Mouth ulcers are small lesions inside the mouth, caused by breaks in the mucous membrane. There are two common types of mouth ulcers - aphthous ulcers or canker sores, and cold sores or fever blisters. While aphthous ulcers can be caused by various reasons, cold sores are usually caused by herpes simplex virus. Contagious cold sores begin as blisters and then crust over; but canker sores are not contagious, and appear as yellow lesions with red outlines. Canker sores affect the inner lining of the mouth, especially the inner side of the lips, cheeks, and the tongue. Cold sores are mostly found in and around the lips, but can affect the inner mouth, especially the gums and the palate.
What Causes Mouth Ulcers?
As mentioned earlier, cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus. Canker sores can be caused by any of the following reasons. Accidental biting, injuries caused by the toothbrush, friction caused by orthodontic braces, poor fitted dentures, dry mouth, intake of certain medication, too much stress, hormonal changes, vitamin deficiency, food allergy, constant rubbing with misaligned or sharp teeth, poor oral hygiene, oral thrush infection, some autoimmune diseases; and medical conditions, like HIV/AIDS, diabetes, tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. Any of these conditions can cause canker sores. Even though most of the canker sores subside without treatment, in some cases, they may not heal. If left untreated, such canker sores may develop bacterial infection, and cause inflammation of the mouth or tooth abscess.
Mouth ulcers often subside within seven to ten days of their appearance, and do not require any treatment. However, the condition can be extremely painful for some people, who may need treatment for relieving pain. Other than pain relief, proper treatment can prevent further damage and bacterial infection. Some medication can boost the healing process of these ulcers.
Treatment for mouth ulcers may include medication, like analgesics, antimicrobial mouthwashes, corticosteroids, gels, pastes, or liquid paint. Corticosteroids reduce the inflammation, which is also good for pain relief. Analgesics are often administered as pain killers. Paste and gels are applied over the ulcers to form a protective layer. Some of them contain pain killers and anti-inflammatory medicines. You have to re-apply them many times during the day.
Antimicrobial mouthwashes are beneficial in case of ulcers, which are hard to reach, or if there are many of them. Such a mouthwash prevents bacterial infection, and may also aid in fast healing. All these treatment options are beneficial in most cases. However, if the mouth ulcer does not heal within three weeks of its appearance, or if it is recurrent in nature, you must consult a doctor, to find out the exact cause. In case of cold sores caused by herpes simplex virus, antiviral medication is usually prescribed.
While mild and infrequent mouth ulcers are considered normal, severe and recurrent cases need medical attention. This is because, such ulcers could be a symptom of some underlying medical condition. Such ulcers may also be caused by certain medication, lifestyle factors, or ill-fitted dentures. If there is any specific cause, you have to treat the same, in order to cure mouth ulcers.
For relief from ulcers, you can also resort to some home remedies. Application of honey or peppermint oil, or a paste of gooseberry, is good for fast healing. Yogurt and banana are also popular as mouth ulcer remedies. You may also apply a paste of turmeric powder and glycerin on the ulcers. Chewing five to six holy basil leaves twice a day, is also said to be beneficial for this purpose. Home remedies can be the best treatment for mouth ulcers that are mild in nature.
If you want to prevent mouth ulcers; avoid spicy, acidic, and hot food. Have your dental fitting rechecked, if they are not fitting properly. Drink lots of water, and have a well-balanced diet with more fruits and vegetables. Take vitamin supplements, if needed; as per the instructions of the doctor. In case of stress, you must resort to some stress relief techniques. However, do not hesitate to seek medical attention in case of recurrent or severe mouth ulcers.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.