NHS dentists: MPs debate availability in UK
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Most people are keen to practise good oral hygiene in order to avoid issues such as bad breath and tooth decay. However, it is also key when it comes to keeping our mouths healthy. And any problems in the mouth could be an indicator of something more serious, an expert has said.
Doctor Abdul Matin Azizi, from the Harley Private Dental practice, explained how fungus in the mouth is one such indicator.
He said: “Dentists will always check your tongue during a routine examination.
“They’re looking for any signs of ulcers or abnormal growths, alongside infection or fungus, which can indicate cancers, infection or autoimmune disease.”
The colour of the fungus can give more of an idea of the potential issue.
“Fungus may often appear white or black in colour,” he said.
“A white fungus is often a sign of oral candidiasis or thrush, which occurs when there is an overgrowth of naturally occurring yeast on the tongue.”
Candidiasis is caused by a yeast called candida, which lives on the skin and parts of the body including the mouth, throat, gut and vagina.
It can cause no issue however, sometimes it can multiple and lead to an infection.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Candidiasis in the mouth and throat is also called thrush or oropharyngeal candidiasis.
“Candidiasis in the oesophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach) is called esophageal candidiasis or candida esophagitis.
“Esophageal candidiasis is one of the most common infections in people living with HIV/AIDS.”
As well as appearing as white fungus in the mouth, symptoms of oral candidiasis can include:
- Redness or soreness
- Cotton-like feeling in the mouth
- Loss of taste
- Pain while eating or swallowing
- Cracking and redness at the corners of the mouth.
Black fungus in the mouth is also cause for concern.
Dr Azizi added: “A black fungal presence which tends to be caused by a build-up of dead skin cells can also indicate thrush but alternatively, could point to diabetes or, in very rare cases, cancer.
“If serious medical issues are ruled out, both types of fungus can be eradicated through thorough brushing of the tongue over a couple of weeks.
“If this doesn’t solve the problem, your dentist can prescribe anti-fungal drugs including clotrimazole, miconazole, nystatin or fluconazole.”
He also warned about oral signs of human papillomavirus (HPV).
“One of the more serious problems can be ulcers or sores on the tongue that do not heal of their own accord and are still there after 10 days,” he said.
“This could be an indication of human papillomavirus oropharynx which is on the rise and which can go on to develop cancer of the mouth, throat, tongue or tonsils if not caught.
“This virus is transmitted through transmission of bodily fluids and can be picked up during a dental examination so it’s important to attend dental check-ups at least yearly.”
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