White patches on the tongue and mouth could signal oral thrush
Dr Alex George reveals best time to brush your teeth
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Many of us are aware that certain issues with our mouths are a sign of poor oral hygiene, such as tooth decay. However, the mouth can indicate a range of health issues. One example of this is white patches found on the tongue or oral cavity.
Doctor Mani Bhardwaj, clinical director and principal dentist at the Smile Studios Dental Group, explained how this could be a sign of oral thrush.
He said: “You may find signs of white patches, flecks and growths on the surface of the tongue or oral cavity.
“These can wipe or rub off leaving behind a very sore red under layer where they have been necrosing the surface of the mouth.”
Oral thrush is a fungal infection that is not infectious and can usually be treated with antifungal medication.
According to the NHS, other signs of the infection include:
- Loss of taste or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Redness inside the mouth and throat
- Cracks at the corners of the mouth
- A painful, burning sensation in the mouth.
“In some cases, the symptoms of oral thrush can make eating and drinking difficult,” the NHS warns.
“If left untreated, the symptoms will often persist and your mouth will continue to feel uncomfortable.
“In severe cases that are left untreated, there is also a risk of the infection spreading further into your body, which can be serious.”
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Causes of oral thrush
Having oral thrush can be the result of other issues.
“This can be a sign of reduced immunity, poor oral health, a super infection or after use of certain drugs like steroids or certain antibiotics,” Dr Bhardwaj said.
It can also be caused by:
- Wearing dentures (false teeth), particularly if they don’t fit properly
- Having a dry mouth, either because of a medical condition or a medication you are taking
- Having chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat cancer.
However, Dr Bhardwaj warned that certain white patches are actually an indicator of mouth or oral cancer.
He said: “One must get any white patch seen to as they need to be differentiated from the risks of oral cancer.”
The NHS says “sometimes” white or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue can be an early sign of mouth cancer.
If these patches do not get better within three weeks the health body advises seeing a GP.
The NHS lists several ways to prevent developing oral thrush.
“Rinse your mouth after meals,” it says. “Brush your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
“Floss regularly. Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups, even if you wear dentures or have no natural teeth.
“Remove your dentures every night and clean them with paste or soap and water before soaking them in a solution of water and denture-cleaning tablets.
“Brush your gums, tongue and inside your mouth with a soft brush twice a day if you wear dentures or have no or few natural teeth.
“Visit your dentist if your dentures do not fit properly. Stop smoking if you smoke.”
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