Mouth ulcer is the loss or erosion of delicate tissues that line the inside of our mouths, also known as mucous membrane. There are many things that cause mouth ulcers, the most common cause is accidentally biting the inside of your cheek.
Other causes include:
- Aphthous Ulceration
- Certain medications
- Skin rashes
- Viral, bacterial and fungal infections
- Medical conditions
In most cases, mouth ulcers are harmless and resolve by themselves within 10 to 14 days without the need for treatment.
Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers
The symptoms of mouth ulcers can depend on the cause, but may include:
- One or more painful sores on part of the lining of the mouth.
- Swollen skin around the sores.
- Problems with chewing or tooth brushing because of the tenderness.
- Irritation of the sores by salty, spicy or sour foods.
- Loss of appetite.
Causes of Mouth Ulcers
Mouth ulcers can be caused by a wide range of factors including:
- Accidentally biting the inside of your cheek.
- Injury from a toothbrush (such as slipping while brushing).
- Constant rubbing against misaligned or sharp/broken teeth.
- Constant rubbing against dentures or braces.
- Burns from eating hot food.
- Irritation from strong antiseptics, such as a mouthwash.
- Viral infections such as the herpes simplex viral infection (cold sore).
- Reaction to certain medications.
- Skin rashes in the mouth (for example, lichen planus).
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Underlying vitamin or iron deficiency.
- Underlying gastrointestinal disease such as Crohn’s disease or coeliac disease.
- Mouth cancer.
- Ulcers may become worse during periods of stress, illness or extreme fatigue.
Treatment of Mouth Ulcers
Majority of mouth ulcers are harmless, and they usually heal themselves within 10-14 days. Other types of ulcers, such as the aphthous variety – caused by herpes simplex infection require topical treatment (mouthwash, gel, ointment).
It’s not possible to speed up the recovery of ulcers, but the symptoms can be managed and the risk of complications reduced.
Treatment options for mouth ulcers include:
- Avoid spicy and sour foods until the ulcers heal.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Keep your mouth clean.
- Apply antiseptic gel to the ulcers.
- Regularly rinse your mouth out with warm, slightly salted water, keeping the rinse in your mouth for up to 4 minutes at a time.
- Use an alcohol-free medicated (preferably containing chlorhexidine gluconate) mouthwash twice daily.
- Use a topical alcohol-free steroid mouthwash or ointment – this is generally prescribed by your dentist or oral medicine specialist.
- If required in severe cases, immunosuppressant medication may be prescribed by your oral health professional.
Prevention of mouth ulcers
Mouth ulcers can be avoided in some cases by:
- Brushing your teeth gently with a soft toothbrush, taking care not to slip with the brush.
- Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet.
- Making sure that underlying medical conditions are well-controlled.