Types of Mouth Infections and How to Treat Them

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There are a number of infections that can affect the mouth. These may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. With any condition, it is important to contact your healthcare professional to get the proper treatment that will help your specific condition.

mouth infection

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Thrush

Thrush is a fungal infection in the mouth. It is usually located in the lining of the mouth and tongue. It can also appear in the throat and on other areas of your body.

When thrush occurs in the mouth, symptoms include:

  • Raised white lesions on the (inner) cheeks and tongue
  • Redness and pain in the mouth
  • A cottony feeling
  • Loss of taste

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of Candida or other fungi and is diagnosed by a throat culture. It can be treated with anti-fungal medication.

It is important to check with a healthcare provider to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Cavities

A cavity is a common occurrence among both adults and children. It develops from tooth decay and forms a hole in the tooth. This happens when acids and bacteria in the mouth erode the tooth enamel, or hard outer layer.

To prevent cavities, it is important to get regular dental checkups and cleanings, as well as to brush and floss properly and regularly.

Symptoms of a cavity include:

  • Toothache
  • Redness inside the mouth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold drinks or foods
  • Bad breath

The causes of a cavity include consuming too many sugary foods and drinks, as well as improper brushing and flossing.

The bacteria in the mouth are known to feed on foods that have a lot of sugar and starch, which convert into acids. The acids will in turn start to erode the tooth enamel and create holes and cavities.

When an individual has a cavity, the treatment options include:

  • Filling
  • Root canal
  • Tooth extraction

If the decay is in its early stages, a remineralization treatment can help repair the tooth enamel. This process includes fluoride treatments at the dentist. It also may require a prescription mouthwash and toothpaste.

It is important to get regular checkups with the dentist to keep the teeth healthy. Regular checkups can also prevent potential issues in the future.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is an advanced form of gingivitis. When the gums and bones that support the teeth are infected, they can become inflamed and red. They also start to pull away from the
structure of the bones and teeth. When this happens, the teeth may loosen or fall out.

This condition primarily happens to adults. Symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Tender swollen or bleeding gums
  • Loose and sensitive teeth
  • Gums that are pulling away from the teeth
  • Change in the fit of dentures
  • Bad breath or taste in the mouth

When plaque is formed in the mouth from bacteria staying on the teeth too long, it will harden to tartar. The buildup of tartar can spread below the gum line. When this happens, it makes it difficult to remove the tartar and clean the teeth.

It is important to have a dental professional clean the teeth, remove the tartar, and give proper suggestions and treatment to help decrease the process/the progression of periodontal disease.

Treatments of this condition include preventive measures such as brushing and flossing regularly and visiting the dentist at the recommended appointment times.

Other treatments include:

  • Prescribed medication that can be placed directly under the gum or taken orally
  • Deep cleaning of the tooth and root surfaces below the gum
  • Surgery

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease. This condition occurs when bacteria infect the gums, making them red, swollen, and frequently bleeding. Gingivitis is manageable with regular dental checkups, brushing, and flossing at the recommendation of a dental professional.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Bad breath
  • Pain when chewing foods
  • Red and swollen gums

Overall, having bacteria in the mouth is normal and safe. However, some bacteria can create plaque, which can cause an infection in the areas where the teeth meet the gums; this is when gingivitis occurs. It can potentially worsen when the plaque hardens and turns into tartar, which is more difficult to remove from the teeth.

Treatment includes:

  • Antimicrobial mouth rinse
  • A specific dental hygiene plan
  • Scaling, a process that removes bacteria and tartar from underneath the gums and teeth

Some conditions and lifestyle habits could increase the chances of getting gingivitis. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Smoking and other forms of tobacco use

Oral Herpes

Oral herpes is an infection on the mouth area that is caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once an individual is infected with herpes, they will have the virus for life. It can lie dormant within nerve cells.

Some individuals never develop symptoms, and others may have outbreaks periodically. Symptoms include sores throughout the mouth and around the lips.

The sores are known to be contagious, painful, fluid-filled blisters. Some of the symptoms can also mimic other conditions, so it is important to contact a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

The signs and symptoms of an oral herpes outbreak may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.

Herpangina

Herpangina is a contagious illness that incudes ulcers and sores in the mouth.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Ulcers in the throat and mouth
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite

This condition is common among children between the ages of 3 and 10, although it is known to occur at any age.

Treatments include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Ice pops
  • Increase of fluids
  • Avoiding acidic, spicy, and citrus foods and beverages

There are also topical medications. It is important to check with a healthcare professional for the proper treatment and care.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can occur and spread through sexual contact with someone who has the condition.

If the infection is left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious health issues, including:

  • Damage to the brain, eyes, and heart
  • Mental health disorders
  • Blindness
  • Death

The symptoms are dependent on the stages. It typically starts as a small sore that is painless, then a bumpy rash may appear on the body (typically the hands or soles of the feet or palms). Other symptoms include flu-like ones such as muscle aches, fever, sore throat, or fatigue.

If someone comes in contact with the rash by chance or during sex, the infection can spread. Treatment includes antibiotics and preventive behavior.

It is important to speak with a healthcare professional to get the proper treatment and education regarding the infection.

A Word From Verywell

It is extremely important to contact a healthcare provider at the first onset of any unusual bump, scar, or pain. Mouth infections can be extremely painful and can lead to other illnesses.

Regular checkups with your doctor and/or dentist and a treatment plan can help with both preventive measures and effective treatment of the infection. Your healthcare professional can help with the proper information and care that is needed for the specific condition presented.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Thrush. Updated October 22, 2019.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Cavities. Updated September 14, 2020.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Periodontal disease. Updated July 10, 2013.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Gingivitis. Updated November 17, 2020.

  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Oral herpes.

  6. MedlinePlus. Herpangina. Updated February 26, 2021.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Syphilis. Updated August 13, 2020.