What Causes Painful Mouth Ulcers?
Did you know that your oral health and general health are closely interconnected? The truth is that a number of diseases affecting the body can display signs and symptoms in the oral cavity. Likewise, conditions affecting either the hard or soft tissues of the mouth can also have consequences on the health of the rest of your body. This is all the more reason why regular checkups are so important. Along with the prevention and treatment of dental disease, a periodic exam is an excellent opportunity for your dentist to assess if there are any indications of the presence of other conditions that may affect your overall health.
One of the most commonly occurring lesions in the oral cavity is a mouth ulcer. While mouth sores can be annoying, uncomfortable and unsightly, they are often harmless, and will resolve within a few days without requiring any medical treatment. However, when these lesions do not get better after a couple of weeks and if they tend to frequently recur, or if new symptoms begin to appear, it is important to get a more comprehensive evaluation by your dentist or other healthcare provider.
Many of us have experienced, at one time or another, the discomfort an open sore on the cheeks, lips, palate, or tongue. While often the result of an actual injury like biting the cheek or the irritation of a sharp orthodontic wire, a mouth ulcer may also be caused by certain drugs, chemical sensitivity, diseases, or can happen as a side effect of medical treatment like chemotherapy. A mouth ulcer such as a canker sore, which is also known as an aphthous ulcer, may even be triggered by stress and anxiety or hormonal changes.
According to statistics, up to 1 in 5 people get recurrent mouth ulcers.
Underlying health conditions that may lead to the development of mouth ulcers include the following:
- Nutritional problems like Vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid or iron deficiencies
- Some gastrointestinal tract diseases including Crohn’s disease & coeliac disease
- Impaired immune system due to diseases like HIV or Lupus
- Reactive arthritis
- Viral infections such as cold sore virus, chickenpox, as well as hand, foot, and mouth disease in young children
It is important to be aware that in rare situations, a long-lasting mouth sore may be a sign of oral cancer. A biopsy or tissue sample may be taken when suspicious lesions in the oral cavity are present. Early detection and treatment are the best ways to ensure the most favorable outcome of care.
Since a mouth ulcer involves the loss or erosion of a section of the delicate tissue lining the oral cavity, it can make the simple acts of eating, drinking or even talking quite uncomfortable. Treating any identifiable underlying cause (if there is one) and managing the symptoms is the best way to reduce the risk of complications until healing can take place. It is helpful to avoid hot and spicy foods, drink plenty of fluids, use rinses or medication as recommended by your dentist or physician and gently keep your mouth clean.
While it may not be possible to prevent the development of mouth ulcers, you can take some steps that are helpful to reducing your risk of getting them. This involves eating a nutritional diet, establishing an excellent oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing, and seeing your dentist for regular checkups and care.