Most of us have had a mouth ulcer—more commonly known as a “canker sore”—at least once in our lives. These tender, uncomfortable spots can be a source of constant irritation and make daily activities like eating, drinking, speaking, and even brushing your teeth more difficult. If you’re cantankerous about constant (or even occasional) canker sores, Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our team are here to help you. In the following blog, we go over the basics of mouth ulcers. We’ll cover their basic symptoms, what causes them, how we treat them, and—perhaps most importantly—what you can do to reduce your risks. May you never suffer through a canker sore again!
Do You Have a Mouth Ulcer?
In all likelihood, you’ve suffered through a mouth ulcer before, but you might not have realized it at the time. Understanding what’s happening within your mouth can help you heal it faster. Mouth ulcers, or canker sores, come in all shapes and sizes.
They can be white, red, grey, or yellow. They are usually circular or ovular. According to Mayo Clinic, they might be “oval shaped with a red edge” in more moderates cases, they could be “round with defined borders,” or even come with “irregular edges when very large,” in the most severe conditions. Some canker sores are also “pinpoint size,” occurring “in clusters of 10 to 100 ulcers, but may merge into one large ulcer.” Depending on how advanced they are, mouth ulcers have varying degrees of depth into the tissue. The worst canker sores are usually “larger and deeper.” Like most sores, mouth ulcers have a different texture from healthy gum tissue and are usually sensitive to the touch, heat, cold, and include other types of irritation. They might have a “tingling or burning sensation” before they even come to the surface.
In short, canker sores are quite annoying, producing a wide range of pain, from minor, intermittent stinging to constant pain.
Sources of Sores
Unfortunately, the underlying cause of most canker sores is somewhat of a mystery in the modern medical world. We do know that, despite what you might think, these mouth ulcers are not contagious. Patient Info also explains: “in some cases, the ulcers are related to other factors or diseases.” Canker sores are often connected with:
· Oral injuries. Irritation to your gum tissue seems to make it more prone to canker sores.
· Allergies. It’s not particularly common, but you could develop a mouth ulcer as a result of eating or inhaling something you’re allergic to.
· Medication. Patient Info notes: “Some medications can cause mouth ulcers,” including other types of oral ulcers that don’t fall into the “canker sore” category. For example, some anti inflammatory medicine, dissolvable aspirin, oral nicotine replacement therapy, for those quitting smoking, and some street drugs such as cocaine are associated with canker sores.
· Genetic predispositions. “Mouth ulcers run in some families. So, a genetic factor may play a part,” Patient Info hypothesizes.
· Nutritional deficiencies. Insufficient iron, B12, or folic acid “may be a factor in some cases.”
· Hormonal fluctuations. According to Patient Info, “some women find that mouth ulcers occur just before their period” or after “menopause.”
· Cancer. NHS notes: “in a few cases, a long-lasting mouth ulcer can be a sign of mouth cancer. Ulcers caused by mouth cancer usually appear on or under the tongue, although you can get them in other areas of the mouth.” Especially if you smoke, drink excessively, or suffer from any chronic infections, we recommend that you don’t hesitate to call us if you develop a persistent canker sore.
Regardless of the root cause of your canker sores, Dr. Flanagan and our team can help you find the right solution and improve your overall oral health.
Treating Mouth Ulcers
Most canker sores will go away naturally within a few days. During this period, you can take certain precautions to diminish your discomfort. Staying away from hot, cold, or spicy foods or drinks, “using a very soft toothbrush,” “using a straw to drink,” or cleaning your gum tissue with “salt (saline) mouthwashes,” could help, reports Patient Info. If you suffer from a more severe mouth ulcer, Dr. Flanagan may recommend a special antiseptic wash or prescribe painkillers. If we’re able to identify what might be triggering your mouth ulcers, we can also help you reduce your risk for developing more sores. For example, we may recommend replacing ill-fitting, irritating dentures with dental implants.
Contact Our Houston Dental Practice Today
Do you suffer from canker sores or another oral health issue? We would be delighted to help you enhance your wellbeing at our Houston dental practice. To find out more and schedule an appointment, contact ustoday.