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Mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers are painful sores that affect inside the mouth, usually yellow or red. They differ from cold sores on the outer lips, resulting from a viral infection.

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What can cause mouth ulcers?

Most times, one mouth ulcer results from damage due to biting the tongue or cheeks, sharp teeth, poorly fitting dentures or brushing. These are known as traumatic ulcers. However, several mouth ulcers that keep coming back are known as recurrent aphthous stomatitis.

How will I know I have a traumatic ulcer?

Traumatic ulcers are often single and occur close to the cause of the damage. They usually resolve when you remove the source of the problem.

What signs do recurrent aphthous stomatitis show?

Recurrent aphthous stomatitis is common, affecting healthy children and young people as recurring mouth ulcers. Its cause is still unknown, but it isn’t infectious, and inheriting it is unlikely.

What are the different types of recurrent aphthous stomatitis?

The most common recurrent mouth ulcers are the minor ulcers which appear on the lips, gums, and tongue, inside the cheeks, and rarely on the roof of the mouth. These ulcers are usually the size of the top of a pencil and may occur in clusters. You may get 4 -  6 of these ulcers at once.

The more severe recurrent mouth ulcers are large ulcers which take longer to heal. You should visit your dentist for any mouth ulcer lasting over three weeks. Large ulcers may occur near the tonsils and are usually painful, especially when swallowing. They usually occur one at a time.

You may also have up to 100 very small, painful ulcers that last for 1 – 2 weeks, but the last two types of mouth ulcers are less common.

Ulcers can affect other body parts like your genital area or eyes. Ensure you inform your dental professional about these ulcers.

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What are the less common mouth ulcer causes?

Infections may cause mouth ulcers, including herpes simplex virus, which causes mouth ulcers in children and adults. Bacterial and viral infections may result in mouth ulcers, but these causes are rare.

You can have mouth ulcers from anaemia and, in some cases, blood disorders and gastrointestinal or skin diseases. Mouth ulcers may also be a sign of an underlying condition.

Are mouth ulcers a symptom of cancer?

Oral cancer can first appear as an ulcer in the mouth. Ulcers resulting from mouth cancer are often single and last longer without any specific nearby cause, like a sharp tooth. Visit your dentist for an exam if you have an ulcer lasting over three weeks.

Ulcers resulting from cancer usually appear under or on the tongue but, in some cases, other parts of the mouth. Cancer of the mouth is usually from heavy drinking or smoking, and both can greatly increase your risk of cancer.

Can I get mouth ulcers?

You cannot get mouth ulcers from sharing utensils, drinks, or kissing.

What are the treatments for mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcer treatment depends on the cause of the ulcer. In some cases, smoothing down a sharp tooth or adjusting an ill-fitting denture will solve the problem, but some patients may also need tablets or mouthwash.

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What can I do if I suspect mouth ulcers?

If your mouth ulcer lasts longer than three weeks, consult your doctor or dentist. They can inform you of its cause and offer treatment or arrange for more tests or a referral.

How can I prevent mouth ulcers?

The following can help reduce your risk of mouth ulcers

  • Use a high-quality toothbrush to reduce your risk of damaging your mouth
  • Keep your mouth clean and healthy
  • Visit the dentist regularly
  • Eat a good diet rich in vitamins A, C and E, including fresh fruits and vegetables, to reduce your risk of mouth cancer

Do I need to be worried about my mouth ulcers?

Most mouth ulcers heal without treatment, but if your ulcers do not heal within three weeks, visit your dentist. Your dentist will examine your mouth and check for the cause of the ulcer to ensure it isn’t something serious like mouth cancer. 

If your mouth ulcers are recurring, ensure you visit your dental professional to check if an underlying medical condition is responsible. Ensure you see your doctor or dental team if:

  • You are unwell
  • Your ulcers are recurring
  • The ulcers last longer than three weeks

Our dentist at McKennell Dental Practice can examine your mouth to determine if you have mouth ulcers, including their cause and treatment if necessary. Visit us or call 020 7834 8802 to schedule an appointment at our dental practice.

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