Malaria is one of the leading killer diseases in Africa. It is transmitted through female anopheles mosquito and it weakens the body. It can lead to death if untreated. What you may not know is that there are side effects of malaria that affect your oral health including your teeth. This article provides an insight on how malaria affects your oral health. It was first posted on flowersdentistry.com. Knowing how malaria affects your teeth and oral health generally is essential in understanding how devastating malaria could be if left untreated.
Malaria and oral health
Malaria has a very large, devastating effect on your oral health. Transmitted through mosquitoes, malaria is not a common problem in North America and is usually found in Southeast Asia, Oceania, South and Central America, the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria can be brought into a country from someone who is infected, known as imported malaria, and is most commonly brought by migrant workers, international business professionals, missionaries, tourists and refugees who have traveled from those areas.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through the anopheles mosquito. The infected mosquito further infects the hosts through Plasmodium, a one-cell parasite. In total, there are five different types of malaria:
- Plasmodium malariae – this is a more mild form and is typically nonfatal but still requires treatment to avoid health problems and stays in the blood for decades.
- Plasmodium vivax another mild form that is not fatal but still requires treatment and has the largest geographical distribution over the globe. This parasite comes with a liver stage that will remain for years in the body without causing sickness, but will eventually cause a relapse of the liver.
- Plasmodium knowlesi– this type typically infects macaques but also will infect humans.
- Plasmodiumovale – this type is much like vivax but tends to linger on for longer periods of time without any symptoms whatsoever.
- Plasmodium falciparum– this type is the most serious and is extremely common in Africa and is extremely fatal.
Malaria and Your Oral Health
Oral symptoms of malaria are caused by the systemic effects and even the side effects of prescribed medications that are used to treat it. This is the same for traditional treatments. High fevers that are seen in malaria patients, for example, are known to cause dehydration and xerostomia.
The clinical signs typically include:
- the tongue sticking to the palate
- oral dryness
- difficulty with speech, swallowing and mastication
- impaired taste
- longing thirst
- licking of the lips
- soreness and burning of the tongue and the mucosa
These systems put together, especially with a lack of saliva plus immunoglobulins as an association will create some serious negative effects with your oral health, such as tooth decay.
Xerostomia’s symptoms are able to be minimized using products that can be found over-the-counter. These products include saliva stimulants, substitutes, sprays, gels, lozenges, dentifrices, mouthrinses and even behavior modifications. If xerostomia goes untreated, it will cause tooth loss, caries and gum disease through increased oral biofilm development.
Speak With Your Dentist
If you are planning on taking a trip to a location where there is malaria, speak with your doctor and your dentist before you do. You dentist especially will be able to give you tips to ensure that you are protected against malaria. You should also schedule an appointment after you are back from your trip with your dentist to see whether or not you have contacted it. If so, your dentist will be able to point you in the right direction to ensure that your teeth and your oral health in general, are protected from any damages caused by malaria or xerostomia.