What are mouth ulcers?
Mouth ulcers are small, painful lesions with a white or yellow center and a red border. They usually appear on the inside of the cheeks, on the lips, on the tongue or on gums.
Mouth ulcers are very common and they can affect anyone. In most cases, mouth ulcers are harmless and able to heal by themselves within 1 to 2 weeks without any medical treatment. But mouth ulcers often cause pain and discomfort, causing difficult to eat, drink, talk, or brushing teeth.
What are the common causes of mouth ulcers?
The exact cause of most mouth ulcers is unknown. However, possible trigger factors have been identified. These include:
• Injury e.g. accidentally biting the cheeks, eating rough food like potato chips, poor-fitting dentures, braces, brushing too hard or sports injury.
• Changes in hormone levels e.g. during menstruation.
• Lack of essential vitamins e.g. iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid.
• Acidic and spicy foods, chocolate, coffee.
• Emotional stress or lack of sleep.
• Infections e.g. hand foot mouth disease, fungal infections in the mouth.
How to manage mouth ulcers?
The underlying cause of the ulcer should be treated if it is known. Over-the-counter and prescription products such as gels, cream, sprays and mouthwash usually aim to relieve pain, quicken the healing process and prevent secondary infection.
Tips that may help to soothe mouth ulcers:
• Apply ice on the mouth ulcers.
• Rinse the mouth with warm water or salt water frequently.
• Chew food slowly.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Drinking through a straw.
• Use a soft toothbrush and brush gently.
• Avoid hard or rough foods such as nuts, chips.
• Avoid spicy, acidic, salty foods.
• Avoid hot foods or drinks.
How to prevent mouth ulcers?
• Avoid foods that may irritate mouth e.g. acidic and spicy foods.
• Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
• Avoid talking while eating.
• Reduce stress by doing activities that you find relaxing.
• Maintaining good oral hygiene.
• Use soft-bristle toothbrushes and be careful not to brush too hard.
• Get adequate sleep and rest.
• Visit dentist regularly.
Sometimes, the ulcers may be a sign of a more serious medical condition. You should consult a doctor if you notice that the ulcers:
• Have lasted longer than three weeks.
• Have not healed with treatment.
• Occur very frequently.
• Bleed or painless.
• Accompanied by other symptoms like fever, diarrhoea, rashes or swollen lymph nodes.
• Difficulty in eating and drinking.
*This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or treatment from a health care provider. Like any printed material, it may become out-of-date over time.