Mouth ulcers, also called canker sores, aphthous stomata and recurrent aphthous stomatitis, mostly occur on the inner cheek, inner lip, tongue, soft palate, floor of the mouth, and sometimes the throat. They are usually about 3-5mm in diameter - though for those sufferring chronic mouth ulcers often significantly larger, and appear 2 or 3 at a time, or worse still there can be 10-20 or more.
Mouth ulcers forms quickly and can be very painful. They usually heal in about a week.
Signs & Symptoms:
Ulcers start as a result of physical damage (1) which is easy to see, or by an allergic reaction or auto-immune system response to chemical or biological agents (2).
1) Physical damage:
- Accidentally biting or chewing the inside of the cheek or tongue
- Puncture wounds caused by objects such as sharp crisps
- Damage to the inside of the mouth from hot or acidic food or drinks
- Rubbing against braces, dentures and misaligned teeth
- A dry mouth
- Wear and tear from vigorous licking!
2) Allergic reaction or auto-immune system response to chemical or biological agents:
- These can initiate the formation of ulcers
- This can include such things as alcohol or aspirin
- Viral, bacterial or fungal infection
- Vitamin deficiencies such as Vitamin C
- The primary damage takes place underneath the surface causing cells to die within the connective tissue. Initially nothing looks or feels wrong until the damage reaches the surface and the ulcer suddenly ‘appears from nowhere’.
- Certain medicines - ask your Pharmacist
- Some cancer treatments
- Some medication conditions can cause mouth ulcers
- Diseases with affect the immune system
- Avoid spicy foods while affected by a mouth ulcer
- Sucking on ice may help reduce the pain
- Have your dentures checked regularly to make sure they fit
- Brush the teeth gently and use a mouth wash
Most mouth ulcers will heal by themselves. Ask your Pharmacist for advise on products that reduce pain and help ulsers to heal faster.
The main forms of treatment involve:
- Pastes - form a protective layer and relieve the pain. Some pastes contain anti-inflammatory cortisone medicines which can help mouth ulcers to heal faster and stop more from forming
- Mouthwashes - Stop bacteria in the mouth from infecting the ulcer and may also reduce the redness and swelling. They work best if used as soon as ulcer is felt and are helpful for treating hard to reach mouth ulcers. It can be painful to clean teeth with a mouth ulcer so mouthwashes can help keep teeth clean
- Gels - relieve the pain, redness and swelling. They may contain medicines which number the ulcer or medicines that stop bacteria infecting the ulcer
- Paints - relieve the pain
The majority of the types of ulceration require treatment of the underlying cause of the oral ulceration for successful prevention, such as:
- Controlling imbalances in vitamins and minerals related to ulceration
- Managing or restricting the disease processes
- Avoiding substances such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) in toothpaste have shown to reduce the ulcerative process
- If damage occurs, such as biting, bathe the wound with an anti-bacterial mouthwash for one minute every 12 hours for 2 days. Quantities around 1ml are more than sufficient. Ideally, the first treatment should occur within 3 hours
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.
- Eat healthy food