5 Things You Need To Know About Oral Submucous Fibrosis

Oral submucous fibrosis is a chronic oral disease that is characterized by stiffness of the oral mucosa, the soft tissues that line the insides of your cheeks. Here are five things you need to know about it.

What are the symptoms?

If you have oral submucous fibrosis, you'll notice that your cheeks feel stiff. This stiffness will make it hard for you to do everyday things like chewing or talking. Trismus, a painful spasm of the jaw muscles, can also occur, which will leave you unable to open your mouth at all. This phenomenon is known as lockjaw. If you notice these symptoms, you need to see your dentist immediately.

What causes oral submucous fibrosis?

The main cause is the chewing of areca nuts, also known as betel nuts, but there are many other possible causes. Eating a lot of spicy food that contains chili can cause the condition as the spice can irritate the tissues inside the mouth. Smoking or chewing tobacco have also been identified as causes. Vitamin deficiencies such as anemia may also lead to oral submucous fibrosis.

Is it serious?

Oral submucous fibrosis is a very serious disease for a few reasons. First, it can make it hard or even impossible for you to eat or drink, which can in turn lead to malnutrition or dehydration. Second, the condition is pre-cancerous. This means that it has the potential to transform into cancer. Oral submucous fibrosis transforms into cancers like squamous cell carcinoma in between 7% and 30% of cases, so it needs to be dealt with promptly.

How is it treated?

If you chew betel nuts, your dentist will advise that you quit. Your dentist may give you a steroid cream to apply to the affected tissues. Steroids reduce inflammation and can help to reduce the thickening of your tissues. Steroids can also be injected directly into the affected area, if required. If steroids don't work, your dentist may send you to an oral surgeon for surgical loosening of the affected tissues.

How common is oral submucous fibrosis?

Oral submucous fibrosis is a rare condition in America because betel nut chewing is not a common practice. In America, it only affects people who have emigrated from South Asian countries where betel nut chewing is more common and many people have submucous fibrosis. In India, for example, as many as 2.3% of males and 4.57% of females are affected by oral submucous fibrosis. Most people with this condition are between 45 and 54 years old and are heavy betel nut chewers.

If your cheeks feel tight and you're having trouble chewing or opening your mouth, see a dentist, like Schererville Family Dentistry, PC, right away.