Your mouth is one of your most intricate body parts. Filled with teeth, gums, papillae, saliva, and more, your oral cavity forms its own complex world. At our Houston dental practice, Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our team help patients maintain healthy mouths and enjoy beautiful smiles. In many cases, keeping up a regular dental hygiene routine and attending preventive care appointments every six months should keep your mouth in good working order. However, there are always exceptions. Better understanding your mouth can help you protect your oral and overall well-being. In the following blog, Dr. Flanagan describes three strange things that can happen to your mouth.
1. Black Hairy Tongue
What if you woke up one morning with a black, hairy tongue? This might sound like a nightmare, but the condition is quite real, and relatively innocuous. WebMD explains: “black hairy tongue is caused by bacteria or fungi in the mouth, which make the tongue appear black and hairy.” Basically, your tongue is covered in “tiny rounded projections called papillae.” Exposed to certain organisms, these can “start to grow and lengthen, creating hair-like projections” up to “15 times their normal length.” While they are typically “pinkish-white,” they can also take on a darker hue. While black is most common, WebMD points out: “the tongue can also turn brown, yellow, green, or a variety of other colors.”
If your tongue seems to be sprouting hair and turning a strange shade, it’s probably due to “poor oral hygiene,” a failure to remove the bacteria that cause this condition. Lifestyle factors such as dehydration, tobacco use, dry mouth, or a serious coffee habit could also lead to black hairy tongue, per WebMD. Antibiotics, radiation therapy, certain medications, and specific types of mouthwash can also have an effect.
As such, the most commonly recommended treatment for these strange symptoms is “practicing good oral hygiene,” especially “brush[ing] your tongue” and us[ing] a tongue scraper to make sure you’re thoroughly cleaning the area.” In more severe situations, oral medications may help. The most extreme cases may require the papillae to be “surgically clipped off with a laser or electrosurgery.” If the thought of a black hairy tongue scares you, all you need to do is practice great oral hygiene!
2. Itchy Gums
It’s a bit bizarre to imagine any part of your mouth “itching,” but this sensation can occur. Of course, if your head or arm itched, you would simply scratch it, but this becomes notably more difficult with oral tissue. Odd as it may seem, an “itchy” feeling isn’t that uncommon. You might experience this symptom because:
- You’re sensitive to your toothpaste, which is irritating your gums.
- You’re brushing your teeth too hard. While you may believe that more aggressive cleaning is better, scrubbing your teeth too roughly or using a toothbrush that’s too prickly could be upsetting your gums.
- Your gums are infected. The bacteria that cause cavities can also get beneath your gum line and cause swelling, bleeding, and, yes, even itching.
- · You’ve recently had a cosmetic or restorative dental treatment. Your gums may take a few days to adjust to changes within your mouth.
No matter the source of your itchy gums, Dr. Flanagan and our team can spot and soothe it.
At our practice, we’re typically concerned with helping patients keep their teeth by maintaining good oral hygiene, but did you know it’s actually possible to have too many? This condition is technically known as hyperdontia. MedicineNet explains: “hyperdontia is an oral condition characterized by having an excess number of teeth.”
Basically, “the standard number of primary [baby] teeth is 20 and the standard number of permanent [adult] teeth is 32.” Most people have these exact numbers. However, “between 1% and 4% of the population” develop what are called “supernumerary teeth,” which are any teeth beyond 20 (for children) and 32 (for adults). These teeth can “present both cosmetic and functional problems’ for patients, such as “crowding…cysts” and “tumors.”
For these reasons, Dr. Flanagan and our team typically recommend extracting supernumerary teeth to treat hyperdontia. In most cases, we can best preserve patients’ smiles by removing the extra tooth or teeth as soon as possible.
Is Something Happening To Your Mouth?
Your symptoms don’t have to be strange to warrant an office visit. If you notice changes in your gums, teeth, or any other aspect of your oral health, we recommend coming in for a consultation. The sooner we catch an issue, the easier it is to treat. Contact our Houston dental practice today to learn more and make an appointment with Dr. Flanagan.