Throughout the world, oral diseases are the most common type of noncommunicable disease. Mouth sores are part of this. Sores in the mouth can stem from a variety of causes. It is important to understand why they occur, how to effectively treat them and what you can do to prevent them from developing.
Mouth Sore Types and Causes
Irritation is the most common cause of sores in the mouth. This irritation can stem from several factors, including:
- A broken or sharp tooth
- Hot beverages or food burning your mouth
- Tobacco products
- Poorly fitting dentures
- Retainers, braces or other devices
Other causes may include:
- Beta-blockers are certain other medications
- Quitting tobacco
- Foods that are highly acidic
- Pregnancy-related hormone changes
- Folate and other vitamin deficiencies
Some people develop sores in their mouth as a result of a medical condition. These may include:
- Herpes simplex which can cause cold sores
- Chronic canker sores, which can result in flat-edge, red, greyish or white patches
- Hand, foot and mouth disease, which can cause red, painful and small patches in the mouth.
- Children are most often affected
- Certain autoimmune diseases may cause sores in the mouth
- Candidiasis is a fungal infection also called oral thrush. It can cause red and white patches in your mouth
- Lichen planus can cause inflammatory, itchy rashes in your mouth
- Gingivostomatitis is most often seen in children. The sores in the mouth are similar to canker sores
- Leukoplakia can cause grey-white patches in the mouth
- Oral cancers may have sores in the mouth as a symptom
- Erythroplakia occurs on the mouth floor and it is a red patch. It can be benign or malignant
Mouth Sore Treatment
Some mouth sores resolve on their own, especially if they are due to irritation. These sores will usually clear up in one to two weeks. However, if treatment is necessary, it may include one or more of the following:
- Gargling with salt water
- Not using tobacco products
- Avoiding acidic foods, such as citrus fruits
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Avoiding spicy or hot foods
- Avoiding alcohol
- Using mouthwash
- Creating a paste of water and baking soda, and applying it to the sore
If these remedies are not enough, the dentist may recommend additional treatment. These may include ointments that you apply directly to the mouth sore. If pain is substantial, the dentist may prescribe a stronger medication to relieve it.
If there is any underlying medical condition causing sores in the mouth, treating this is usually necessary. For example, if you have oral thrush, an antifungal medication is often prescribed to eliminate the fungus. If you have an autoimmune disorder, treating this may help to resolve the sores in the mouth that are caused by it.
Mouth Sore Prevention
There are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of developing sores in your mouth. The first step is to see your dentist regularly for examinations and cleanings. Your dentist can also ensure that any dental devices fit properly to reduce the risk of oral irritation.
The following are additional preventative measures:
- Reduce your consumption of hot beverages and foods, alcohol and acidic foods
- Abstain from using tobacco products
- Practice good oral hygiene
- Chew your food slowly and carefully
- Drink plenty of water
- Reduce your stress
Applying an SPF lip balm several times a day can also help. This reduces your risk of sores on your lips that may be worsened by sun damage.
If you develop a mouth sore, it is important to see your dentist. They can make an accurate diagnosis so that you can receive prompt treatment. Your dentist can also provide some information on how to prevent mouth sores in the future.