- Mouth ulcers are sores that develop in the mouth and can be painful
- They can appear on the inside of the lips, cheeks, or under the tongue
- Most mouth ulcers are harmless and heal on their own
- Recurrent mouth ulcers can be a sign of an underlying health issue
- Avoiding certain foods and maintaining oral hygiene can help prevent mouth ulcers
What are Mouth Ulcers?
Mouth ulcers, also known as oral ulcers, are small, painful sores that develop on the inside of the mouth. These ulcers can appear on the tongue, inside the cheeks, lips, or at the base of the gums. They are typically round or oval and may be white, yellow, or gray in color, often surrounded by a red, inflamed area. Mouth ulcers can cause discomfort, particularly when eating, drinking, or talking. Although they can be painful, mouth ulcers are usually harmless and clear up by themselves within a few weeks.
Mouth ulcers can differ in size and appearance:
- Minor Ulcers: These are the most common type and are small, usually about 2-8mm in diameter. They typically heal within two weeks without scarring.
- Major Ulcers: These are larger and deeper than minor ulcers and have irregular edges. They can be extremely painful and may take several weeks to heal, sometimes leaving a scar.
- Herpetiform Ulcers: These ulcers are a cluster of dozens of smaller sores. While the individual ulcers are small, they can merge into a larger ulcer. They usually heal without scarring in about two weeks.
Types of Mouth Ulcers
- Canker Sores: Canker sores are small, round sores that occur inside the mouth. They are the most common type of mouth ulcers and can be very painful.
- Oral Lichen Planus: This is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the mucous membranes inside your mouth. Oral lichen planus may appear as white, lacy patches or as painful, red, swollen patches or open sores.
- Leukoplakia: This condition causes cells in the mouth to grow excessively, leading to white patches or plaques. While generally not dangerous, some forms may be precancerous.
- Erythoplakia: This is a less common condition characterized by red patches that may become cancerous.
- Oral Thrush: Oral thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth, causing creamy white patches, usually on the tongue or inner cheeks. It is common in infants, elderly, and individuals with a weakened immune system.
- Mouth Cancer: In rare cases, mouth ulcers may be a sign of oral cancer, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as lumps in the mouth or difficulty swallowing.
Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers
Common symptoms of mouth ulcers include:
- Painful sores inside the mouth
- Burning or tingling sensation
- Difficulty eating or talking
- In severe cases, fever and swollen lymph nodes
Causes of Mouth Ulcers
Causes of mouth ulcers include:
- Accidental bites to the cheek or injuries from dental appliances
- Stress, anxiety or hormonal changes
- Sensitivity to certain foods (including acidic or spicy foods) or toothpaste
- Vitamin deficiencies, particularly B12, iron, and folate
- Allergic reactions to certain bacteria in the mouth
- Certain medications or medical conditions including autoimmune diseases
Other Health Conditions Associated with Mouth Ulcers
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Bechet’s disease
When to Seek Treatment for Mouth Ulcers
Seek medical attention if:
- The ulcer lasts longer than three weeks
- You have unusually large ulcers
- The pain is unbearable even with over-the-counter pain relievers
- You have difficulty drinking fluids
- The ulcers are spreading
Treatment for Mouth Ulcers
Treating a mouth ulcer primarily focuses on alleviating pain and preventing infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers and mouthwashes can be used. Additionally, topical gels and creams can be applied directly to the ulcer. It’s important to maintain excellent oral hygiene by using a soft-bristled toothbrush and to avoid irritating the ulcer with spicy or acidic foods. For recurring mouth ulcers, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider for an assessment, as there could be an underlying health issue.
How Do You Treat a Mouth Ulcer?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include:
- Topical creams or gels
- Mouth rinses with a steroid
- Pain relief medications
- Antibiotics if caused by a bacterial infection
- For severe cases, oral medications may be prescribed
Mouth Ulcers Home Remedy
If you are wondering how to cure mouth ulcers fast naturally using home remedies here is our list of top natural remedies that can speed up the healing process of mouth ulcers:
- Saltwater Rinse: Gargling with a saltwater solution can help to reduce inflammation and fight infection.
- Honey Application: Applying honey to the ulcer can keep the area moist and prevent infection due to its antibacterial properties.
- Baking Soda Paste: Mixing baking soda with a little water to create a paste and applying it to the ulcer can help to neutralize acids that irritate the sore.
- Chamomile Tea Bags: Placing a damp chamomile tea bag on the ulcer can relieve discomfort and promote healing.
- Coconut Oil: Due to its antimicrobial properties, applying coconut oil can help reduce the risk of infection.
- Aloe Vera Gel: Applying aloe vera gel to the ulcer can soothe pain and inflammation.
Mouth Ulcers That Won’t Heal
Most mouth ulcers heal on their own within a few weeks. However, ulcers that do not heal may indicate a more serious condition such as an infection, vitamin deficiency, or oral cancer. If an ulcer persists for more than three weeks, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider.
Prevention of Mouth Ulcers
Preventing mouth ulcers involves identifying and managing potential triggers and maintaining good oral hygiene. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent the occurrence of mouth ulcers:
- Maintain Oral Hygiene: Regularly brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss to keep your mouth free of foods that might trigger an ulcer. Use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate, as this ingredient may contribute to ulcers in some people.
- Avoid Certain Foods and Drinks: Spicy, salty, or acidic foods and drinks can irritate the mouth and may contribute to the development of ulcers. If you notice a pattern between consuming certain foods and developing ulcers, try to avoid them.
- Use a Mouthguard: If you have a habit of biting the inside of your cheek or lip, or if you wear braces, a mouthguard can help protect the soft tissues in your mouth.
- Manage Stress: Emotional stress is thought to be a trigger for some people. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or talking to a friend can help manage stress levels.
- Avoid Certain Medications: If you’ve noticed a correlation between taking a particular medication and developing mouth ulcers, talk to your healthcare provider about possible alternatives.
- Monitor Vitamin Intake: Deficiencies in certain vitamins, especially B vitamins, iron, and folate, can cause mouth ulcers. Ensure you’re getting a balanced diet, and consider supplements if necessary.
- Stop Tobacco Use: Smoking and using tobacco products can contribute to mouth ulcers and other oral health problems. Consider seeking help to quit.
- Avoid Oral Products with Alcohol: Mouthwashes and oral products that contain alcohol can be irritating. Opt for alcohol-free products.
- Drink Plenty of Water: Staying hydrated can help maintain the mucous membranes in your mouth, which can reduce the risk of ulcers.
- Regular Dental Check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. This can help in early detection of any oral problem which might be a contributing factor.
While these preventative measures can reduce the risk of developing mouth ulcers, it may not be possible to prevent them entirely, especially if they are caused by factors beyond your control, such as hormonal changes or inherited tendencies. If you frequently experience mouth ulcers, or if they are particularly large or painful, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare provider.
Where to Get Help
If you are experiencing symptoms of mouth ulcers, it’s wise to consult:
- General physician
- Oral surgeon
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider?
You should see a healthcare provider if:
- The ulcer lasts more than three weeks
- You’re experiencing extreme pain that isn’t alleviated with over-the-counter pain relievers
- You have recurrent mouth ulcers
- The ulcers are spreading
- You have difficulty drinking fluids or swallowing
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider?
When you see your healthcare provider, you might want to ask the following questions:
- What could be the cause of my mouth ulcers?
- What treatment options are available for my condition?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to prevent future ulcers?
- Could my ulcers be indicative of an underlying health issue?
- Should I see a specialist?
How Do You Know If Your Mouth Ulcer is Bad?
Indications that a mouth ulcer is severe include:
- Intense pain that interferes with eating, drinking, and talking
- Large size and deep appearance
- Spreading of the ulcers
- Lasting more than three weeks
- Accompanied by high fever, fatigue, or swollen lymph nodes
Mouth Ulcer vs. Canker Sore: What’s the Difference?
Mouth ulcers encompass various types of sores in the mouth. Canker sores are a specific type of mouth ulcers. They are small, shallow, and generally have a red border with a white or yellow center. Canker sores are more common and are not contagious. In contrast, mouth ulcers can include other types of sores such as cold sores, which are caused by the herpes virus and are contagious.
Are Mouth Ulcers a Sign of Cancer?
While most mouth ulcers are harmless, in rare cases, an ulcer that does not heal may be a sign of oral cancer. Other symptoms of oral cancer include lumps or thick patches in the mouth, difficulty chewing or swallowing, and numbness. If an ulcer does not heal within three weeks, it is important to seek medical advice for a thorough examination.
How Long Do Mouth Ulcers Last?
Typically, mouth ulcers can last between 10 to 14 days. While minor ulcers will heal without scarring, larger ones might take longer and can leave a scar. If an ulcer does not heal within three weeks, it is advised to see a healthcare provider.
Mouth ulcers, though common and often harmless, can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health condition – it is important not to overlook the symptoms. Proper oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and stress management can prevent most cases of mouth ulcers. However, persistent or severe ulcers should not be ignored, and professional medical advice should be sought.
This article is complete and was published on June 21, 2023, and last updated on August 25, 2023.