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Mouth ulcers: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers often termed as ‘oral ulcers’ or even ‘canker sores’. They are sores or open lesions on the inner cheek, inner lip, tongue, soft palate, floor of the mouth, or rarely, in the throat. These are very common, often painful and highly sensitive.

Mouth ulcers: Incidence, age and sex

Mouth ulcers are most commonly seen in teenagers. However, they may occur at any age. Recurrence of mouth ulcers is slightly more common in women as compared with men.

Signs and symptoms of mouth ulcers: Diagnosis

The ulceration usually begins as a small reddish swelling that usually bursts within a day. It is accompanied by pain, which is continuous, excruciating, and is made worse by eating or even talking. Generally, most sores heal within a few days. Rarely, mouth ulcers may be accompanied by high temperature

Occasionally, oral cancer may present only in form of a non-healing ulcer in the mouth. Thus, consultation with dentist or physician is required, if the ulcer does not heal.

Causes and prevention of mouth ulcers

There is usually no specific cause for the development of mouth ulcers. It is generally believed that the occurrence of mouth ulcers is related to our autoimmune system where the inner lining of mouth, also called the mucosal lining, is attacked by our own salivary enzymes. Moreover, some clinical studies have shown that in about 20% of patients, mouth ulcers are due to nutritional deficiencies, especially iron, vitamin B12, vitamin C and folic acid. Mouth ulcers are rarely contagious. Good oral hygiene helps prevent some types of mouth ulcers.

Mouth ulcers: Complications

Mouth ulcers are generally self-limiting in nature and heal within a few days. They may rarely lead to any complications. However, occasional incidences of secondary bacterial infections of mouth ulcers have been noted.

Mouth ulcers: Treatment

Mouth ulcers are self-limiting and usually do not require any treatment. However, certain medications may be prescribed to alleviate pain and discomfort. Topical medications like mouth gel containing local anesthetic may be applied a few times daily, directly to the sore. Anti-inflammatory gels may also be applied to reduce inflammation. It is best to avoid sticky food that may stick to the inside of cheeks and gums. Appropriate care should be taken while brushing the teeth so that the toothbrush does not further irritate the ulcer. Hot and spicy food may further irritate the ulcer, and should be avoided during the ulcer’s term.