Mouth Ulcers: Causes, Treatment and PreventionWritten by Heather Siler
Many of us have suffered with a mouth ulcer, or canker sore, at some point in our lives, and while they’re not dangerous, they can be quite painful and frustrating. These sores can sometimes last for up to 3 weeks, which is a long time to feel uncomfortable. That’s why it’s important to know the best ways to manage a mouth ulcer, and how to minimize the risk of developing new canker sores in the future.
Do I Have a Mouth Ulcer?
Fortunately, it’s simple to tell if you have a mouth ulcer without needing an official diagnosis from your dentist. A mouth ulcer often occurs on the inside of the lips, on the gums, or on the inside of the cheeks. They are usually round in appearance, and can either be sunken, or slightly raised. Mouth ulcers may hurt when touched, or when eating. Most are small and will not leave any scars or marks.
Causes of Mouth Ulcers
Some mouth ulcers are caused by physical trauma to the inside of the mouth, such as ill-fitting dentures or jagged, fractured teeth which rub against the gums. However, most cases of canker sores don’t have a definite cause that can be pinpointed confidently. These sores usually begin in childhood, and around 20 percent of the population will experience recurrent mouth ulcers over the course of their lifetime.
Although we can’t always pinpoint a cause, some people may notice a pattern in the occurrence of mouth ulcers. Studies have found that stress, menstruation, and stopping smoking could all increase the risk, with the American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology suggesting that mouth ulcers could be a symptom of an allergic reaction to internal bodily processes. Other experts say it’s all about genetics.
Mouth Ulcer Treatment
Unfortunately, there’s no magic cure for mouth ulcers; we simply need to let them run their course. However, there are ways to help minimize the pain and make the healing process much more bearable. Antiseptic mouthwashes, over-the-counter anti inflammatory medications, and topical pain-relieving gels can all help. It’s also advised to steer clear of salty or acidic foods which can cause a stinging sensation.
Prevention of Mouth Ulcers
As we don’t know the exact cause of mouth ulcers, it is unclear which prevention techniques could prove to be effective. However, regular trips to the dentist can help to reduce the risk of trauma to the mouth, which is known to be a common cause. For those who believe their mouth ulcers are the result of stress or anxiety, practicing some relaxation methods at home, such as yoga, could prove to be beneficial.
When to See a Dentist
Most mouth ulcers do not need to be seen by a dentist, with home care often the best medicine. However, if you have a very large ulcer, a lot of ulcers at the same time, or if you are experiencing your first ulcer as an adult without any previous history of canker sores, then it’s worth making an appointment. In rare instances, a mouth ulcer could be a sign of an underlying condition, but in most cases they are simply plain old mouth ulcers. They’re painful, they’re frustrating, but they’re temporary!