All About Mouth Ulcers

What are mouth ulcers?

Ulcers are painful sores inside the mouth that can appear on the tongue and gums or inside the cheeks and lips. The ulcer, which is usually circular with a yellow or white centre and a raised red rim, is an area where the surface of the mouth's lining has been removed. This means that nerve cells are exposed, causing pain and discomfort, particularly when eating certain foods. They occur singly or in clusters, and normally heal within 7 to 10 days.

What causes mouth ulcers?

There are mainly two types of mouth ulcers:

Injury mouth ulcers caused, for example, by minor burns from hot food or drinks, biting the inside of your mouth, or rubbing from a toothbrush, brace, denture, or a rough tooth. These tend to be localised and go away when the source of the problem is rectified.

Recurrent mouth Ulcers are the ones that come and go, sometimes every few weeks. Most of these ulcers are round, about the size of the top of a pencil. They sometimes appear in clusters of up to half a dozen or so. A common cause of recurrent mouth ulcers is being generally stressed or run-down. Other rare causes include:

Nutritional deficiencies - low iron levels or lack of vitamins;

Hormonal changes - many women get ulcers at the time of their period;

Allergies and sensitivities to foods containing some preservatives and flavouring agents;

Bowel diseases such as Crohn's, ulcerative colitis or coeliac disease; and

Skin diseases such as herpes simplex or lichen planus

Mouth ulcers are very common, with over 20% of people having recurrent ulcers at some stage in their life. Mouth ulcers cannot be caught by kissing, or by sharing drinks and utensils, because they are not caused by an infection.

How can I prevent mouth ulcers?

Having a healthy lifestyle can help you to avoid getting run-down and being prone to mouth ulcers. Unfortunately though, many trigger factors are not within our control - so it's important to know how to treat mouth ulcers when we do get them.

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