What causes ulcers in your mouth? How many different types of mouth ulcers exist? How to treat them? Learn all the answers

Mouth ulcers occur in people younger than 60 almost always and are not usually a cause for concern. If they cause very intense symptoms, have strange characteristics or are very recurrent, they should not be overlooked.

Mouth ulcers, also known as canker sores, are lesions that appear on the lips or at the base of the gums. They may also occur on the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and around the tonsils.

These injuries are often painful, so activities such as brushing your teeth, eating, drinking, or talking may cause some discomfort. The appearance of mouth ulcers is usually a whitish oval with a red area around it.

It is estimated that they affect around 25% of the population. They are more common in women, adolescents, and those with a family history of this condition. They are not contagious and are almost never risky.

Types of mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers can be classified in different ways. If they only appear very occasionally, they are acute; when they are recurrent they are considered chronic. According to their clinical manifestations, they can be of three types: major, minor or herpetiform. Let’s see.


Major ulcers or canker sores are larger than 10 millimeters in diameter. They can appear singly or in groups. They penetrate deeper into the tissue and usually remain for more than a week; some last for months. They may leave a scar when they disappear and are usually located on the lips, palate, tongue, pharynx, and inner cheek area.


Minor canker sores are less than 10 millimeters in diameter and are the most common form. They are shallow and are located on the edges of the tongue or the inner mucosa of the lips or cheeks. These ulcers cause intense pain that radiates to adjacent areas, but most often they resolve on their own in less than a week. They appear several times in spaced lapses.


These types of mouth ulcers form sores similar to those caused by herpes. However, they are not contagious, although they do recur. They appear in groups of several small ones that do not exceed 3 millimeters. They tend to coalesce into larger lesions.

What causes ulcers in your mouth?

The causes of canker sores are multiple. In most cases they are due to the following triggers:

  • Chafing with misaligned, broken or self-biting teeth. Also improper rubbing with dentures or braces.
  • Injury caused by vigorous brushing or dental or oral hygiene products containing sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Very hot foods that cause burns. So does smoking.
  • Reaction to certain medications and hormonal changes caused by menstruation in women.
  • Emotional stress and lack of sleep.

Sometimes mouth ulcers are caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid, or iron. They can also be an allergic response to bacteria in the mouth.

There are more serious cases in which these lesions are a manifestation of severe health problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes mellitus, HIV / AIDS, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, autoimmune diseases, or oral cancer.

Treatments options

Most mouth ulcers are harmless and do not require treatment. They usually subside within 7 to 14 days. In principle, it is appropriate to establish whether the products used, food or drugs cause them. If so, the indicated thing is to replace those elements with others.

In case they are the result of an injury or the cause is unknown, the treatment for canker sores consists of adopting some home measures and using natural remedies to alleviate the symptoms:

  • Rinse the mouth with warm, slightly salty water: three times a day for four minutes. In turn, gargle with cold water.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid hot, spicy, citrus, or very salty or spicy foods. Avoid, of course, tobacco.
  • Pain relievers, like acetaminophen, are great over-the-corner solutions.
  • Playing sports or practicing relaxation for stress are options that divert attention from discomfort.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and visit the dentist if the teeth are in poor condition.

In case the symptoms are very severe, the homemade measures do not work or the problem becomes recurrent, the most indicated is a professional consultation. It may take more than just natural remedies.

Possible complications

The main potential complication is that of a chronification of the problem or a superinfection of the ulcers. To prevent this from happening, the doctor may indicate the use of topical oral antiseptics that contain chlorhexidine hydrochloride, hexetidine, povidone iodine, benzalkonium chloride or sodium borate.

The doctor must indicate how they should be administered. In some cases it is also possible to prescribe antibiotics, especially if the ulcers are large or occur very recurrently.

Prevention and recommendations

The best way to prevent canker sores is to maintain proper hygiene habits. If you know what causes ulcers in your mouth, avoid doing that. You need to brush your teeth at least three times a day, use dental floss, and a non-irritating rinse. You should go to the dentist’s office at least once a year for a checkup.

A healthy and balanced diet helps prevent this condition. If it is recurrent, it is best to avoid those foods that can irritate the mouth, such as acidic, spicy or highly spicy foods. It is important to be on the lookout for any possible allergies as well.

Regular physical activity, as well as the practice of relaxation techniques, are effective measures to control stress. Although in general terms mouth ulcers should not be a cause for concern, in some cases they do require medical attention:

  • If they start to spread and get bigger gradually.
  • If they do not cause any discomfort or pain.
  • When they last more than three weeks.
  • In case they have a strange appearance or form a spot in the mouth.

When the pain is very intense or this type of injury generates additional symptoms, such as fever, it is also advisable to go to the doctor. Sometimes this is crucial to avoid major problems.

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