Mouth Ulcers

Posted by Claire Bell on

Mouth Ulcers - Causes, Prevention Advice & Treatment

What are mouth ulcers?

A mouth ulcer is the loss or erosion of the delicate lining tissue of the mouth, called the mucous membrane. Ulcers are painful sores that appear inside the mouth and they are usually red or yellow in colour. Mouth ulcers cannot be caught by kissing, or by sharing drinks and utensils and typically clear up within a couple of weeks.

What are the common causes of mouth ulcers?

Common causes of single mouth ulcers are typically due to some kind of damage in your mouth caused by biting the cheek or tongue, poor oral hygiene, burns, injury from a toothbrush, rubbing from sharp teeth or poorly fitting braces. These ulcers are called ‘traumatic' ulcers. If you have a number of mouth ulcers, and they keep coming back, this is called ‘recurrent aphthous stomatitis'. 

What are recurrent aphthous stomatitis?

Recurrent aphthous stomatitis is a common problem and is the repeated appearance of mouth ulcers in otherwise healthy children and young people.

There different types of recurrent mouth ulcers and the most common are minor ulcers which can appear inside the cheeks, lips, tongue and gums and, more rarely, on the roof of the mouth. Most of these ulcers are the size of the top of a pencil and can sometimes come in clusters. You can get four to six at any one time. Large ulcers are more severe and can take longer to heal but any ulcer that lasts longer than 3 weeks should be checked by your dentist. Large ulcers may appear near the tonsils and can be very painful, especially when you swallow.

Factors that contribute towards getting these ulcers include oral trauma, stress and eating certain foods.

What are the less common causes of mouth ulcers?

Infections can cause mouth ulcers. Herpes simplex often causes mouth ulcers in children and some adults. Other less common viral and bacterial infections may cause mouth ulcers, but this is rare. Mouth ulcers can be caused by anaemia and occasionally by other blood disorders, and some skin or gastrointestinal diseases. Sometimes the mouth ulcers are the only sign of an underlying disease.

Can cancer cause mouth ulcers?

Cancer of the mouth can first appear as a mouth ulcer. The ulcers caused by mouth cancer are usually single and last a long time without any obvious nearby cause. Ulcers caused by cancer usually appear on or under the tongue, but may occasionally appear somewhere else in the mouth. Cancer of the mouth is usually linked to heavy smoking and drinking. Doing both together greatly increases the risk.

How can I prevent mouth ulcers?

You may be able to reduce the risk of mouth ulcers by:

  • Keeping your mouth clean and healthy 
  • Using high-quality toothbrushes, this reduces the risk of damage to your mouth
  • Eating a good diet which is rich in vitamins and includes foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables to lessen the risk of mouth cancer.
  • Regularly visiting your dentist.

What types of treatment are there for mouth ulcers?

The treatment depends on the cause of the ulcers. Sometimes all that is needed is for a sharp tooth to be smoothed down or a denture adjusted, although some patients may need mouthwashes or tablets.

Should I worry about my ulcers?

Most ulcers heal up on their own. However, if they don't heal within three weeks you should visit your dentist. If you suffer from ulcers that come and go often, you should visit your dental team to check that there is not an underlying medical cause.

Always see your dentist if:

  • The ulcer lasts for more than 3 weeks.
  • You are feeling generally unwell.
  • The ulcers keep coming back.

If you have concerns about Mouth Ulcers or if you have not had a dental check in the last 12-months then please contact us on 0116 267 4254 or email to make an appointment.