Mouth sores or ulcers can certainly be painful when they occur, making it uncomfortable whenever you eat or drink anything. Luckily, most of the time the cause is truly benign and the ulcer will go away on its own without treatment. Of course, if this is a problem that occurs frequently or causes you significant pain than it’s worth talking to an otolaryngologist to find out what’s going on.
Causes of Mouth Sores
So, what could be causing these painful oral sores? Well, there are several things it could be:
- Traumatic injury (e.g. biting your cheek)
- Poor hygiene
- Irritation from dentures, braces, or a sharp tooth
- Oral thrush infection (a type of yeast infection)
- Herpes simplex viral infection (causes cold sores that often develop on the mouth or lips)
- Autoimmune disorder
- Certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and HIV
- Cancer of the lip
Sometimes adults suffer from aphthous ulcers (better known as canker sores), which are mouth sores that have no known cause. These sores can affect the mouth, gums or tongue and result in small whitish ulcers that can occur during times of emotional stress or around a woman’s menstrual cycle.
The Symptoms of a Mouth Sore
Along with a round ulcer or sore in the mouth, you may also experience pain and tenderness around the sore. The skin around the sore may also be inflamed. Certain foods, such as citrus or spicy foods, can cause further irritation.
Treatment Mouth Sores
If you are someone who is dealing with persistent mouth sores it’s important that you find out what’s causing your symptoms so you know the best course of action. In order to provide an accurate diagnosis an ENT doctor will perform a physical examination to inspect the sore. Based on its appearance a doctor can often decide what the sore is and how to treat it.
For example, if the ulcer is yellow and a bit larger this is usually caused by some sort of trauma to the soft tissue. If a fever is present, the ulcer may be the result of the herpes simplex virus. Sometimes blood tests or a biopsy is necessary to make a more accurate diagnosis.
As we mentioned, most sores will go away by themselves after a few days. Of course, there are other types of ulcers that may require treatment, especially if they are causing you significant pain. Simple conservative treatment options and care include:
- Using an antiseptic rinse or gel
- Taking pain relievers
- Maintaining good oral hygiene
- Avoiding spicy, sour, and citrus foods
- Rinsing your mouth out with warm salt water
Certain ulcers, such as ones caused by the herpes simplex virus or oral thrush may require a prescription medication. This is why it’s a good idea to turn to an ENT specialist if you are dealing with mouth sores and don’t know what’s causing them.