Stomatitis is an inflammation of the mucous lining of any of the parts of themouth, including the cheeks, gums, tongue, lips, and roof or floor of the mouth. The word "stomatitis" literally means "inflammation of the mouth." Thisinflammation can be caused by conditions in the mouth itself, such as poor oral hygiene, poorly fitted dentures, mouth burns from hot food or drinks, or by conditions that affect the entire body, such as medications, allergic reactions, or infections.

Stomatitis is usually a painful condition, with redness, swelling, bleeding,or bad breath. Stomatitis affects all age groups, from the infant to the elderly.

A number of factors can cause stomatitis. Poorly fitted oral appliances, cheek biting, or jagged teeth can irritate the mouth. Chronic breathing through the mouth becuase of clogged nasal passages can dry the mouth, which can leadto irritation. Diseases such as cold sores, gonorrhea, measles, AIDS, and lack of vitamin C can cause stomatitis.

Canker sores are a specific type of stomatitis that causes shallow, painful ulcers usually located on the lips, cheeks, gums, or roof or floor of the mouth. These ulcers can range from pinpoint size to up to an inch or more. Thoughthe cause of canker sores is unknown, nutritional deficiencies (especially vitamin B12, folate, or iron) is suspected.

Generalized stomatitis can be caused by too much alcohol, spices, hot food, or tobacco products. Sensitivity to mouthwashes, toothpastes, and lipstick canirritate the lining of the mouth. Exposure to heavy metals, such as mercury,lead, or bismuth can cause stomatitis. Thrush (a type of fungal infection) is also a type of stomatitis.

It can be hard to diagnose stomatitis. A doctor will conduct a physical examination to evaluate the oral lesions and other skin problems. Blood tests or scrapings of the lining of the mouth may be evaluated in a culture or under amicroscope to identify any infections.

The treatment of stomatitis is based on the problem causing it, but good oralhygiene is fundamental. Sharp-edged foods such as peanuts, tacos, and potatochips should be avoided. A soft-bristled toothbrush should be used to brushteeth and gums carefully without banging the toothbrush into the gums. Ill-fitting dental appliances or sharp-edged teeth can be corrected by a dentist. An infection can usually be treated with medication. Illnesses such as AIDS, leukemia, and anemia are treated by the appropriate medical specialist. Minormouth burns from hot beverages or hot foods will usually get better on theirown in a week or so. Chronic problems with canker sores are treated by firstcorrecting any deficiencies of vitamin B12, iron, or folate. If this is unsuccessful, a few patients may find relief with prescription medication applied to each ulcer with a cotton-tipped swab.

The herb calendula (Calendula officinalis), as an alcohol-based herbalextract and diluted for a mouth rinse can be quite effective in treating canker sores and other types of stomatitis.

The prognosis for stomatitis is based on the cause of the problem. Infectiouscauses of stomatitis can usually be managed with medication, or, if the problem is being caused by a certain drug, by changing the offending agent.

Stomatitis caused by local irritants can be prevented by good oral hygiene, regular dental checkups, and good dietary habits. Problems with stomatitis caused by disease can be minimized by good oral hygiene and closely following the medical therapy prescribed by the patients health care provider.

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