Black Hairy Tongue
Black hairy tongue, as shown above on a 2-year-old boy, occurs when the filiform papillae that cover the tongue become enlarged and overgrown with fungi. The cause is not known, but may be due to poor oral hygiene or antibiotic use. Treatment is with thorough cleaning of the tongue and mouth with antifungal drugs. Photo credit: Dr. P. Marazzi / Photo Researchers, Inc.
Oral cancer most commonly involves the tissue of the lips or the tongue, and begins as a white plaque or mouth ulcer. Most look very similar under the microscope and are called squamous cell carcinomas. These are malignant and tend to spread rapidly. Smoking and other tobacco use are associated with 70% to 80% of oral cancer cases. Other risk factors include heavy alcohol use, poor dental and oral hygiene, chronic irritation and human papillomavirus infection.
Candidiasis of the Tongue
Superficial infections of the skin and mucosal membranes by Candida causing local inflammation and discomfort are common. Most candidial infections are treatable and result in minimal complications such as redness, itching and discomfort, though complication may be severe or fatal if left untreated in certain populations. Photo credit: Biophoto Associates / Photo Researchers, Inc.
Ulcerative gingivitis is caused when plaque builds up due to poor dental hygiene. The gums can become inflamed with ulcers, as shown here. Photo credit: Biophoto Associates / Photo Researchers, Inc.
Minor Apthous Ulcer
Minor aphthous ulcers like the one shown here, affect about 20% of the population. They can be caused by hypersensitive reactions to haemolytic streptococcus bacteria, minor injuries, acute stress and allergies. Analgesic mouth gels or mouthwashes are used to ease the pain. Ulcers tend to heal by themselves, but clinician’s may prescribe corticosteroid or tetracycline drugs to speed up the healing process in severe cases. Photo credit: Dr. P. Marazzi / Photo Researchers, Inc.
Apthous ulcers, like the one above, are painful open sores on the mucous membrane lining the mouth. Often there is no known cause. This woman pictured had been taking the drug methotrexate to treat rheumatoid arthritis, although it is not clear if the drug played a part in the development of the ulcer.
Hyperplasia of the Upper Gums
Hyperplasia of the upper gums is a consequence of long-term use of the drug phenytoin, prescribed to treat epilepsy. Overactive growth of the gums is a recognized side effect. Phenytoin is an anticonvulsant that reduces the severity of seizures in grand mal epilepsy. Photo credit: SPL / Photo Researchers, Inc.
More than 40% of patients undergoing chemotherapy develop some degree of mucositis during the course of their treatment. Patients receiving radiation to the head, neck, or chest areas and patients who undergo bone marrow or stem cell transplant are even more likely to develop mucositis. Incidence of mucositis is higher with certain chemotherapy or total body irradiation, which is often used for bone marrow transplants.