Mouth ulcers are small pinkish-yellow painful inflammations formed on the lining of the mouth. They become more painful while consuming food. Mouth ulcers are medically called canker sores. Usually harmless, they go away on their own and mostly without medication. Mouth ulcers generally affect children and young adults.

There are three types of mouth ulcers (viz) minor, major and herpetiform.

  • Minor mouth ulcers are small sores that heal in a week or two, leaving no scars.
  • Major mouth ulcers are large and deep with irregular edges, take up to six weeks to heal and result in long-term scars.
  • Herpetiform ulcers are pinpoint-sized sores that occur in clusters of 10-100, and heal in a week or two, leaving no scars.

Minor causes of mouth ulcers:

  • Small injuries during dental procedures
  • Effect of wearing dental braces
  • Hard toothbrush
  • Using toothpaste and mouthwash containing sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sports injury due to mouthguards
  • Deficiencies of vitamin B12, zinc, folate and iron
  • Allergic response to mouth bacteria
  • Allergic response to acidic foods
  • Viral or fungal infections
  • Hormonal changes
  • Inadequate sleep patterns
  • High-stress levels.

Major causes of mouth ulcers – the kind that requires immediate medical attention:

  • Celiac disease – a condition in which the body is unable to tolerate gluten
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – an inflammation of the digestive tract lining
  • Diabetes mellitus – a high blood-sugar condition
  • Behcet’s disease – a condition that causes inflammation throughout the body
  • HIV/AIDS – malfunctioning of the immune system that causes the body to attack healthy mouth cells instead of viruses and bacteria

Treatment of mouth ulcers:

  • Applying antiseptic gels, steroid ointments or OTC topical anesthetic products
  • Using medicated mouthwashes
  • Applying ice
  • Taking nutritional supplements like vitamin B12, vitamin B6, folic acid and zinc
  • Taking natural remedies like chamomile tea, echinacea, tomato juice and licorice root.

Prevention of mouth ulcers:

  • Avoid acidic and spicy food
  • Do not talk while chewing
  • Brush twice a day and flossing
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Have enough sleep

Everyone experiences mouth ulcers at some stage in their life. With stress levels reaching a tipping point, junk food choices and a haphazard lifestyle, mouth ulcers are here to stay.