The health of your teeth and gums are top priorities when it comes to dentistry. However, there are other parts of your mouth that are very important too and it is a really good idea to understand how they work, and to let your dentist know if you spot any issues with them.
We’re mainly talking about the tongue and the soft tissues in your mouth and these delicate parts need care and attention so that your mouth can feel comfortable and function well. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at these commonly overlooked areas of the mouth.
The Tongue And Oral Soft Tissues
Your oral soft tissues are both inside and outside the mouth and make up a large part of your oral cavity. The cheeks and lips, the roof of your mouth, your throat and the area below the tongue are all part of the mouth and there are many names that your dentist may have used when charting your oral health; you just may not have recognised the words. For example, did you know that the word used for the cheeks and certain soft tissues is ‘buccal’?
The tongue is not a soft tissue and rather it is a muscular organ in its own right and it is covered in little bumps and tissues. The tongue is incredibly complex and forms an important part of the digestion process, helping you move food around your mouth and push it down the throat.
The gums form part of your oral soft tissues and they keep the teeth snugly in place. They are so important to good oral health and they have their very own category of dentistry called periodontal care. Within this discipline, hygienists are focused on gum maintenance and helping you take care of the gums yourself, and periodontists are specialists in gum conditions and associated treatments.
Soft Tissue & Tongue Injuries
The soft tissues and tongue can be injured and such injuries can be very painful and cause problems with the function of the mouth either temporarily or permanently. As there are lots of nerves in the mouth, if you do get a soft tissue or tongue injury you may find the pain affects you quite badly, especially as it is in an area it is difficult to forget about as you use it constantly.
Common injuries and issues with the tongue and soft tissues result from biting them by accident or during sports. To help prevent this and impact damage, you can protect your teeth and gums, soft tissues and tongue from sports injuries with a bespoke gumshield, available at your dentist.
As well as sports injuries, you might burn your mouth with very hot food or drink, or get stung or infected. A lot of oral injuries will self heal whilst you limit the pain with gels or mouthwashes available from the pharmacy. In addition, paracetamol and ibuprofen taken according to the instructions on the box and if you are suitable, can help keep the pain manageable.
If you have a sore that doesn’t go away after two weeks, it is worth getting it checked by your local Kent Smile dentist. If the problem causes a lot of bleeding or swelling, or it becomes infected, do seek fast attention if it is an emergency, or see your GP or dentist if that is more appropriate.
Oral cancer can affect any part of the mouth apart from the teeth and you should visit your dentist regularly so they can check for any signs. A cancer check ensures all areas of your mouth are being checked for early signs of the disease so that you can get a quick diagnosis if anything is wrong. Usually, a sore or white or red patch that won’t go away, certain types of lumps or bumps and swellings can be signs of oral cancer. If there is a suspect area within the mouth, your dentist may refer you to the hospital or to your GP to get everything checked. An early diagnosis is key with any cancer to help ensure you get the best possible chance of successful treatment.
There are many issues that can occur with the tongue and the soft tissues of the mouth including:
Dry mouth can be caused by medications, certain medical conditions and treatments, anxiety, certain foods or even just by the way you hold your mouth. Dry mouth can make you more prone to tooth decay and it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus and most often occur on the lips or in the corner of the mouth. They usually tingle first then turn into a sore, crusty lesion that can take a while to go.
Vitamin deficiencies can show themselves in the mouth, causing the colour of the tongue and soft tissues to change. Anemia, for example, can cause the tissues to look very pale.
Oral thrush is fungal and can cause the mouth and throat to have a white, furry looking coating. It can also make your mouth and throat sore.
Lichen Planus & Leukoplakia
Lichen planus is a type of inflammation that can affect the mouth causing white patches, sores or white ‘lacing’. The condition isn’t usually painful but it can be sore. Leukoplakia causes similar visible issues. Both conditions are potentially precancerous and need to be checked and monitored regularly.
Mouth ulcers are little white or yellow sores that can form anywhere in the mouth. Many people can get them regularly and they can be caused by vitamin deficiencies or from accidentally biting the mouth.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can present inside the mouth in the way of lupus lesions which are red and bordered with white. They aren’t usually painful and commonly appear on the roof of the mouth.
The Importance Of Maintaining Your Dental Appointments
Making regular appointments with your dentist helps ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy and any issues are treated quickly. The same appointments help to protect and keep an eye on the health of your tongue and soft tissues. Your dentist can check any issues or problems you might be having in those areas. Your dentist can also look out for signs and symptoms you may not be aware of in those areas so if there is a problem, it is diagnosed and treated quickly. Your dentist and hygienist are also able to make suggestions to help with the pain or soreness associated with common soft tissue issues you are having that are diagnosed and being treated, such as dry mouth because of medication.
We are here to help you maintain a functional, comfortable mouth and attending regular appointments and checkups will help ensure all areas of your oral health are taken care of. Please call our reception teams on 01634 683 123 or 01622 754 622 to book an appointment at a time to suit you.Back to Blog
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