It is not unusual to have a problem with your
mouth from time to time. A mouth problem can involve
your gums, lips, tongue, or inner cheeks, the roof of your mouth (soft and hard
palates), under your tongue, your neck, or your teeth. Your mouth may be dry,
or food may not taste right. You may have bad breath or a sore on your lip,
gums, or tongue that makes it hard to eat or talk. Many of these problems can
get better with home treatment.
Common mouth problems
- Sores, such as
cold sores (also called fever blisters) and
canker sores . Canker sores develop inside the mouth, while
cold sores and impetigo usually affect the area around the outside of the
- Infections, which can be caused by a virus (such as
herpes simplex) or a bacteria (such as
epiglottitis, or impetigo, or a
sexually transmitted infection). An infection is more
serious when it causes rapid swelling of the tongue or throat and blockage of
- Tender, red splits or
cracks at the corner of your mouth (angular cheilitis), which can be caused by infection, a diet too low in
vitamins, and over-closure of the mouth in someone who has been without teeth
or dentures for some time.
- Chapped lips, which may be caused by
dry, windy, cold, or very hot weather.
- Dry mouth
(xerostomia). A common cause of dry mouth is
dehydration. Over time, having a dry mouth increases
your risk of mouth infections, gum disease, and dental
- Thick, hard white patches inside the mouth that cannot be
wiped off (leukoplakia). This is commonly caused by irritation of the mouth,
such as from a rough tooth or poorly fitting denture rubbing against tissue or
from smoking or using smokeless (spit) tobacco.
- Thrush ,
a common infection of the mouth and tongue caused by the yeast Candida albicans. Thrush appears on the mouth and tongue as
white patches that look like cottage cheese or milk curds. When the patches are
wiped away, the underlying area appears red and raw and may bleed. In babies,
thrush may cause a rash in the diaper area.
- Taste changes. Your sense of taste may be
decreased, lost, or changed, such as a
metallic taste in your mouth.
tongue may become sore or swollen, or it may change
color or texture. A buildup of food and bacteria on the tongue may make the
tongue look thick or furry ("hairy tongue"). Often the problems will
go away if the surface of the tongue is regularly brushed with a soft-bristled
toothbrush. If your tongue problem is from some local irritation, such as
tobacco use, removing the source of the irritation may clear up the tongue
problem. Rapid swelling of the tongue can be caused by an
allergic reaction, which can interfere with breathing.
Bad breath (halitosis) or changed breath can be an embarrassing problem.
Make sure that you brush your teeth twice each day and floss once a day to
decrease the bacteria that can cause bad breath. Brushing your tongue can also
The use of alcohol and
tobacco can cause many mouth problems. Your chances of
oral cancer are increased if you smoke, use smokeless
(spit) tobacco, or use alcohol excessively.
Mouth problems may
occur more commonly with other conditions and diseases, such as
Down syndrome, and
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Many
medicines also can cause mouth problems.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see