While mostly harmless, mouth ulcers can be extremely uncomfortable and make it difficult for some people to eat, drink, and brush their teeth. Mouth ulcers range in size, and the exact symptoms of the mouth ulcer will depend on what type of ulcer a person has.
Mouth ulcers aren’t contagious and usually go away within one to two weeks. However, if you get a canker sore that is large or extremely painful, or if it lasts for a long time without healing, you should seek the advice of a doctor.
Mouth Ulcers Causes
There is no definite cause behind mouth ulcers. However, certain factors and triggers have been identified. These include:
- Minor mouth injury from dental work, hard brushing, sports injury, or accidental bite
- Toothpaste and mouth rinses that contain sodium lauryl sulfate
- Food sensitivities to acidic foods like strawberries, citrus, and pineapples, and other trigger foods like chocolate and coffee
- Lack of essential vitamins, especially B-12, zinc, folate, and iron
- Allergic response to mouth bacteria
- Dental braces
- Hormonal changes during menstruation
- Emotional stress or lack of sleep
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
Mouth ulcers also can be a sign of conditions that are more serious and require medical treatment, such as:
- Celiac disease (a condition in which the body is unable to tolerate gluten)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Behcet’s disease (a condition that causes inflammation throughout the body)
- A malfunctioning immune system that causes your body to attack the healthy mouth cells instead of viruses and bacteria
Are mouth ulcers Cancerous?
Mouth cancer and mouth ulcers are distinctive in their symptoms. However, as mentioned earlier, new or persistent ulcers require checking.
There are some fundamental differences between mouth ulcers and what might be cancer:
- Mouth ulcers are often painful whereas mouth cancer is not.
- Mouth ulcers will clear up in about 2 weeks, whereas mouth cancer will not go away and will often spread.
- Mouth cancer patches may be rough, hard, and not easy to scrape off.
- Mouth cancer is often a mix of red and white areas or large white areas that appear on the tongue, the back of the mouth, the gums, or on the cheeks.
- Mouth cancer is often linked to heavy drinking or tobacco use.
Mouth Ulcers Types
Standard ulcers appear on the inner cheeks and last for about 1 week. Most are harmless and clear up with no medical intervention.
There are three main types of mouth ulcers. These include:
1.Herpetiform ulceration (HU)
Herpetiform ulcers are a subtype of aphthous ulcers and get their name because they resemble the sores associated with herpes. Unlike herpes, HU is not contagious. HU ulcers recur very quickly, and it may appear that the condition never gets better.
You should see a doctor if you develop any of the following:
- Unusually large mouth ulcers
- New mouth ulcers before the old ones heal
- Sores that persist more than three weeks
- Sores that are painless
- Mouth ulcers that extend to the lips
- Pain that can’t be controlled with over-the-counter or natural medication
- Severe problems eating and drinking
- High fever or diarrhea whenever the canker sores appear
2. Minor ulcers
This type can range in size from about 2 millimeters (mm) up to 8 mm across. These ulcers typically take up to 2 weeks to get better and will cause minor pain.
3. Major ulcers
Bigger than minor ulcers, major ulcers are often irregular in shape, maybe raised, and penetrate deeper into the tissue than minor ulcers. They can take several weeks to go away and are likely to leave scar tissue when they clear.
Mouth Ulcers Symptoms
Ulcers can be painful, and the pain can be made worse by food, drink, and poor oral hygiene.
HU lesions may:
- Appear as extremely painful ulcers in the mouth
- Recur very quickly, so infections seem continuous
- Increase in size, eventually coming together to form a large, ragged ulcer
- Take 10 or more days to heal
- Appear anywhere in the mouth
They tend to be found in more females than males and are more common in older adults.
Symptoms of minor and major ulcers include:
- one or more painful sores that may appear on the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, or the tongue
- the appearance of round lesions that have red edges and are yellow, white, or gray in the middle
During more extreme outbreaks of mouth ulcers, some people may experience fever, sluggishness, and swollen glands.
Mouth Ulcers Remedy
Most mouth ulcers don’t need treatment. However, if you get mouth ulcers often or they’re extremely painful, a number of treatments can decrease pain and healing time. These include:
- Using a rinse of saltwater and baking soda
- Placing milk of magnesia on the mouth ulcer
- Covering mouth ulcers with baking soda paste
- Using over-the-counter benzocaine (topical anesthetic) products like Orajel or Anbesol
- Applying ice to canker sores
- Using a mouth rinse that contains a steroid to reduce pain and swelling
- Using topical pastes
- Placing damp tea bags on your mouth ulcer
- Taking nutritional supplements like folic acid, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and zinc
- Trying natural remedies such as chamomile tea, echinacea, myrrh, and licorice root
Mouth Ulcers Prevention
You can take steps to reduce the occurrence of mouth ulcers. Avoiding foods that irritate your mouth can be helpful. That includes acidic fruits like pineapple, grapefruit, oranges, or lemon, as well as nuts, chips, or anything spicy.
Instead, choose whole grains and alkaline (nonacidic) fruits and vegetables. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and take a daily multivitamin.
Try to avoid talking while you’re chewing your food to reduce accidental bites. Reducing stress and maintaining good oral hygiene by using dental floss daily and brushing after meals also may help. Finally, get adequate sleep and rest. This not only will prevent mouth ulcers but a host of other illnesses as well.
Some people find avoiding soft bristle toothbrushes and mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate also helps. Your dentist can give you wax to cover dental or orthodontic mouth devices that have sharp edges.
Mouth Ulcers Treatment
n many cases, the pain, and discomfort from mouth ulcers will lessen in a few days and then disappear in about 2 weeks with no need for treatment.
For people with much more painful or frequent recurrence of mouth ulcers, a dentist may prescribe a solution to reduce swelling and lessen pain.
Also, a dentist may prescribe an antimicrobial mouthwash or an ointment to be applied directly to the infected patch. This can help to ease discomfort. Various mouth ulcer treatments are also available to purchase online.
Conclusion on Mouth Ulcers
Thankfully, mouth ulcers tend to clear up on their own, and the pain associated with an ulcer typically disappears within a couple of days.
There are some medications in the form of ointments and solutions that may help with pain and swelling, but these are often not necessary for a person to make a full recovery.
To prevent future outbreaks, people should try to reduce stress and anxiety as much as possible.
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