How to manage mouth ulcers

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Below is our guide to mouth ulcers and how to manage them.

Mouth ulcers are sores that form in the mouth and can be very painful. They’re sensitive to the touch and often cause a sharp, stinging pain. More often than not, they are clearly defined - usually oval shaped - and often react to the tiniest facial movements, making eating, talking and even smiling a painful ordeal. But where do they come from, and how do we get rid of them?

What are some of the main causes of mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers are common, and while they can sometimes point to an infection, anyone can get them no matter how healthy they are. The exact cause of common recurrent ulcers is difficult to pinpoint, but there are contributing factors that increase the likelihood of getting one:

One factor which can cause mouth ulcers in oral trauma. This is where you cause damage or irritation to the inside of your mouth by accidentally biting it or scratching it with your toothbrush or a sharp foodstuff. You can also create an ulcer by burning the lining of your mouth with very hot foodstuffs. It is also not uncommon to get an ulcer from hormonal changes; it is not unusual for women to develop ulcers whilst on their period. Increased levels of stress and anxiety can also make you more likely to get a mouth ulcer.

If you smoke, this could also risk your chance as smoking irritates the inside of your mouth, which can cause ulcers. Also, if you have recently stopped smoking, the change inside your mouth can also temporarily increase your chance of getting a mouth ulcer.

A deficiency in B12 and iron can also increase your likelihood of getting a mouth ulcer as it affects the production of red blood cells. Crohn’s disease is also a culprit, as the nature of the disease is to cause inflammation of the gut, which can lead to ulcers in not only the mouth, but the stomach as well.

Some people are genetically predisposed to ulcers and get crops of recurrent ulcers throughout their life.

Certain foodstuffs can trigger ulcers in some people – benzoic acid which is found in tomatoes, chocolate and cola, is a compound which commonly triggers ulcers in susceptible individuals.

Treating your mouth ulcer

The good news is that mouth ulcers do heal naturally, but unfortunately, this can take a little bit of time, sometimes several days. However, there are methods to relieve the pain while you wait and if you follow this guidance, your ulcers will be less of an irritation and after healing, will leave you with a healthy mouth.

Careful brushing

Bristles on an ulcer can be very painful so be extra careful when brushing. It’s worth avoiding hard and spicy foods as well. Brush gently around the ulcer as part of your oral hygiene routine to ensure a clean mouth.

Medication and lifestyle changes

If stress is the cause of your mouth ulcer, then adopting a less stressful lifestyle is advisable, and learning a few relaxation techniques can help.

If the ulcer is particularly bad, then medication is available to reduce the pain. Some mouthwashes are specially medicated to treat ulcers, although you should always check that you are not allergic to any of the active ingredients first. A good alternative is to rinse your mouth with warm, salty water. Medicated gels can also be applied to the affected area. These gels will numb the area and provide relief. It will also protect the ulcer.

Suspicious Ulcers

Rarely an ulcer might be a sign of mouth cancer. If you have an ulcer which is not healing after 2 weeks, then consult your dentist as soon as possible.

If you have any concerns about mouth ulcers or other dental issues, you can contact your local practice or find your nearest practice here.


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