About 20% of people develop mouth sores or ulcers at some point during their lifetimes, often following an illness or a period of stress. But for some, ulcers happen regularly, causing painful symptoms that can interfere with eating and speaking.
At Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center, Brandon Kang, DDS, helps patients in Oakland, California, find relief for chronic or recurrent mouth ulcers by diagnosing and treating the root cause. If you have mouth ulcers, here’s what you need to know.
Why mouth ulcers happen
Also called aphthous ulcers or canker sores, mouth ulcers can affect your gums, inner cheek tissue, palate, or tongue, forming open sores or bumps that are very painful. Unlike cold sores that form on your lips, mouth ulcers typically aren’t contagious.
Researchers don’t know the exact cause of mouth ulcers, but they do know that several factors can trigger ulcer development. A few of the more common triggers include:
- Irritation from braces, mouth guards, dentures, or other devices
- Injury, such as biting your cheek
- Irritation from dental procedures
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Food sensitivities
Other people may develop ulcers as a result of chronic stress or hormonal changes, like the fluctuations experienced during the menstrual cycle.
Some ulcers are signs or symptoms of underlying medical problems, like:
- Celiac disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
If you have mouth ulcers on a regular basis, they might be caused by one of these issues.
As an oral pathology specialist, Dr. Kang has significant experience in diagnosing the cause of recurrent mouth sores. Typically, diagnosis involves lab tests like blood work or a tissue biopsy to screen for medical problems that could cause ulcers.
Treating mouth ulcers
Mild ulcers that occur rarely tend to heal on their own within a week or two. But if you have mouth ulcers regularly, you probably need another type of treatment that’s focused on targeting the underlying cause in addition to relieving your pain.
For instance, if Dr. Kang finds an infection, you may need to take antibiotics or antifungal agents or use antibacterial mouthwash. If your ulcers are related to diabetes, you may need to work with your physician to ensure you’re doing all you can to manage your glucose levels. For autoimmune disorders, immunosuppressant medications may help.
In the meantime, you can reduce your symptoms with a few lifestyle changes, like avoiding abrasive toothpaste, rinsing your mouth with salt water to limit inflammation, using topical pain medicines, and avoiding spicy foods.
Relief for painful mouth ulcers
Mouth ulcers can be extremely painful, but fortunately, they can be managed and even prevented. The first step is identifying the cause.
If you have chronic mouth sores, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment with Dr. Kang online or over the phone today.