulcers on the tongue and gums, or it may not display symptoms at all. With proper care, the infection can stay dormant, but once infected, the virus has a permanent presence in the body. Outbreaks can last from a week to 10 days. Kids who carry the simplex virus occasionally develop a condition called herpes gingivostomatitis – a condition where the gums swell and create small blisters. Children may run fevers, feel fatigued, or become irritable. Like adults, the virus will remain in their bodies, with flare ups caused by stress, trauma, or exposure to a lot of sunlight.
- Herpangia: Herpangia is most common in children aged three to ten. It is frequently seen during the summer and fall. The infection generally lasts 3-5 days and causes blisters to form at the back of the mouth. When the blisters rupture, large ulcers form. It is related to Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.
- Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease is most common in toddlers and school-aged children. The “Coxsackie A16” virus is responsible for this infection. Hand, Food, and Mouth disease causes a sore throat and a fever, with painful blisters appearing inside the cheek and tongue. These blisters also appear on the palms, soles of the feet, and on the buttocks. The infection and symptoms typically disappear within three days.
- Canker Sores: Canker sores – aphthous ulcers – are small lesions that develop on at the gumline or on the soft tissue in your mouth. Canker sores are not contagious and do not appear on the surface of your lips. They can make eating and talking difficult, but most canker sores go away on their own within a week or two. Canker sores can cause tingling or burning before they are visible as round, yellow or white sores.
Treatments for mouth infections vary, depending on the problem, but it is important to care for your mouth and keep it clean by adopting an at-home oral health routine. Brushing, flossing, and being mindful about what you eat can help prevent oral infections. Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral infections. Combined with this routine, be sure to visit your dentist regularly.