Saliva plays a huge role in the normal functioning of the oral cavity. It is essential to maintain an environment in which the normal microflora of the mouth can thrive in. A white layer on the tongue as well as a stringy jelly-like substance in the mouth is indicative of a fungal overgrowth. This is caused by the alteration of the normal balance of the micro-organisms in the mouth, and linked to a change in the volume and nature of saliva.
The main pathology is a dry mouth with the other features only being symptoms.
There are a number of reasons which can cause a dry mouth to occur in an individual:
- Medication - There are a number of medications which cause a dry mouth as a side effect. These include medication taken for high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, allergies, asthma and a few other less common ones as well.
- Infection - A dry mouth can also be an indicator for other systemic disorders in the body. Diseases like Sjogren syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and a few others can all cause a dry mouth.
- Radiotherapy - A decrease in the salivary gland's function can be caused by exposure to radiotherapy to treat cancerous growths of the head and neck region.
- Trauma- A physical injury to the salivary gland can result in the decrease of saliva production leading to problems in the oral cavity.
- Lifestyle - Smoking and chewing tobacco are known to be associated with a dry mouth. Mouth breathers are also more prone to suffer from this problem.
Once the salivary production has been altered or a change in the normal nature of the saliva occurs, it can lead to a number of further problems in the oral cavity. There is a change in the pH of the oral cavity which causes a decrease in the population of the normal commensal micro-organisms and leads to an increase in the growth of opportunistic organisms.
A white scrapable growth in the oral cavity is seen during a fungal overgrowth in the region. Similarly, a change in the nature of the normally watery saliva to a more mucinous form will lead to a stringy and jelly like consistency which gives the feeling of an uncomfortable texture in the mouth.
There will also be an increase in the incidence of tooth decay as well as gum problems, however that can still be managed by meticulous oral hygiene practices.
The treatment for this condition depends on the underlying pathology. Once that has been identified then efforts need to be taken to cure that and the dry mouth condition will disappear on its own.
During that time however, the patients may need to take antifungal medication, saliva inducing medication and artificial salivary substitutes which will provide temporary relief. Other simple things like chewing a non sweetened gum to induce salivation can also be done. In case of radiotherapy-associated damage to the salivary glands, there is a possibility that normal function may never be regained and these measures will have to be taken on a permanent basis.
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