Mouth Ulcers: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

added on: December 26, 2022
John Highsmith, DDS

Mouth ulcers are small, often painful sores that can develop inside your mouth in various places such as your cheeks, tongue, gums, or lips. While having one can certainly be an inconvenience and cause a few days of discomfort, they’re usually no cause for concern. In fact, most ulcers heal and disappear on their own without treatment from your dentist in Clyde. However, there are occasions when an ulcer may be a sign of something more serious. 

Symptoms of a Mouth Ulcer

The most common symptoms of mouth ulcers are small, painful lesions. These lesions typically have red outside with white, yellow, or gray centers. Ulcers are not contagious, but new ones can show up close to the time when older ones heal. Additionally, it’s common to have a few ulcers at one time. Sometimes, ulcers will also go hand-in-hand with a fever. 

Causes of Ulcers

Several different things can cause an ulcer to develop, and these causes can vary from person to person and even from ulcer to ulcer. What we do know is that ulcers can be hereditary, and those with a family history of mouth ulcers are more likely to develop them as well. Other factors that can cause ulcers include: 

  • Injuries to the mouth such as biting your cheek or tongue
  • Spicy, salty, or acidic foods
  • Devices such as braces, dentures, or a mouthguard that rub 
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Hormonal changes

People with certain medical conditions are also more likely to develop ulcers. 

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis
  • Celiac disease
  • Diabetes
  • Viruses 
  • Lupus

Ulcer Treatment

Treating an ulcer can often be done at home through remedies such as rinsing with warm salt water a few times a day, using an over-the-counter anesthetic, and avoiding trigger foods. Occasionally, your dentist in Clyde will recommend corticosteroids or antiseptic treatments. 

It’s important to note that most ulcers will go away on their own within 10-14 days. If it doesn’t, it’s time to see your dentist. 

The Link Between Ulcers & Oral Cancer

Sometimes an ulcer could indicate a bigger problem such as oral cancer. Ulcers that do not heal on their own, such as those that don’t go away within 10-14 days, may be a sign of oral cancer. Schedule an appointment with your dentist in Clyde immediately if you notice: 

  • An area that looks like it could be an ulcer but doesn’t have any pain
  • Rough or hard patches in the mouth
  • Oral cancer is most likely to have ulcer-like sores under or on the tongue

Ulcers can absolutely be a pain, both literally and figuratively. But they should go away on their own within two weeks. If you do have an ulcer or suspect oral cancer, get to your dentist quickly. Oral cancer is often treatable and treatment is more successful in the early stages.