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A mouth ulcer is a painful red or yellow sore that appears on the inside of your mouth.  The ulcer is different than cold sores which appear of your lips caused by a virus.  Often a mouth ulcer is the result of biting your tongue or cheek. Sharp teeth, poorly fitted dentures or brushing may also cause damage and lead to what is referred to as a “traumatic” ulcer. The traumatic ulcer will resolve itself on its own once the source of the problem is removed.  Recurring mouth ulcers (those ulcers that keep coming back) are called “recurrent aphthous stomatitis.”

What are the symptoms of recurrent aphthous stomatitis?

This type of mouth ulcer is common and often appears on the inside of the cheeks, on the lips, tongue or gums.  Rarely will you see this type of ulcer on the roof of your mouth.  It is not known why these ulcers appear but they are not infectious or inherited.

The minor ulcers are generally the size of the top of a pencil and may come in clusters.  Larger ulcers are more painful and can take a longer time to heal.  If they last more than 3 weeks you should visit your dentist.   If you also have ulcers on other parts of your body (such as your eyes or genital area) please make sure to let your dentist know.

Are there other reasons why an ulcer may occur?

Infections such as herpes simplex often lead to mouth ulcers. Other viral and bacterial infections rarely lead to a mouth ulcer. Anemia and other blood disorders, and some skin or gastrointestinal diseases may also cause mouth ulcers.  Mouth ulcers may be an indication of an underlying health problem, so be sure to let your dentist know you are getting them.

Does cancer cause mouth ulcers?

Cancer of the mouth may first appear as a mouth ulcer, and usually lasts a long time (more than 3 weeks) with no apparent reason for it (no damage from biting your cheek or a sharp tooth for example).  Mouth ulcers caused by cancer usually form on the tongue, but occasionally also appear on other parts of the mouth. If you smoke or drink, you should pay careful attention to these warning signs, since heavy smoking and drinking increases your cancer risk.

What type of treatment is available for mouth ulcers?

Speak to your dentist about possible reasons for your mouth ulcers so that adjustments can be made (such as filing a sharp tooth, or fixing a denture) to help prevent damage to your mouth. If further treatment is warranted your dentist may arrange for more tests or a referral to a specialist to determine the cause.

Dr. Melchers and his staff are here to address any of your health issues, including how best to treat mouth ulcers.  Contact us today at info@oldmtpleasantdentistry.com to see how we can best serve you and meet your dental care needs.