Mouth Ulcer

A mouth ulcer is simply an erosion or loss of the delicate tissues that line the inside parts of the mouth. Some common causes of this condition include infectious diseases, use of chemicals and taking certain drugs. However, the most common cause of mouth ulcer is accidental biting of the inner side of the cheek.

In some cases, mouth ulcers are harmless and can heal on their own in a few days. However, some severe cases require medical treatments. Most ulcers are recurring types with the causes unknown. They affect at least 20% of the population.

What Are the Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers?

Minor Mouth Ulcer

This is the most common type that affects 8 in 10 people. They are characterized by small, oval or round patches on the affected area. They appear as pale yellow patches with a red, swollen surrounding area. In this case, only one ulcer develops even though there can be as many as five. It can take at least 7 days to heal.

Major Mouth Ulcer

This is an uncommon case that occurs in 1 out of 10 people. This type of ulcer can be larger than the minor one, and only one or two appear. This type of ulcer can last for two weeks or more, and it leaves a scar once it heals. They are quite painful and may cause difficulty in eating.

Herpetiform Mouth Ulcer

This type of ulcer is also uncommon and can occur in 1 out of 10 cases. They appear as small, pin head sized ulcers that run 1-2 mm across. They can occur in multiples at a time and may even join to form an even larger ulcer. They can last anywhere between one week and 2 months. They are not caused by herpes or the herpes virus as the name may imply.

When to See a Doctor

Simple ulcers of the mouth do not necessarily require a doctor's attention for a diagnosis to be made. You can seek medical attentions if you/your:

  • Have unusually sized mouth ulcers
  • Find it hard to drink or eat
  • Develop high fever along with mouth ulcer
  • Sores keep recurring where new ones develop before the old ones heal
  • Sores last for more than three weeks
  • Sores extend outwards to the lip
  • Ulcers cause pain that cannot be controlled with normal pain killers

It is important to see your dentist if you have sharp teeth or dental implants that cause the sores.

What Are the Causes of Mouth Ulcers?

The exact cause of mouth ulcers remains unknown. However, there are several factors that are identified as triggers. They include:



Injury in mouth

This can be caused by excessive brushing and chewing hard food. It can also be caused by accidentally biting the mouth lining.

Mental status

Mouth Ulcer can be caused by stress and anxiety.

Certain foods

Chocolate, nuts, coffee, cheese and strawberries, and food rich in citrus and acid may cause mouth ulcer.

Nutritional deficiency

Deficiency of vitamin B12, iron or folic acid may cause mouth ulcer.

Changing of habits

When you stop smoking, you can get mouth ulcers for the first few weeks.


Menstruation can cause mouth ulcers.

Side effects from certain medications

Side effects from painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen, agents used in chemotherapy, beta-blockers and nicodrandil used in heart conditions.


Coeliac disease, Behçet's disease, crohn's disease, HIV and autoinflammatory disorders.

What Are the Treatments for Mouth Ulcers?

Most of the time, treatment is not necessary for mouth ulcers. The pain is mostly mild especially if it is a minor ulcer. Mouth ulcers can heal in a few days without the need for medication. Also, there is no known treatment that can prevent the condition from recurring.

Common Solutions

  • Avoid hurting your mouth by avoiding spicy foods, acidic foods and foods with too much salt. These can make the pain worse.
  • Avoid touching the ulcer. You can use straws to drink to prevent the liquid from coming into contact with the ulcer. Do not take hot beverages with the straw as it can burn your mouth and throat.
  • It is also advisable to avoid stimulating food which can make the ulcer worse.
  • If you suspect that some medication you're taking could be the cause, you should consider switching to something less harmful.


These medications which can be bought over the counter in pharmacies can ease the stress caused by a mouth ulcer:

  • Chlorhexidine mouthwash

This is used to reduce the pain and speeds up the healing process. It is also ideal for preventing the ulcer from being infected.

  • Steroid lozenges

These can also act as pain killers and speed up the healing process too. You can use the tongue to keep the lozenge in contact with the ulcer until the lozenge completely dissolves.

  • A painkilling oral gel, rinse or mouth spray

This also acts as a pain reliever and helps wounds to heal faster. It is not ideal for children below the age of 16 as it can cause Reye's syndrome when overused.

Home Remedies

  • Coconut milk

It can be used to soothe the pain. Simply mix it with a little honey and massage in the affected area. Repeat this a few times each day. You can also use the coconut milk to rinse your mouth and massage the oil in the affected area.

  • Baking soda

Also referred to as sodium bicarbonate, it helps in treating mouth ulcers. It is ideal for acid caused ulcers as it neutralizes the acid. It is also ideal for reducing inflammation and getting rid of germs or bacteria. Simply mix one teaspoon of baking soda with ½ cup of warm water to make a paste. Spread it on the affected area. You can do this several times a day. You can also rub the baking soda directly on the ulcer.

  • Honey

This helps in soothing the ulcer and retaining moisture, which speeds up the healing process. You can rub some honey on the ulcer using a cotton swab. Manuka honey is ideal for ulcers caused by radiation therapy.

  • Aloe vera

Apply aloe vera juice on the affected area to relieve pain and promote faster healing. It is also a natural antiseptic.

  • Celery

Chewing celery sticks can help relieve pain. It also contains vitamins that promote faster healing. Place the pulp of the celery stalk on the affected area for at least 10 minutes at different intervals in a day. It also keeps bad breath at bay.

How to Prevent Mouth Ulcers in Daily Life

  • Avoid talking while chewing

This can cause minor injuries from biting your inner lip or cheek.

  • Keep the mouth clean

Brush your teeth in the morning and evening and floss during the day. This keeps the mouth clean form foods than may trigger an ulcer.

  • Eat nutritious foods

This prevents nutritional deficiency which is one of the major causes of mouth ulcers.

  • Avoid irritating foods

Do not eat foods that may trigger an ulcer or foods you are allergic to. Some foods to avoid include nuts, chips, spices, salty foods, pretzels and acidic fruits.

  • Avoid stress

If you suspect that stress causes you to develop mouth cores, learn how to prevent and manage your stress levels.

Watch this video for more information about mouth ulcers:

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