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Mouth Ulcers: Causes, Treatments and Prevention
by Michael Abdoney - 06/17/2020 -
Mouth ulcers – often called canker sores – can be painful and annoying, especially when you're eating, drinking or brushing your teeth. The good news is that they are fairly common and rarely cause for concern.
Mouth ulcers are small lesions that occur on the soft tissue in your mouth. They don’t appear on the outside of your lip like cold sores, and they aren’t contagious. Typically, mouth ulcers fall into one of two categories: minor ulcers and major ulcers. Minor mouth ulcers are small and oval-shaped, and they have a red edge. These often heal on their own in a week or two. Major ulcers are larger and deeper and can be much more painful. These may take more than a month to heal and could result in scarring.
What exactly causes mouth ulcers is not clear; however, there are several things that can contribute to them. Among these factors are:
• Irritation caused by rough tooth brushing, dental work or accidently biting your cheek
• Ill-fitting dental appliances
• Certain food that you may be sensitive to, such as spicy or acidic foods
• Toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate or certain medications, including pain killers and beta-blockers
• A lack of vitamin B-12, zinc, folate or iron
• Certain bacteria in the mouth
• Stress, anxiety or hormones
Aside from these common contributors to mouth ulcers, there are medical conditions and diseases that can increase their occurrence. These include autoimmune diseases like Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Treating Mouth Ulcers
As mentioned above, most mouth ulcers will clear up on their own in a matter of weeks. Often, there is no need to see a doctor unless you notice non-painful or unusual ulcers, which may indicate something more serious than a canker sore, or if your mouth ulcers are spreading or lasting longer than a few weeks.
For particularly painful ulcers, or for those that reoccur often, your dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse that contains a steroid called dexamethasone that can ease the pain and reduce the swelling. Lidocaine also can reduce the pain of mouth ulcers. Antimicrobial rinses and ointments may also be prescribed to reduce discomfort. In some cases, a dentist may cauterize a mouth ulcer – that is, burn away the affected tissue – with chemicals like debacterol or silver nitrate.
Preventing Mouth Ulcers
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can to prevent mouth ulcers altogether. For many people, these minor annoyances are just a fact of life. However, there are some preventive steps you can take, such as changing medications and avoiding foods that seem to trigger mouth ulcers, practicing good oral health and avoiding anything that may have triggered mouth ulcers in the past.