A Guide to Mouth Ulcers

Most of us get mouth ulcers from time to time. They are those painful sores that can appear on the inside of the cheeks, lips and gums that look a little bit like blisters or heat lumps. They are often also called cankers.

What causes mouth ulcers?

No one is 100% sure what causes mouth ulcers. What we can all agree on however is that they can be very painful. The inside of the mouth is one of the most sensitive and tender areas of the body. Mouth ulcers constantly seem to catch on our teeth, become inflamed when we eat and irritated when we drink. They often appear in clusters too, which makes things even worse.

Chronic Ulcers

For some people – perhaps as many as one in five of us – mouth ulcers are not just a one-off that causes us discomfort every now and again. They are a constant worry and a chronic, recurring problem. For chronic sufferers, mouth ulcers return on a regular basis, stay for longer and can often be much larger than usual. The worse cases can involve people having more than ten ulcers in their mouth at a time.

Sounds nasty, doesn’t it? Well, it most certainly is. For chronic sufferers of mouth ulcers, life can become difficult during an attack. It can become very difficult to eat, drink and even talk. It makes every day a torment and a trial, whether you are trying to talk to business contact on the phone or eat a pizza in a restaurant. It can make people depressed, anti-social and irritable.

There is no medical consensus on what causes mouth ulcers. However, most doctors agree that they are not contagious. The most likely is that they are an allergic reaction or that it is our auto-immune system over-reacting. On other occasions, they can simply be caused by damage to the inside of the mouth. As it is so tender, even brushing too hard may be enough to harm the cheek or gums.

Treating mouth ulcers

As there is no real understanding of what causes mouth ulcers, there is no defined approach about how to treat them. Ultimately, however, you just have to tough it out. If ulcers are very painful, most people will try gargling with soluble aspirin or rinsing your mouth with iced water. You should also try to avoid eating anything which might unnecessarily inflame your ulcers – hot, spicy foods and hot drinks will probably fall into this category for most of us.

There are also a number of over-the-counter treatments for mouth ulcers. While there are different brand names, the majority take the same approach which is a gel containing analgesic. You may have to try a few until you find a brand that works for you.

If treating them is not a great success, how about preventing them. Is there anything that you can do to prevent mouth ulcers? Most doctors will recommend eating a healthy diet that gives your body an abundance of vitamins and minerals. This will usually include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Taking vitamin supplements may also help while some sufferers recommend natural live yoghurts and pro-biotic products.

You must also make sure that you maintain a good oral hygiene and health programme. For a start, you must make sure that you are not using any products that irritate your mouth. Use a softer toothbrush and try and find a toothpaste that is less abrasive. Similarly, you may find that an alcohol-free mouthwash is the best choice (or no mouthwash at all). Make sure that you visit your dentist regularly, so that you dentist can help to remove plaque and debris from your teeth. This will stop the build-up of bacteria that can damage your gums.

Finally, if you do suffer from mouth ulcers on a regular basis, it is important that you consult your doctor rather than suffering in silence. There are a number of conditions of which mouth ulcers can be a symptom. These include immuno-deficiency diseases and mouth cancers, so you should always seek a professional opinion and advice from your doctor or your dentist.