Mouth Disorders: Overview

Mouth disorders are very common in both children and adults. Some of the more common disorders of the mouth include cold sores, canker sores, thrush, leukoplakia, dry mouth, gingivitis, bad breath, and dental caries (cavities).

What Are Mouth Disorders?

There are several common disorders of the mouth:

Canker sores are small round sores that occur on the inside of the lips, the tongue, on the roof or floor of the mouth, or inside the cheeks.

Canker sores are small round sores that occur on the inside of the lips, the tongue, on the roof or floor of the mouth, or inside the cheeks.
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  • Gingivitis (JIN-ja-VY-tis), or gum disease, is an infection or inflammation of the gums. Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis (inflammation of the tissues or gums surrounding the teeth).
  • Bad breath is also called halitosis (HAL-ih-TOH-sis). Most people experience halitosis at one or more times in their life.
  • Cavities, also called dental caries, are holes or areas of tooth decay in the teeth. Dental caries are a common cause of tooth loss in young people and older adults.
  • How Common Are Mouth Disorders?

    Disorders of the mouth are very common. Usually every person has one or more mouth disorders throughout their lifetime. Tooth cavities are particularly common, with about 36 percent of the adult population worldwide having one or more cavities in their permanent teeth. About 50 percent of the general population in the United States carries the HSV-1 virus and is, therefore, at risk of developing active cold sores.

    What Are the Causes of Mouth Disorders?

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  • Dry mouth can be caused by some anticancer treatments, including chemotherapy * and radiation therapy * . It can also be an unwanted side effect of medications like antihistamines, decongestants, pain medication, and diuretics. Dry mouth can also be caused by diseases of the salivary glands, HIV/AIDS, diabetes * , and Sjögren's syndrome.
  • Gingivitis is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on the teeth. Failure to brush the teeth and floss between the teeth at least daily leads to the hardening of the plaque, creating the potential for tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be caused by poor oral and dental hygiene, not brushing and flossing teeth effectively or often enough. Tooth decay, gum disease, or other problems of the mouth can cause bad breath. Bad breath can also be the result of a disease of the sinuses * or nose. In addition, foods such as onions or garlic can cause an unpleasant odor in the mouth.
  • Cavities are caused by bacteria * . Bacteria are normal in the mouth. They change foods, especially those containing sugar and starch, into acids. The bacteria, acids, pieces of food, and saliva combine to form a substance called plaque, which sticks to the teeth, especially at the edge of the gums; the back teeth called molars; and the edges of fillings.
  • Who Is at Risk of Mouth Disorders?