What is oral medicine?
Oral medicine is a very little known specialty of dentistry among the general population and even among some health professionals. This specialty deals with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders or diseases that may appear in the mucosa of the oral cavity, such as the tongue, lips, palate, floor of the mouth, inner cheek and gums. In addition, it also treats salivary gland diseases and saliva disorders such as dry mouth. On the other hand, some painful disorders of the orofacial complex, such as burning mouth syndrome, are also often diagnosed and treated by this specialty.
What are the most common diseases or disorders in oral medicine?
A wide variety of diseases and disorders can affect the mucosa of the mouth, from fungal infections, to autoimmune diseases such as oral lichen planus or mucosal pemphigoid, to potentially malignant oral disorders such as leukoplakia. Unfortunately, and with increasing frequency, we are diagnosing oral cancer.
We also very frequently treat other disorders that lead to a great loss of quality of life for the patient who suffers from them, such as repetitive canker sores, dry mouth and burning mouth syndrome. In addition, on many occasions the alterations in the mouth are a reflection of diseases in the rest of the organism.
What is oral leukoplakia?
It is a white spot that appears on the mucous membranes of the cavity, mainly on the lateral edges of the tongue, the gum, the lip and the floor of the mouth, which is considered by the World Health Organization as a potentially malignant oral disorder, that is, a lesion with the capacity to become a cancer.
What are the symptoms of this pathology?
Curiously, on most occasions, it does not produce any symptoms or discomfort and is usually a casual finding during a visit to the dentist. Hence the great importance of self-exploration of the oral cavity in search of white spots, irregularities, lumps, indurations or ulcers that do not heal.
What causes oral leukoplakia?
Leukoplakia has been closely related to tobacco consumption, this habit being the main reason for the appearance of leukoplakia. However, there are some types of leukoplakia, such as proliferative warty leukoplakia, which appear in patients, especially women, without any risk habits.
What is the most appropriate treatment?
There is no treatment that has worked successfully. Leukoplakia can be removed surgically, with surgical laser or treated locally with retinoid preparations, among others. None of these treatments has been very successful and, on many occasions, periodic and exhaustive follow-up of the leukoplakia by a specialist in oral medicine is the most appropriate treatment. It is very important to know that each case has to be studied to know the individual cellular behavior and, from there, make the most appropriate therapeutic decision.
The most important thing in these lesions is to do primary prevention, eliminating risk factors such as tobacco or irritants.
Can leukoplakia progress to cancer?
Leukoplakia is a potentially malignant oral disorder, classified as such by the World Health Organization. That means it has the potential to develop into cancer. Not all leukoplakia will develop into cancer, but all require close and regular follow-up.
What are canker sores?
Canker sores are small, very painful lesions that appear on the mucosa of the mouth, popularly known as sores. It is a lesion that we have all suffered at some time. Sometimes, aphthous ulcers can be very frequent, periodic or very large, leading to a very important loss of quality of life. In these cases, their origin must be carefully studied.
Why do canker sores appear?
There are many factors that have been related to the appearance of canker sores such as:
- Chronic traumas
- Chronic irritation from certain toothpastes and mouthwashes
- Certain foods such as tomatoes
- Blood disorders due to iron and certain vitamins deficiency.
- Disorders and diseases of the digestive system
- Respiratory diseases
- Different systemic syndromes.
What treatment should be followed?
The treatment varies greatly depending on the origin of the canker sores, as we have already mentioned. First of all, the appropriate medical studies must be carried out to find out its origin and treat it. On many occasions, it is not related to any possible established cause and it is then considered a recurrent aphthous stomatitis for which there are numerous local and systemic treatments that help reduce the appearance of aphthous outbreaks.
How can they be prevented?
Prevention of aphthous ulcers mainly consists of eliminating or reducing certain irritants. In many cases, some toothpastes and mouthwashes may be the source, as well as certain foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits.