Common Oral Health Problems

dental tools

When most people consider their oral health, they think about brushing and flossing as a means to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. While these two conditions do represent the most common oral health problems, a number of other serious, and not so serious, oral ailments can arise, even if less frequently. At Clackamas Smiles Family Dental your dentist in Happy Valley Dr. Suess wants to make you aware of several oral health problems you may encounter:

Canker Sores

While researchers don’t know what causes these painful blisters to develop in the mouth, they do know that hormones, stress, infection, hypersensitivity, and vitamin deficiency can all act as potential triggers. Clinically referred to as aphthous ulcers, canker sores can appear on your gums, cheek, or tongue, and usually last anywhere from one to two weeks. If you suffer from persistent canker sores that cause you extreme discomfort, you should consider using over-the-counter numbing creams, or seeking a prescription from your dentist for a more potent remedy.


A reaction to mouth irritants, such as smoking, using smokeless tobacco, poorly fitting dentures, or jagged or rough teeth, leukoplakia can appear as plaques or white patches in the mouth. While normally painless, leukoplakia can’t be removed by scrapping, and could signal a potential precancerous condition. If you suffer from persistent patches, you should visit a dentist for an oral evaluation.

Lichen Planus

A rare rash that manifests as white, lacy blotches or as shiny red bumps, lichen planus usually forms on the tongue or the interior of the cheeks. Unfortunately, no one knows what causes the condition. Mild lichen planus usually doesn’t require treatment, however, if the condition begins to cause painful ulcers, you may need to treat it with a topical ointment. Lichen planus has the potential to become a chronic condition and studies suggest that it could increase your risk of developing some form of oral cancer.


Standing for temporomandibular joint syndrome, TMJ can cause severe pain in the neck, ear, face, or jaw. Teeth grinding, jaw clenching, or a suffering a facial injury can all result in the development of TMJ syndrome. In addition to pain, TMJ can cause such symptoms as dizziness, headache, and problems swallowing. Treatment for TMJ can range from wearing a mouth guard at night while sleeping, to medication and surgery.

Oral Cancer

Unexplained numbness of the neck, mouth, or face; sores that don’t heal; and problems speaking, swallowing, and chewing are just some of the potential symptoms of oral cancer. You can increase your risk of developing the disease by drinking heavily, smoking or using smokeless tobacco products, and spending too much time in the sun. If you have a family history of oral cancer, your risks of developing the disease also increase. Fortunately, when caught at an early stage, oral cancer is one of the most easily treatable and curable forms of the disease.

Aspirin Burn

A common folk remedy for dealing with a toothache suggests that you place an aspirin along the gum line near the aching tooth. While you might hope the technique will relieve the pain faster, the aspirin actually burns a rough, white lesion into your cheek or gums. While no one knows how this supposed remedy started, aspirin only works if swallowed, so avoid the burn by taking the medication properly.

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