Mouth Ulcer: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment, And Complications



Mouth ulcer is the loss of the mucus membrane or lining tissues of the mouth. Mouth ulcers are mostly harmless and do not require special medical attention except in very few case. You can get mouth ulcer by burning your mouth with hot food. Mouth ulcer is very common as it is also seen when other diseases are present; but is does not have a serious cause. Ulcer generally means breakage in the mucus membrane or skin. The mucous membrane of the skin is thicker than that lining the mouth. Heat, cold and chemical can cause damage to the mucous lining of the mouth.

Types of mouth ulcer

 Minor mouth ulcer- they are small with diameter between 2 mm and 6mm. they heal up within 10- 14 days.
Major mouth ulcer- they are deeper and larger than minor ulcers. It can take several weeks to heal up. Sometimes, they leave scar in the mouth.
Herpetiform ulcer- it is in form of clusters of many small sores. It is very small like the pin head size.

What are the causes of mouth ulcer?

Mouth ulcers cannot be contacted from another person and they are not caused by infection in most cases. Kissing someone or sharing cutlery with mouth ulcer patient does not mean you will have mouth ulcer.
They are mainly caused by damage to the mouth. This damage can be caused by mistakenly biting your cheeks while chewing. Also, wrong use of toothbrush while brushing the teeth can result in the damage. There are common mistakes people make while brushing their teeth and it’s a risk factor to mouth ulcer.

Some people usually have their mouth ulcer returning after it has healed. This is called recurrent mouth ulcer or Aphthous ulcer. The actual cause of recurrent mouth ulcer is not known.  Aphthous mouth ulcer is sometimes called canker sores and it can be painful while chewing and brushing. It is can be caused by excessive tooth brushing, anxiety, stress, and hormonal change. Hormonal changes occur in women during their menstrual cycle.
Also eating hard or sharp food like bones can cause recurrent mouth ulcer. Some foods have been associated with increasing risk of mouth cancer and they include coffee, cheese, strawberries, almonds, peanut, and chocolate.


Mouth ulcer can also be cause by burns when you eat hot foods. People that loves drinking hot beverages tends to have mouth ulcer. Most microwave foods are colder outside than inside thereby causing unexpected burn in the mouth. Apart from thermal burnt caused by food, there is also electrical burn caused by chewing live wire. Saliva present in the mouth is a good electrical conducting medium. Electrical burn is commonly seen in children. The electrical burn may seem painless at the first instance, but with days, swellings may develop with bleeding.
You may develop mouth ulcer when you first stop smoking and it can even be recurrent. It is a normal reaction to body chemical change after quitting smoking but you are assured of greater health benefit for quitting smoking. Your tendency of having lung cancer and heart diseases is lowered.
Some medications can cause reaction and have the reaction presented in the form of mouth ulcer. Example of these includes pain killers, nicorandil used in treating chest pain and Beta-blockers that treat various heart diseases. Do not stop any medication because of mouth ulcer; speak to your physician about the reaction.

The cause of the ulceration can also be as a result of local trauma. This mechanical trauma can be caused by you rubbing the mucous part of the mouth against a sharp tooth edge or on braces.  Some dental accessories can also be responsible for mouth ulcer, most dentist prevent this by rubbing petroleum gel before they start their procedures. The mechanical trauma can also occur when you are eating and you mistakenly bite yourself. Also, when you are eating sharp food like potato chip, sugar cane, and bones, mouth ulcer can develop.  Some people have seen biting inside of their mouth as habit and they cause the ulcer by themselves. Other ways you cause mouth ulcer by self include the use of toothpick or pen in the mouth and eating your finger nails.

Mouth ulcer can also be caused by chemical means. When you chew some drugs that are meant to be swallowed, it can cause mouth ulcer. For example chewing of aspirin tablet can cause oral epithelial necrosis. Also, hydrogen peroxide, silver nitrate and phenol can also cause mouth ulcer.

Some medical conditions are also associated with recurrent mouth ulcer. I will discuss some of these medical conditions below:
Crohn’s disease- it is characterized by gut inflammation that can lead to mouth and stomach ulcer
Coeliac disease- this is a condition whereby there is intolerance to a protein called ‘gluten’. It is mostly found in wheat and barley. It causes inflammation in the small intestine.  Mouth ulcer is one of the sign of Coeliac disease in adult.
Iron deficiency-iron deficiency can cause hypoxia in which the red blood cells are not able to carry sufficient oxygen round the body system. It can make you feel dizzy and tired. It can lead to mouth ulcer in some cases.
Immunodeficiency- patients with suppressed immune system commonly come down with mouth ulcer. HIV patient is an example.
Less commonly, pharyngitis (sore throat), chicken pox, vitamin B deficiency, anemia, gastrointestinal diseases and herpes simplex infection can cause mouth ulcer.

Symptoms of Mouth Ulcer

The appearance of mouth ulcer makes it easy to identify. You will notice they have round shape with white, grey or yellow color. They have inflammation around their edges. Mouth ulcer is mostly seen with tender appearance inside the cheeks and lips, the mouth floor and the under surface of the tongue. Mouth ulcer on the roof of the mouth is uncommon.

Also you might have difficulty in brushing your teeth and chewing food. You might also loose appetite and get irritated whenever you eat spicy or salty food.

How long does mouth ulcer last?

Normally, mouth ulcer gets healed between day 10 and day 18.

Diagnosis of Mouth Ulcer

In order to determine the cause of recurrent mouth ulcer, some diagnosis can be made and they include blood test, skin biopsy and physical examination. The duration, location, color and the number of ulcers are examined under physical test.  Mouth ulcer has different physical appearance depending on the cause. If your mouth ulcer is caused by trauma, it will appear yellow and large. In case your mouth ulcer is accompanied with fever, it might be caused by herpes simplex infection.

Prevention and Treatment of Mouth Ulcer

Mouth ulcer naturally heals and not requires a specific treatment. I will discuss here some tips that will help your ulcer to heal quickly and even prevent you from coming down with mouth ulcer:
Good hygiene will prevent you from having mouth ulcer and reduce recurrence.
Eat soft foods like toast that are easy to chew. Avoid hard and sharp food.
Use soft bristled tooth brush for brushing your teeth.
Floss regularly once daily
Minimize your stress level; involve yourself in meditation and exercises to relax you.
Avoid eating food that increases your chance of having mouth ulcer as I have listed above. If you get irritated from chewing gum, avoid eating it. Reduce the intake of spicy or acidic food. They can cause irritation to the mouth.
See your doctor in case it is your medication that is causing it.
Use antimicrobial mouthwashes in order to kill micro-organisms and bacteria.

Treatment of mouth ulcer at home

Since most mouth ulcers are less serious, there are needed to take care of it home. Below are the common remedies for moth ulcer;
Honey as a strong natural antibacterial is good in treating moth ulcers. It helps in retaining the moisture content of the mouth and prevents it from drying off. Honey will also ensure fast growth of new mouth tissues. Rub honey on the affected part. If you have turmeric, you can mix it with it and apply.

Coriander seeds
Coriander seeds being an Ayurvedic remedy help in inflammation reduction. Boil some coriander seeds in a cup of clean water. Remove the seeds, allow the extracts to cool and use it to swish your mouth. Repeat this procedure for about 3 times daily.
Apart from the fact that coriander seeds helps mouth ulcer, it also helps in decreasing blood pressure and blood sugar. It also helps in treating urinary tract infections. It is also good for the digestive system.  Coriander seeds also help in improved cholesterol level of the body.

Baking soda
Baking soda is very good in treating mouth ulcer. It is also called sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda neutralizes acid very well. When mouth ulcer is caused by acidic food, baking soda helps in neutralizing the effects. It also has a strong antibacterial effect. Form a paste of baking soda by adding little water, apply it on the ulcer. Repeat this for about 4 times in a day.

Coconut milk and oil
Coconut oil and milk helps to alleviate pains associated with mouth ulcer. You can mix the coconut milk with some honey and apply on the affected part. Ensure you apply it up to 4 times in a day to ensure fast healing.
Coconut oil is anti inflammatory oil. It also helps to reduce the swellings. Use it to swish your mouth and do not swallow it. Spit it out after swishing. It also has anti microbial properties. It is a saturated fat that contains Capric Acid, Caproic Acid, Myristic Acid and Caprylic Acid.  Coconut oil has other medicinal functions you can check here.

Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is well known for its multi medicinal value. It is an anti-inflammatory plant. Extract aloe Vera juice and apply on the affected part. The juice is good for stomach ulcer. It helps in the fast healing of the affected linings. It also neutralizes acidic effect when ulcer is caused by acidic foods. It also has antibacterial property that helps in killing germs and bacteria. It also has anti-fungal and antiviral properties. Aloe Vera is also god in treating constipation. It is also an anti-aging plant as it is good for skin and hair; it is found in a lot of cosmetic products. Aloe Vera is also very good in burns and wound healing.

Triphala is also an Ayurvedic remedy. Triphala powder is a mixture of amalaki, haritaki and bibhitaki fruits. This fruits are dried and grounded into powder to make triphala powder.  These fruits are of Indian origin. Mix the triphala powder of half spoon in a clean cup of water. Swish your mouth with this solution for about one minute. Do not swallow this as well; spit it out after swishing it. Triphala powder provides a fast healing for your ulcer especially if used regularly. Use this solution once daily. Triphala is generally known detoxify the body. It also fights cancer and constipation. Triphala contains a lot of vitamins.

Celery is effective in treating ulcerated mouth. It contains a lot vitamins like folic acids vitamin B1, B6 and C. chew fresh celery stalk to treat mouth ulcer. It has anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to relieve pain associated with mouth ulcer. Celery chewing does not only heal mouth ulcer, it also helps in keeping good breath. 

Complications of Mouth Ulcer

Mouth ulcer can result in tooth abscess, bacterial infection and cellulites (inflammation of the mouth)

When to see your doctor

If your mouth ulcer does not heal in 3 weeks to a month, consult your doctor.
If your mouth ulcer gets more painful and swollen, see your doctor. He or she will prescribe a painkiller suitable for your ulcer.  He or she might also prescribe a corticosteroid for you to reduce swellings and inflammations.
If you notice ulcer development in other part of your body, see your doctor.
Also if you have a high fever accompanying the mouth ulcer, consult your physician.
If your mouth ulcer is large or it is spreading, it is advisable to consult your doctor.

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