What Are Mouth Ulcers?
If you have ever developed a painful round sore on the inside of your mouth then you are likely one of the many people who have experienced a mouth ulcer. Though mouth ulcers are usually harmless and clear up on their own, we understand that they can be the cause of great discomfort, especially when talking, eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth.
Mouth ulcers are usually white or grey in colour and can occur inside the lips and cheeks, on the bottom of the mouth, or on the gums and tongue. Mouth ulcers will usually clear up within a couple of weeks.
What Are Recurrent Mouth Ulcers?
Mouth ulcers are very common, particularly in women and young adults, with most people experiencing one or two a year. However, approximately 20% of the population experience mouth ulcers frequently and for a longer duration. These recurrent mouth ulcers are known as aphthous ulcers or canker sores.
In some cases, recurrent mouth ulcers can be the sign of underlying health conditions such as iron deficiency anaemia or Crohn’s disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers?
Mouth ulcer symptoms can vary depending on the exact cause, but some symptoms include:
- One or more painful sores on the softer mouth lining of the lips, cheeks, sides of the tongue, floor of the mouth, or back of palate and tonsil area
- Difficulty chewing or brushing teeth due to tenderness
- Swollen skin around the sores
- Irritation from salty, spicy, or sour foods
- Loss of appetite
What Causes Mouth Ulcers?
In most cases, minor mouth ulcers are caused by damage to the mouth. For example, accidentally biting the inside of your cheek while eating, or damage from sharp teeth or braces.
Though the exact trigger is not always clear, some other known mouth ulcer causes can be:
- Stress or anxiety
- Food sensitivities
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Quitting smoking
- Underlying infection or disease
- Certain medications
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Poor oral hygiene
How Do You Treat Mouth Ulcers?
Most mouth ulcers will heal within 10-14 days without causing any lasting problems. Severe ulcers however may last for several weeks and can produce scarring.
If your mouth ulcer is particularly painful and interferes with your daily life (e.g. eating), there are some mouth ulcer treatments including self-help measures and mild pain medications that may provide relief. Some at-home measures include using a soft toothbrush, avoiding hard foods, using a straw, or rinsing your mouth with saltwater.
For short term symptom relief, you can also ice the sore to reduce inflammation by wrapping an ice cube in a paper towel and holding it over the affected area.
How Can I Prevent Mouth Ulcers?
Though the appearance of an occasional mouth ulcer may be inevitable, there are some preventative measures you can take to reduce the number of times you may suffer from an outbreak.
Some prevention methods include:
- Avoiding hard and sharp-edged foods
- Keeping your mouth clean with daily brushing and flossing
- Using a soft toothbrush
- Relaxation methods to relieve stress
- Regular check-ups with your dentist to spot and treat problems such as sharp teeth or fillings that can damage your mouth
- Maintaining a balanced diet
When Should I See a Dentist?
A dentist or doctor should examine any mouth ulcer that has lasted longer than three weeks or you suspect may be related to a mouth infection. Any ulcer that is also interfering with your normal daily activities may be examined by an oral health professional.
If you are worried about your mouth ulcer, make an appointment at Grange Family Dental today.
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