The environment within the mouth and structure of the teeth are geared to handle a range of chemical, thermal and physical insults during the course of a day. After all, the mouth is one of two main points for a range of external substances to enter the body – the other being the nose. While these areas tend to react to the entrance of any noxious substances, it should not be painful of uncomfortable if food or drinks enter the mouth just like air should not pose a problem to the nose. However, there are instances where eating regular food and drink can be a problem due to abnormal sensitivity of the teeth and mouth.
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The taste sensation is one of the many ways that we experience our environment. It is useful for assessing foods and fluids and can bring tremendous pleasure in what we eat and drink. It also plays an important role in compelling us to eat or avoid certain substances that can either nourish us or harm us. We always associate taste with whatever we put in our mouths. But sometimes there can be tastes elicited even though we have not eaten or drunk anything.
What is oral pigmentation?
Oral pigmentation refers to discoloration of the inner lining of the mouth (oral mucosa) from its normally pink hue. This discoloration occurs due to the deposition of different colored materials over the oral mucosa which can be of physiological or pathological in nature. Oral pigmentation may be associated with certain minor local factors or underlying systemic disease. It can be an important symptom, sometimes the first symptom, of several important and severe diseases. Therefore oral pigmentation needs to be assessed carefully by a medical professional.
What is a periapical abscess?
A dental abscess is a broad term used to describe an abscess in the tooth and structures around it. A periapical abscess is an inflammatory reaction with the accumulation of pus at the root of an infected tooth. It can lead to death of the central region of the tooth known as the dental pulp. Generally a periapical abscess is an acute dental infection requiring immediate dental intervention. The condition is associated with significant discomfort and extreme pain. If left untreated it can lead to various complication and permanent loss of the affected tooth. A periapical abscess is the most common type of dental abscess among children. Another type, a periodontal abscess, is where the abscess is located in the tissue around the tooth, including the alveolar bone. A periodontal abscess is more commonly seen among adults.
Some disorders of the skin and inner lining of cavities like the mouth seem like harmless abnormalities that do not warrant much medical attention. Apart from moderate discomfort, it does not appear to cause any damage to tissue or affect functioning. Oral leukoplakia is one such condition. However, it needs to be carefully monitored as it has the potential to become malignant (cancerous).
What is oral leukoplakia?
Oral Leukoplakia (OL) describes the appearance of white or gray patches on the in the mouth cavity – on the inner cheek, tongue and gums. Typical leukoplakia plaques may appear inside mouth that do not get scraped off easily. The cause of oral leukoplakia remains unclear but it seems like to persistent irritation of the tissue of the mouth. Although harmless, oral leukoplakoa patches have a high risk of becoming malignant (cancerous). It is therefore considered as a pre-malignant clinical sign. Another form that appears as fuzzy, hairy patches called hairy leukoplakia appear during severe viral infections like HIV. Oral leukoplakia affects 1% of the population, mainly people above 40 years, and the elderly in particular.
What is cheilitis glandularis?
Cheilitis glandularis is an abnormal enlargement and protrusion of the lower lip with the loss of the clear demarcation between the lip surface and the surrounding skin. The delicate lining of the inner lip becomes exposed to the environment gradually damaging it and sometimes leading to infections. Cheilitis glandularis is rare and poorly understood. It should not be mistaken with other lower lips disorders often caused by biting, excessive licking, sun damage to the lip and abnormal drying of the lip.
The term cheilitis glandularis is used to describe changes in the lip rather than being a diagnosis on its own. The exact reason for these changes is unclear although it is believed to revolve around dysfunction of the minor salivary glands on the lip. Even microscopic examination of the lip tissue may show different changes among patients and the minor salivary glands may be completely normal in some instances. Despite the condition being vague in terms of the underlying disease process, causes and even responsiveness to treatment, it is needs to be attended to as it will continue to worsen over time and even increase the chances of squamous cell carcinoma (cancer) of the lip in some cases.
Most of us will experience a sore throat several times in life. It tends to come with the flu or a cold and often goes away in a few days without need for medication. In most of these cases we give little thought to what is happening in the throat. Located within the throat are small clumps of lymphoid tissue, a part of the immune system, known as tonsils. It traps germs like bacteria and viruses from the air that enters the throat and destroys it. Sometimes a sore throat is due to inflamed tonsils although the surrounding tissue of the throat is also usually inflamed.
What is tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils in the throat. The term tonsillopharyngitis is often preferred because the tonsils as well as the surrounding tissue of the throat (pharynx) are affected at the same time. It is usually the tonsils that can be seen on either side at the back of the throat, known as the palatine tonsils, that are inflamed in tonsillopharyngitis. The tonsils at the back of the nose (adenoids) and tongue (lingual tonsils) which cannot be seen may also be affected. Tonsillitis is more common in children between 5 to 15 years of age and is one of the most common reasons for surgery in childhood.
A salty taste is one of the primary tastes in the mouth, along with sweet, sour, bitter and a savory taste known as umami. The various tastes a person experiences in life is a combination of these primary tastes. Although food and drink is the major trigger of the taste sensations, temperature, texture and other local factors may also be responsible. The taste sensation is also enhanced by the sense of smell.
Sometimes there is an abnormal taste sensation in the mouth. This is known as dysgeusia. It is abnormal in that there is no food, drink or other stimulus triggering the taste sensation yet a person is able to distinctively experience a certain taste sensation. One of these abnormal taste sensations is a salty taste in the mouth.
Normal Mucus in the Mouth
The mouth is moisturized and lubricated mainly by the secretions of the major salivary glands although the minor salivary glands and mucus producing cells in the lining of the inside of the mouth also contribute towards it. Saliva is a combination of a mucus and serous secretion. Mucus is thicker while the serous component is thinner.
The secretion of the mucoid component of fluid occurs throughout the day while the serous portion, containing the digestive enzyme ptyalin, is mainly released wheng eating. Throughout the day, the glands are secreting some 0.5 milliliters of saliva per minute – sometimes more, sometimes less. This can increase to about twenty-fold when eating or if saliva secretion is triggered by some other factor.
What is a root canal?
Root canal therapy, commonly referred to simply as a root canal, is a dental procedure for repairing and salvaging a badly decayed or an infected tooth. The root canal procedure involves removal of infected and decaying debris within the pulp of the tooth, thorough cleaning, and sealing of the tooth cavity with synthetic materials. This procedure helps to relieve the unbearable pain associated with tooth decay, to prevent further spread of the decay, and also to halt the spread of infection to the surrounding normal tissue. The procedure is usually performed by a dental surgeon or an endodontist. An endodontist is a dental surgeon who is specialized in management of diseases of dental pulp and nerve.
The inside of the mouth is lined with a thin epithelium known as the the oral mucosa. It is highly sensitive to temperature, chemicals and even physical stimulants, coupled with the tongue which is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. This is partly due to the network of nerves supplying the mouth and tongue as well as the thin mucosa which does not act as much of a physical barrier as the skin. Therefore any injury, whether chemical or mechanical, can cause pain within the mouth. Sometimes this mouth pain is experienced as a burning sensation yet not pain or it may be a burning pain. This often signifies injury to the oral mucosa with ongoing irritation or damage of the tissue. However, in some cases there is no obvious cause of this burning mouth sensation and even diagnostic investigations cannot reveal a definitive reason for this sensation.
What is burning mouth syndrome?
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a condition of the mouth marked by an intense and continuous burning sensation of the tongue, inside of the mouth (oral mucosa) and lips. The pain is primarily centered on the tongue and extends outwards to the oral mucosa and lips. It may also involve the gums and palate (roof of the mouth). There is no definitive known cause of burning mouth syndrome in most cases. Many patients with burning mouth syndrome reports some disturbances with the sense of taste (dysgeusia ~ unusual taste; parageusia ~ diminished taste) and there may also be dryness of the mouth.
The tongue occupies most of the oral cavity and any disorder affecting the mouth will usually involve the tongue as well. The outer part of the tongue is covered by a mucous membrane similar to most of the inner lining of the mouth. It has various papillae (projections) which house the taste buds. Moisture of the tongue is maintained by saliva, most of which comes from the major salivary glands (parotid, sublingual, submandibular) with a smaller yet significant contribution from the hundreds of minor salivary glands in the mouth. Therefore dryness of the mouth which is primarily due to reduced saliva secretion will also cause dryness of the tongue.
What is loss of taste?
Taste loss is the partial or complete impairment of the sense of taste. A partial loss is known as hypogeusia whereas a complete loss is known as ageusia. It is one type of taste disorder (dysgeusia). There may be several other abnormalities with the sense of taste which can be an indication of local problems in the mouth, neurological (nerve) disturbances that carry the signals to the brain or disorders in the brain that affect the taste centers which processes the signals. Since odor (smell), texture (touch) and temperature can also contribute to the taste perception, disorders in these senses may also compromise the normal sense of taste.
Normal color of the tongue
The human tongue is a muscular organ that plays various roles in chewing, swallowing and talking. It lacks the protective skin and therefore its color is largely dependent on that tissue it is composed of in addition to the blood flowing through it. Therefore the color of the human tongue is normally a pink-red hue. The whitish coating sometimes seen on the top of the tongue varies from person to person and during different times of the day. It is mainly due to small food particles becoming trapped within the small protrusions on the tongue known as the papillae that gives the tongue a rough surface. Furthermore bacteria and saliva act on these trapped particles thereby causing it to break down. This whitish coating can easily be brushed away and is minimal in a person with good oral hygiene.
What is tongue paresthesia?
Paresthesia of the tongue is any abnormal sensation from the tongue which includes sensations such as numbness, tingling or prickling (“pins and needles”). The tongue is one of the most sensitive organs of the body. Sensations of temperature, pressure, texture and pain are often heightened on the tongue when compared to the skin and the tongue is also capable of a unique sensory function – taste. The tongue has a rich nerve supply and part of the reason why the tongue is so sensitive is that it is lined with a delicate mucuous membrane. As with any part of the body, there may at times be abnormal sensations from the tongue. When this involves the sense of taste, it is known as dygeusia. If it affects the other sensory components of the tongue leading to sensations such as numbness, tingling, prickling (“pins and needles”) or burning then it is known as paresthesia.
What is a sore tongue?
A sore tongue is a common term to describe discomfort, an ache, burning and/or pain of the tongue. The medical term for a sore tongue or tongue pain is glossodynia or glossalgia. It usually extends to the surrounding structures in the mouth. The tongue is one of the most sensitive parts of the body with receptors for taste, temperature and touch. Apart from housing the apparatus for the sense of taste, it also plays several other roles particularly in swallowing, talking, chewing and cleaning the mouth of food particles. It is a muscular organ with an outer covering laden with receptors. As with any part of the body, the tongue is prone to various diseases which can give rise to discomfort or pain, commonly referred to a sore tongue. Some of these conditions may also cause visible features like fissures or plaques while at other times soreness is present without any abnormality of the tongue.
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