Mouth ulcers — also known as canker sores — are
normally small, painful lesions that develop in your mouth or at the base of
your gums. They can make eating, drinking, and talking uncomfortable. Women,
adolescents, and people with a family history of mouth ulcers are at higher
risk for developing mouth ulcers.
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.
What triggers mouth
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
- toothpastes and mouth rinses that contain sodium lauryl sulfate
- food sensitivities to acidic foods like
strawberries, citrus, and pineapples, and other trigger foods like chocolate
- 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:
What symptoms are
associated with mouth ulcers?
There are three types of canker sores: minor, major, and
Minor canker sores are small oval or round ulcers that heal
within one to two weeks with no scarring.
Major canker sores are larger and deeper than minor ones.
They have irregular edges and can take up to six weeks to heal. Major mouth
ulcers can result in long-term scarring.
Herpetiform canker sores are pinpoint size, occur in
clusters of 10 to 100, and often affect adults. This type of mouth ulcer has
irregular edges and will often heal without scarring within one to two weeks.
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
How are mouth
Your doctor will be able to diagnose mouth ulcers through a
visual exam. If you’re having frequent, severe mouth ulcers, you might be
tested for other medical conditions.
What are some ways
to treat mouth ulcers?
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:
Tips to prevent
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
Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link above.