Table of contents
What is Mouth Ulcer?
A Mouth ulcer refers to a small painful lesion that forms within the mouth or at the base of the gum. Mouth ulcers are also called canker sores or aphthous sores. They are not infectious but tend to make the use of the mouth difficult such as when talking, eating, and drinking. They vary in size. Individuals with a higher chance of experiencing mouth ulcers are women, teenagers, and people with a family record of mouth ulcers.
Types of Mouth Ulcers
Symptoms of mouth ulcers vary with the type of mouth ulcer an individual has. Mouth ulcers are of three types – minor, major, and herpetiform.
- Minor Ulcers – These sores are small and oval or round in shape. They range from 2 millimeters to 8 millimeters in size. They are known to heal over a period of one to two weeks without leaving scars.
- Major Ulcers – Compared to the minor mouth sores, these are cut in deeper and are larger. They may persist for up to six weeks before they heal and leave scars.
- Herpetiform Ulceration – These ulcers get their name from the fact that they resemble sores caused by herpes. They are pinpoint in size and develop in clusters of 10 -100. They are known to affect mostly adults. Just like the major mouth sores, they also have irregular edges. Herpetiform mouth sores heal within one to two weeks without scars.
Causes of Mouth Ulcer
There is no clear cause of mouth ulcers; however, the following triggers below have been identified.
- Mouth injuries (these may be sustained from brushing, dental work, or an accidental bite)
- Badly fitting dental braces
- Lack of sleep
- Eating fruits or foods that are acidic
- Mouth rinses and toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate
- Hormonal changes experienced during menstruation or pregnancy
- Infection from bacterial, viruses, or fungi
- Insufficient intake of vitamins
- Food sensitivities
- Genetic factors
- Certain medicines such as beta-blockers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or nicorandil
- Quitting smoking
Although certain factors may trigger them, mouth ulcers may be a symptom of a severe medical condition such as:
- Celiac disease
- Mouth cancer
- Diabetes mellitus
- Immune system disorder,
- Inflammatory bowel disease,
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
When To See A Doctor
Mouth ulcers can go within a period of one to two weeks. However, if they do not, It is advised to see a doctor if and when the mouth ulcer is:
- very painful
- persists for a long time
Other symptoms to pay close attention to include:
- when new mouth ulcers develop before the old ones heal,
- a severe difficulty encountered when eating and drinking,
- fever or diarrhea occurring with the appearance of mouth ulcers,
- if it is bleeding
- painless sores,
- when mouth ulcers extend to the lips
- bacterial infections.
Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers
A common symptom of mouth ulcers is pain. These pains may worsen by eating acidic food or hot drinks. In rare extreme cases, people may experience fever, sluggishness, and swollen glands. Other symptoms of mouth ulcers are dependent on the type of mouth ulcer:
1. Herpetiform ulceration – Symptoms include:
- extreme pains
- they keep recurring
- they are large in size
- they take a longer time to heal
- they can be found anywhere in the mouth
2. Major and minor ulcers – Symptoms may include:
- sores may be found on the cheeks, tongue, or roof of the mouth
- round lesions with red edges
- the center of the sore may be gray, yellow, or white
The requirement for diagnosing mouth ulcers is a visual exam done by a medical doctor. An individual experiencing frequent and severe mouth ulcers will be tested for other medical problems.
Treatment of Mouth Ulcers
Generally, mouth ulcers can go on their own within one to two weeks, even without treatment. Several forms of treatments that be used to get rid of mouth ulcers.
- Nutritional Supplements – Taking nutritional supplements such as zinc, folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 can help treat mouth ulcers
- Home Remedies – various home remedies have been applied in treating mouth ulcers. They can help relieve the pain caused by the sores. These home remedies for mouth ulcers include:
- applying ice
- applying topical pastes
- applying saltwater and baking soda rinse
- applying milk of magnesia
- using a paste of baking soda
- applying warm damp tea bags
- Over-the-counter Medicine – To help reduce the pains, prevent infection of the sores or heal up the healing process, an individual may choose to visit a local drug store. Over-the-counter medications such as benzocaine products (Anbesol or Orajel), a saline mouthwash, antimicrobial mouthwash, or a pain-killing tablet may be taken.
- Visit a Dentist – For severe pains, and persistent or infected mouth ulcers, it is advised to see a dentist. The dentist will recommend stronger medications to help heal the mouth ulcer. The dentist may prescribe possible treatments such as steroid mouth spray or tablets, antimicrobial mouthwash, pain-killing gels, ointments, sprays, or tablets.
- Natural Remedies – One can use natural remedies to treat mouth ulcers. To cure mouth ulcers naturally, an individual can use myrrh, licorice root, echinacea, or chamomile tea.
Prevention of Mouth Ulcer
- Avoid eating foods that irritate the mouth especially acidic or spicy foods and fruits.
- Consume more alkaline foods, fruits, and vegetables.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Always take multivitamins.
- Always practice chewing food without talking to prevent accidental bites.
- Practice proper dental hygiene by brushing after meals and daily use of dental floss.
- To avoid injuries from braces, the dentist should use wax to cover them up.
- Visit the dentist for refusal dental check-ups.
- Use soft-bristled brushes.
- Avoid taking hot drinks.
- Reduce stress.
- It is vital to get sufficient quality sleep of 7-8 hours.
- Individuals with issues with sodium lauryl sulfate should avoid using toothpaste and mouth rinses containing it.
Mouth ulcers are generally painless. They may heal on their own without the use of medications. If they persist for up to three weeks, it is advised to see a doctor. They can be treated by taking vitamins, using home or natural remedies, or over-the-counter medicine. Prevention of mouth ulcers includes but is not limited to practicing good oral hygiene.
Mouth ulcers are generally harmless, but they can be a sign of mouth cancer if they persist for long without healing. While mouth ulcer is painful, mouth cancer is usually painless.
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