Mouth ulcers, also known as aphthous ulcers, are round or oval sores in the mouth that can be painful while brushing, eating or drinking. They typically occur on the inside of the lips or cheeks and are white, red, grey or yellow in colour, while being red and swollen around the edge. Although uncomfortable, emergency dental treatment for mouth ulcers is often not necessary. They are often harmless and very common, particularly in young adults and women. Most people have one or two ulcers a year. However, some individuals may have frequently recurring ulceration that can be quite vexing. Estimates show that ulcers affect one in five people in the UK.
Causes of Ulcers
Minor, single mouth ulcers occur from damage to the mouth, for example, when you accidentally bite the inside of your cheek from eating or from a sharp tooth. The cause of recurring ulcers is still not understood but it is most likely associated with a certain trigger or genetic vulnerability. Some triggers include stress and anxiety, hormonal changes, certain foods and quitting smoking.
Recurrent ulceration may be a sign of an underlying health condition too, such as Crohn’s disease of iron deficiency anaemia.
Mouth Ulcers Treatment
Mouth ulcers treatment is dependent on a number of factors including the amount of ulcers present, their size and the cause of ulceration. Treatment is often not necessary for minor mouth sores, as they tend to clear on their own within one to two weeks. However, large, unusually painful and persistent mouth sores may require medical care. Treatment options include:
If you have multiple ulcers, your doctor may prescribe a special mouth rinse containing a steroid named dexamethasone or lidocaine to reduce pain.
Over the counter and prescription products that come in gel, cream or liquid form can be useful for mouth ulcer treatment. These products may help relieve pain and accelerate healing when applied to individual ulcers as soon as they occur. Several topical products are available for treating ulceration so make sure you talk to your dentist about what will work best for you.
Your dentist will prescribe oral medications if your mouth ulcers are severe or do not respond to the above treatments.
The dentist will use an instrument or chemical that will burn or destroy the tissue. Chemically cauterizing the ulcers can help speed up healing.
Your dentist may prescribe taking nutritional supplements if your diet is low on folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 or zinc.
If your ulceration is related to an underlying health issue, your doctor will treat that condition.
Mouth Ulcer Prevention
Since mouth ulcers typically recur in most individuals, it is important that you reduce their frequency with self-care techniques. Some helpful tips include:
Good oral hygiene
Brushing your teeth regularly, including after meals and flossing once a day will not only keep your mouth clean, but will also clear out food debris that might trigger an ulcer. Make sure you use a soft bristled brush to prevent irritation and avoid oral products containing sodium lauryl sulfate.
Consume healthy foods
Prevent nutritional deficiencies by maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
Be careful about what you eat
Avoid foods that irritate your mouth. Some examples include chips, certain spices, nuts, pretzels, acidic fruits and salty foods.
Keep your mouth protected
If you are wearing any dental appliances, such as braces, talk to your dentist about covering the sharp edges with orthodontic waxes.
Stress is one of the known triggers for ulcers. Learn to battle stress with stress reduction techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, controlled breathing, yoga and aromatherapy.