Welcome to the second part of this two-article series. On the first one we talked about cavities and gingivitis, the two most common problems that can affect an unhealthy mouth. In this one, we will go further on our list by addressing less common mouth problems.
The top of the tongue is covered by a substance known as keratin. This is normal and generally doesn’t represent a problem. Keratin is a component of the papilla, the small projections on the surface of the tongue that are in charge of the sense of taste. These projections normally fall off the tongue when they get old, and get replaced by new ones.
However, in certain circumstances, papilla don’t detach themselves from the surface of the tongue, and instead they continue growing. When they get too big, there is an excess of keratin. If this excess is not eliminated, the tongue gets coated in this substance.
Although it is a somewhat harmless condition, a coated tongue can be really annoying, as it sometimes comes with halitosis (bad breath), and it’s aesthetically unpleasant.
As the keratin builds up on the tongue, bacteria and debris accumulate between the papilla, and form dark projections that somewhat resemble hair. This condition is known as “black hairy tongue”.
Poor oral hygiene contributes to the development of black hairy tongue, as well as smoking and prolonged use of certain chemicals (antacids, certain antibiotics, certain mouthwashes that are too aggressive, etc).
There are toothbrushes which come with a tongue scraper in the back, which may be used to reduce or eliminate the dark discoloration. There are also some specific peroxide-based products to fight against black hairy tongue.
White tongue is a condition that refers to a white substance covering the tongue. Sometimes it also refers to the development of white patches (calluses) in the mouth, even when they are not actually on the surface of the tongue.
This white tongue-coating substance prevents the sense of taste from working correctly, often resulting in a persistence of a metallic taste. White patches can cause fetid breath, and makes your mouth more prone to infections. If untreated, these white patches can lead to the development of oral cancer.
Although poor oral hygiene, alcohol, certain types of food (particularly very hot sauces) and abnormal growth of the papilla can cause white tongue, by far the main cause of this condition is the habit of smoking.
Besides the well-known harmful effects of smoking on your respiratory system, this nasty habit also causes problems to your mouth. Both the temperature of the smoke and the high amount and diversity of toxins it contains can have horrible effects on the soft tissues in your mouth.
There are a lot of other mouth problems that can be caused by a poor oral hygiene and by habits such as smoking and alcohol. Those problems include inflammation of the tongue and salivary glands, impaired wound healing, difficulty to fight against infections, plaque and reduced blood flow.
All of these conditions can be very dangerous if not addressed in time, so be sure to take proper care of your mouth. Also, visit your dentist often. He will be able to detect and treat these conditions before they represent a real threat.
Well, that’s all for now. Keep coming back for more useful information on oral health!