Have you ever felt one or more painful sore(s) or blisters on your cheeks, lips, gums, tongue, the bottom of the mouth, or soft palate? When you checked it out, was it whitish and the skin around it swollen? If yes, you most definitely had a mouth sore. Chill, it’s nothing too serious. Mouth sores are common ailments or minor irritations that affect many people at some point in their lives.
A mouth sore, also known as mouth ulcer, is the loss of part of the delicate, soft tissue that lines the inside of the mouth, known as mucous membrane, and there are a number of possible causes. The most common cause of a mouth sore is accidentally biting the inside of your cheek. Other causes include certain medications, viral, bacterial and fungal infections, chemicals, some diseases, etc.
More often than not, mouth sores are harmless and heal themselves within 10 to 14 days without the need for any treatment. However, if your mouth sores don’t clear up within a few days, or if you get them frequently, contact your dentist, as they can indicate mouth cancer or an infection from a virus, such as herpes simplex.
Symptoms of a Mouth Sore
The symptoms of a mouth sore are often times dependent on its cause. Some common symptoms are one or more painful sore(s) on the mucous membrane, that is, the soft tissue lining the inside of the mouth, white patches in your mouth, swollen skin around the sores, problems with chewing or tooth brushing because of the tenderness and irritation of the sores by salty, spicy or sour foods.
Other symptoms one would notice are a sore throat, loss of appetite, redness of the sore, and depending on the size, severity, and location of the sores in one’s mouth, they can make it difficult to eat, drink, swallow, talk, or even breathe! Nobody wants to imagine the trauma involved. One may also experience a burning or tingling sensation around the sores, which may eventually develop blisters.
What are the Causes of Mouth Sores?
Mouth sores often come to be randomly. In other cases, they are not just random but a result of some other thing. There are several things that can lead to mouth sores, ranging from minor everyday causes to serious illnesses. Some other causes asides accidentally biting the inside of your cheeks are burns from eating too hot food, chewing tobacco, brushing your teeth too hard or using an extremely hard toothbrush, irritation from strong antiseptics such as a mouthwash, constant rubbing against dentures or braces, canker sores and reaction to certain medications.
Others are oral thrush infection, autoimmune diseases, radiation or chemotherapy, underlying gastrointestinal disease such as Crohn’s disease, oral cancer, bleeding disorders, celiac disease, skin rashes in the mouth, hand, foot, and mouth disease, bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, or a weakened immune system due to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) or a recent organ transplant.
Any Treatment Available?
Despite all the possible causes of mouth sores stated, the good news is that mouth sores are not contagious. Most mouth sores or mouth ulcers are harmless and heal by themselves within 10 days. Some other types of mouth sores need topical treatments such as a mouthwash, ointment or gel. It is important to note that it isn’t necessarily possible to speed up the recovery of ulcers, but the symptoms can be managed and the risk of complications reduced.
You may be wondering whether treatments for mouth sores are available and what these treatments are like. Some simple home remedies might help reduce the pain and aid the healing process. It is usually advisable to avoid hot, spicy, salty, sour, citrus-based, and high-sugar foods until the sores heal. It is also important to avoid squeezing or picking at the sores or blisters, drink plenty of fluids particularly water, avoid tobacco and alcohol, and regularly gargle or rinse the mouth out with warm, slightly salted water.
One could also apply a thin paste of baking soda and water, eat ice, ice pops, sherbet, or other cold foods, take a pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or paracetamol, apply antiseptic gel to the sores, use a topical steroid, alcohol-free mouthwash or ointment containing chlorhexidine gluconate, generally prescribed by your dentist or oral medicine specialist to reduce the pain and swelling. You could also gently dab a solution made of 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 1 part water on the sores.
In rare cases of severe oral ulceration, a person may be required to use immune suppressant medication as prescribed by his or her oral health professional. In cases of mouth cancer, a biopsy will be taken first. Afterward, the person may need surgery or chemotherapy.
Prevention of Mouth Sores
There is no absolute way to prevent all mouth sores; at least, none has been figured yet. There are however certain steps you can take to avoid getting them. Mouth sores can be reduced by maintaining good oral hygiene, brushing your teeth gently with a soft toothbrush, and taking care not to slip with the brush. It is also necessary to eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and to try to make sure that underlying medical conditions are under control
You should also avoid extremely hot foods and drinks, chew slowly, decrease stress, drink plenty of water and take vitamin supplements, B vitamins in particular. One should reduce or eliminate food irritants such as hot, spicy foods, and avoid or limit alcohol consumption. You should also make sure to see your dentist if any dental hardware or teeth may be irritating your mouth, don’t smoke or use tobacco and never forget to shade your lips when in the sun.
In most cases, mouth sores have no long-term effects. If you a viral infection like have herpes simplex, the sores may reappear. In some cases, severe cold sores can leave scarring. Outbreaks are more common if a person is under stress, ill or has a weakened immune system. It could also be more common to persons who have had too much sun exposure or have a break in the skin of their mouth. In cases of cancer, the long-term side effects and outlook depend on the type, severity, and treatment of cancer in question.
Mouth sores are one of those terribly painful little things nobody ever wants to go through, but for some reason, everyone seems to get it at some point in their lives. One thing we are certainly glad about is the fact that it is not contagious. Pheew, the relief in knowing you don’t have to safeguard yourself from persons who have mouth sores by putting on some sort of shield before they can talk to you. LOL. Importantly, as much as we may not necessarily be able to prevent common mouth sores since they could happen even during the most insignificant of things like chewing or even brushing, it is vital our oral hygiene is kept 100%. A balanced diet is also important. Don’t forget that once you notice that the sores are recurrent or lasting more than usual, it’s indication of time to pay your oral health practitioner a visit, as it could be a symptom of some other health issues needing urgent attention. You could share your mouth sore experiences with us in the comment box below, but till next time, take as much precaution as you can. Ciao!