Mouth ulcers usually occur as a result of mechanical injury, like biting one’s cheek, improper brushing technique, or from a sharp tooth or filling. However, if you suffer from mouth ulcers frequently, the reason behind their occurrence might be more serious. These ulcers might be caused due to a lack of vitamin B12 or iron, poor dental hygiene, hormonal imbalances, or Crohn’s disease, among other health issues.

Mouth ulcers, also known as canker sores, are very common and typically develop as small, but rather painful lesions in the mouth or at the base of the gums. Usually, these ulcers are completely harmless and heal on their own within 1-2 weeks. In some cases, they appear individually, while in others, there may be clusters of them at the same time.

Their appearance is commonly linked with numerous diseases, but women, adolescents, and those who have a family history of mouth ulcers, have a greater risk of developing them.

Despite the fact that mouth ulcers are usually harmless, there still is a chance that their appearance is a result of something more serious. Therefore, if your mouth ulcers are large, very painful or don’t go away for quite a long period of time, then you should immediately seek professional medical advice.

3 Main Types of Mouth Ulcers

  1. Minor Aphthous Ulcer

This type is characterized by small, oval or round ulcers, and is actually the most common type of mouth ulcers. The size of these ulcers is somewhere below 10 mm, and they usually resolve on their own in 1-2 weeks. These ulcers don’t leave any scars and cause milder pain.

  1. Major Aphthous Ulcer

As their name implies, these ulcers are bigger and deeper than the previous type. They can be 10 mm or larger and often appear 1 or 2 at a time. Unlike minor aphthous ulcers, these leave scars. Their healing process usually lasts longer (up to 6 weeks), and they cause great discomfort and pain.

  1. Herpetiform Ulcer

This type is manifested by multiple ulcers occurring at the same time. In some cases, ulcers may join together and form irregular shapes. These ulcers may occur in clusters of 10 to 100 and heal within 1 week to 2 months.

Common Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers

Common symptoms of mouth ulcers include:

  • Pain, soreness, redness, and burning sensation in the mouth;
  • Swollen skin around the sores;
  • Tenderness;
  • Irritation when hot and spicy food is consumed;
  • Trouble talking and chewing;
  • Reduced appetite.

Causes of Mouth Ulcers

There are no determined reasons for the appearance of these ulcers, but some factors might act as a trigger. Here are the three major groups of factors:

  1. Common Causes

  • Sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety.
  • Bad oral hygiene.
  • Hormonal changes during menstrual cycle.
  • Family history of mouth ulcers.
  • Lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate found in many toothpastes.
  • Food allergies and food sensitivities to acidic foods (pineapple, strawberries), or spicy foods, cheese, white flour or almonds.
  1. Mechanical Causes

  • Improper brushing.
  • Biting the inside of one’s cheek.
  • Dentures that don’t fit well.
  • Hot or hard food.
  • Injuries from a sharp tooth or other teeth issues.
  • A defective feeling.
  1. Systemic Causes

NCBI links mouth ulcers with certain health conditions, including the following:

  • Rheumatoid diseases (Bechet’s disease, Reiter’s disease, lupus erythematosus);
  • Blood disorders (malignant neoplasms) (leukemia, neutropenia, and anemia)
  • Gastrointestinal diseases (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease);
  • Cutaneous diseases (lichen planus, pemphigus, erythema multiforme, chronic ulcerative stomatitis)
  • Microbial diseases (fungal infections, herpes zoster, syphilis, herpetic stomatitis, herpangina, human immunodeficiency virus infection, acute necrotizing gingivitis, infectious mononucleosis, tuberculosis, chicken pox, hand-foot-mouth disease)

Other Causes of Mouth Ulcers

Apart from the above listed causes, mouth ulcers can also occur due to some medical treatments and drugs, such as:

  • Beta blockers: usually prescribed for hypertension, abnormal heart rhythm, and angina.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen.
  • Cytotoxic drugs: used in the treatment of cancers, as well as other disorders like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Nicorandil: vasodilatory drug used in the treatment of angina.
  • Common side effect of radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Recommended Tips for Self-Care of Mouth Ulcers

It will take at least one or two weeks for your mouth ulcers to disappear for good, and they usually heal on their own. Nevertheless, the following tips will help you soothe the pain and discomfort they cause while they’re still in your mouth:

  • Brush your teeth with soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Buy a toothpaste that doesn’t have sodium lauryl sulfate in it.
  • Lozenges and mouthwashes will help you alleviate pain.
  • Consume drinks through a straw.
  • Limit your consumption of hard, hot, acidic or spicy foods.
  • Buy a protective paste and apply it regularly.
  • If you think that a certain medication you’re taking might be responsible for your ulcers, stop taking it and ask your doctor for any alternative.

We hope that you will find these tips useful. However, if no matter what you do, your condition seems to get worse, please consult your doctor as soon as possible.



Image source: The Dental Check