A mouth ulcer is a type of open sore which appears inside your mouth. There's a number of different types of mouth ulcers so there's also a variety of different causes ranging from infection to virus and medical conditions. In the simplest terms; a mouth ulcer is an exposed nerve which occurs in the lining of your mouth. It's sensitive to touch which causes difficulty eating, drinking and in more severe cases, talking. The most common type of mouth ulcer are canker sores and cold sores.
Types of Mouth Ulcers
Canker sores usually appear in a rounded shape with a yellow centre surrounded by a red border. There's several different kinds of canker sore with the most common type being the minor canker sore. Major canker sores are larger and won't usually be rounded, they are quite painful and may take many months to heal. Although the exact causes of canker sores aren't known currently there's a number of factors that put you at greater risk which have been identified. Triggers include injuries in the mouth, burning in the mouth, biting the inside of your cheek or lip and acidic or spicy foods. Similarly, chewing tobacco can often bring about canker sores in the area of your mouth you use for chewing.
Cold sores are another common type of ulcer caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). These will also appear swollen and blister like and usually occur on mucous membranes or swollen areas of skin. There's a tendency for cold sores to recur in patients but they should heal over without scarring.
There's a wide variety of more serious mouth ulcers such as those causes from herpes, immune disorders or inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcers can also develop due to a deficiency in iron, folic acid or vitamin B12.
Treatment for Mouth Ulcers
Ulcers occurring as a side effect of another medical problem are usually treated by looking at the underlying causes. For ulcers which aren't serious over the counter pain medication should be sufficient to deal with any discomfort or you could try rinsing out your mouth with ice water before meals. There's a range of gels and pastilles available from pharmacies which can help with treating many kinds of ulcers.
Preventing Mouth Ulcers
It's important to maintain a good level of oral hygiene and to be careful when brushing your teeth and gums as this can have a big impact on your oral health. It's commonly advised you visit your dentist at least twice a year so that any problems can be spotted and prevented before they become serious. Ulcers can also be triggered by stress so make sure you deal with any issues before they bring about physical symptoms.