Sometimes, it becomes difficult to open the mouth or there can be constant burning sensation inside the mouth and tongue. Mostly they are due to common non-serious pathological conditions. But sometimes, it may indicate a serious condition of oral tissues called oral submucous fibrosis.
Schwartz in 1952 coined the term atrophica idiopathica mucosa oris to explain an oral condition that was fibrotic in nature. In 1953, oral submucous fibrosis was coined by Joshi. Scientifically, it can be defined as a chronic fibrotic disease of the oral cavity due to inflammation of submucosal tissues. It leads to rigid oral mucosa. The most commonly involved site is buccal mucosa but it has to be kept in mind that any part of the oral cavity can be affected. It is a premalignant condition indicating that if not managed early, it can lead to cancer of the oral cavity.
Where Is It Very Common?
The incidence is reported to be higher in people from certain parts of the world like South and South East Asia, South Africa, and the Middle Eastern Countries.
What Causes It?
It can be caused due to various factors as explained below:
1. Excessive consumption of red chilies.
2. Too much chewing of areca nuts.
3. Deficiency of certain nutrients like vitamin A.
4. Immunological factors: Poor immune response of the body.
5. Genetically transmitted.
6. Extensive tobacco usage.
7. Patients with a deficiency of certain micronutrients.
What Are the Basic Clinical Signs and Symptoms?
The clinical features are varied according to various factors like gender, but some of the symptoms and signs are common and are as follows:
1. It is usually seen to occur during the ages of 20 to 40 years.
2. Females are more affected than males.
3. The fibrotic changes are usually visible in the cheek mucosa, tongue, etc. In severe cases, fibrotic bands can be felt.
4. The patient in initial stages usually complains of burning sensation in the mouth, specifically during the intake of any hot or spicy foods.
5. Furthermore, excessive salivation or decreased salivation along with gustatory sensation can be seen.
6.There is wet leathery feeling in the mucosa in the initial stages.
7.The advanced stage makes the mucosa more rigid and blanched and hence, difficulty in mouth opening is there or there will be reduced mouth opening.
8.More commonly bands that are palpable in the cheek are vertical bands.
It is usually classified into various stages depending on the severity
Stage 1 - involves inflammation of the mucosa.
Stage 2 - involves fibrosis which can be further divided into:
Blanching observed in the oral mucosa (initial stages).
Vertical or circular palpable bands can be felt in the oral mucosa (older lesions).
Stage 3- is the sequelae of the condition which can be either leukoplakia or speech and hearing deficits.
How Can It Be Diagnosed?
When you have an unusual burning sensation in the mouth or reduced mouth opening, it is better to consult a dentist for further evaluation. The doctor initially takes personal and medical history including the habits. Then an oral examination is done comprising of measurement of mouth opening and palpation of the mucosa along with visualizing various signs and symptoms. Even, a histopathological examination can be done to confirm the diagnosis of the lesion.
Who Are at Risk of Getting It?
Mainly tobacco chewers are prone to get it. But other factors like smoking, malnutrition, etc., may add to the risk of getting it.
How Can It Be Treated?
The management usually lies in focusing on the causing factor followed by the management of symptoms. Following are the treatment options that can be used to manage OSMF:
1. Eradication of all causative factors or habits.
2.When the bands have formed, the definitive treatment is giving injection within the lesion. The injection consists of Collagenase, Corticosteroids, Fibrinolysin, etc.
3.Nutrient supplementation for deficient nutrients. Also, Vitamin A can prove to be beneficial as it is an antioxidant in nature.
4.Systemic administration of steroids can also be done.
Currently, research being carried out has proven that autologous bone marrow stem cell injection within the lesion can prove to be a safe and effective treatment for oral submucous fibrosis.
Oral submucous fibrosis is a premalignant condition that can affect the body in a generalized way. If not treated in earlier stages, it can lead to formation of oral cancer and hence, can be fatal. If you develop any unusual symptom in the oral cavity it is important to consult a dentist for further evaluation. With the help of online consultation platforms, it has become easy to consult a specialist anytime anywhere.
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