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Oral-health

Updated 10 February 2020

Woman grows hair out of her gums in rare medical case

If the thought of a hair in your mouth is making you gag, you might want to stop reading. But a rare medical phenomenon can cause hair to grow in odd places... including your mouth.

We all tend to be a bit squeamish at the idea of finding a stray hair in a plate of food – or even worse, finding it in your mouth.

But in a rare medical case, published in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, a 19-year old woman from Italy sprouted eyelash-like hairs from the soft gum tissue directly behind her upper front teeth.

A potential clue

When the stunned doctors dug deeper into medical literature, only five other cases were found – all men.

With so little pre-existing knowledge of this condition, determining the origin would cause a bit of a gnashing of teeth.

But in this case, according to further reports on Science Alert, pathologists found a potential clue. The young woman had her hormone levels tested and had an ultrasound done and this revealed that she had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition where cysts on the ovaries can cause hormonal imbalances, which can often cause excessive hair growth (hirsutism).

The difference, however, is, that the hair growth is restricted to areas that already sprout follicles, such as the face, limbs and torso.

These hairs were already out of place. Doctors reckon that PCOS might not be the direct cause, but could certainly worsen this strange condition, dubbed as gingival hirsutism.

Treatment

The doctors treated the woman’s condition by surgically removing the hairs and prescribing an oral contraceptive to help rectify hormonal imbalances.

But six years later, the woman returned to the doctors after stopping her hormonal therapy – hairs having sprouted from her gums again. The medical team decided not only to remove the hairs, but to dissect a small piece of tissue. They were astounded to see that hair shafts were pushing through an extremely thickened gum tissue.

A year later the condition had flared up in other sites inside her mouth.

No clear explanation

Researchers have since suggested that the mucosal tissues inside the human mouth are very similar to our skin tissues while we are still embryos – and since hair cells are already starting to develop in that tissue, it might explain why it can be activated in strange places such as the mouth.

And in a condition known as Fordyce granules, oil glands found on outer skin can also grow inside the mouth. But as for hair growth? No clear explanation as of yet.

The doctors are at this stage uncertain whether the patient has resumed hormone therapy and whether she is still dealing with this phenomenon.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Oral health expert

Dr Imraan Hoosen qualified from the Medical University of South Africa in 1997. Together with his partner, Dr Hoosen now runs a group of dental practices around Johannesburg (Lesedi Private Hospital, Highlands North Medical Centre , Brenthurst Clinic, Parklane Clinic, Simmonds Street Medical and Dental Centre, Soni Medical Centre- Newclare). Dr Hoosen can be contacted on 011 933 4096.

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