Mouth Sores: Types, Causes, Treatments and Remedies

The most prevalent illness affecting the mucous membranes lining the mouth is mouth sores. According to researchers, it affects 1 in 10 persons, but this disease’s exact return frequency is unknown.

On the other hand, mouth sores might be minor, self-treated, or significant and require medical attention and treatment. Did you know that only 15% of individuals have severe mouth sores that need to be treated medically, whereas the rest only have minor mouth sores?

1. Mouth Sore v/s Mouth Ulcer

A mouth sore is a painful wound or injury that forms in your oral muscle tissues and may appear on your lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, or the inside or roof of your mouth. Whereas mouth ulcer is a ‘broad term’ that explains any sore or ulceration inside your mouth.

The only difference between them is their underlying cause. Mouth sores are caused by aphthous stomatitis, commonly known as ‘canker sores.’ On the other hand, mouth ulcers are usually caused by a viral infection of the mouth.

2. Types of Mouth Sores

Mouth sores that damage the oral cavity come in several forms. The following describes these mouth sores:

mouth sore
Source: Pexels

2.1. Canker Sores

These are the most common mouth lesions, usually small in size, affecting the oral mucosa. It looks like a mouth sore that is white, yellowish, and red around the edges.

They normally leave alone in a week or two and are not very serious.

2.2. Cold Sores

Also referred to as fever blisters, these sores are typically brought on by a common oral viral infection. It appears as group patches with fluid inside on and around the lips.

These sores can be threatening if not treated and transmitted through sharing food and beverages.

2.3. Gingivostomatitis

This condition is caused by a bacterial or viral infection that may be linked to poor oral hygiene. These are very common in children and appear on the gums and inner cheeks.

2.4. Leukoplakia

This mouth sore causes thick, soft, and white patches on the tongue. It is common in people who smoke and can be severe in some cases, which later on leads to oral cancer.

2.5. Thrush

It is a yeast infection caused by the fungus candida inside the mouth. It develops white creamy lesions on the tongue and gums. Most elderly patients with dentures fitting in their mouths are prone to thrush.

3. Symptoms of Mouth Sores

Depending on the type of mouth sore you have, your symptoms may differ. Most often, lesions cause discomfort, inflammation, redness, and swollen mouth.

Symptoms of mouth sores can be like:-

  • Burning sensation in the mouth- Mouth sores can lead to a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth, which might come and go on its own. As stated, these can mainly cause yeast or bacteria infection, called thrush.
  • Bleeding and swelling in gums- This symptom is mainly a cause of gingivitiswhere the gums become red and swollen. The gums bleed when you clean your teeth but cause no pain until it reaches a serious stage.
  • Dysphagia A feeling of difficulty swallowing food or drinking water arising from the esophagus due to the large spread of mouth sores in the throat, causing severe pain.
  • Ulceration in mouth- A burst in the oral mucosa or the soft tissue in the mouth causes unbearable pain and irritation.
  • Difficulty eating- Eating is difficult for those with mouth sores since eating spicy and salty foods causes a burning feeling in the mouth. People, therefore, find it challenging to eat.

4. Causes of Mouth Sores

As said earlier, mouth sores can be minor or major depending on the causes, classified as common causes and chronic health conditions.

mouth sore
Source: Pexels

4.1. Common Causes

  • Accidentally biting your tongue, cheek, or lip.
  • Constant rubbing against dentures or braces.
  • Using a toothbrush with strong bristles or brushing your teeth too excessively.
  • Overconsumption of tobacco products.
  • Mouth sores can worsen during periods of stressanxiety, or fatigue.
  • Hormonal changes such as menses, puberty, and menopause have a strong impact on oral health, causing red, swollen, and bleeding in gums.
  • Reactions from certain medications that cause skin rashes in the mouth.
  • Burns from eating hot food.

4.2. Chronic Health Conditions

  • Celiac disease – Eating a protein named ‘gluten’ in wheat creates problems with your digestive system. As a result, the person becomes lactose intolerant and experiences severe mouth sore outbreaks. Therefore, individuals who are lactose intolerant frequently get canker sores.
  • Mononucleosis – This is a disease caused by a viral infection. It leads to the problem of cold sores, which appear like tiny red spots or bruises-like areas inside your mouth, mostly on top of the mouth.
  • Folate deficiency – a condition where there isn’t sufficient folate in the body(folic acid), a type of vitamin B. This deficiency leads to mouth sores, causing a tingling sensation in the tongue. The tongue appears swollen and red around the edges if the folic acid deficiency is left untreated.
  • Anemia is a condition brought on by the body when there are not enough red blood cells to distribute oxygen. This issue may result in oral health issues like swollen gums, mouth sores, trouble eating, and an increased risk of developing mouth ulcers.
  • HIV/AIDS – HIV/AIDS patients are more prone to develop mouth sores due to the virus’s weakening of their immune systems. Canker sores and leukoplakia, which is a life-threatening risk, are caused by this condition.
  • Gastrointestinal issues – and a burning sensation in the mouth are caused by excessive stomach acid in the body, which can result in mouth sores from diseases including acid reflux, IBS, and GERD. Canker sores, which are white or pale-colored inside the mouth, are frequently the result of these problems.

5. Diagnosis

mouth sores
Source: Pixabay

To know the exact cause of minor mouth sores, you can diagnose it by its appearance and symptoms mentioned above, without any special test or doctor’s advice.

However, it is advised to consult a doctor or a dentist to know the underlying reason for major mouth sores that have not healed even after two weeks. To help you receive effective treatment, they will carefully inspect the lining of your mouth and inquire about any other additional symptoms.

Furthermore, suppose the doctor thinks that mouth sores cause an underlying disease. In that case, a swab test, blood test, tissue sample, or oral cavity biopsy is conducted as per the requirements and procedures.

6. Treatment

Minor mouth sores heal independently in a week or two, so treatment is unnecessary. However, major, painful sores frequently require medical care. There are numerous options available, including:-

  1. For severe canker sores, oral medicines reduce pain and promote faster healing. Patients are treated with drugs such as benzocaine and other steroids.
  2. If you have major mouth sores, your doctor may prescribe a mouth rinse named Orajel or other antiseptic gels like Orasore gel or peroxyl to reduce inflammation and pain in the mouth.
  3. For best oral hygiene, the experts advise using an alcohol-free mouthwash twice daily.

Rinse your mouth with slightly salted warm water to shrink the size of sores in your mouth, thereby relieving pain.

7. Home Remedies to Treat Mouth Sores

As previously stated, several medicines on the market relieve mouth sores. In addition, simple home remedies could be beneficial for mouth sores as well.

mouth sore
Source: Pexels
  • Baking soda paste – One of the most common natural treatments, baking soda paste provides instant relief to mouth sores by neutralizing the excess acid it produces in the mouth. As sodium carbonate is present, you must mix baking soda and water in equal quantities to make a paste, which you can then apply to your mouth sores.
  • Honey – Honey’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities help efficiently heal scars and reduce the size and redness of oral sores. It needs to be applied on sores twice a day. Also, honey keeps the area free from infection.
  • Garlic – It is a successful remedy for mouth sores. Garlic contains allicin, which is useful in reducing discomfort in oral inflammation. You must apply a small piece of garlic to the affected areas and rub it in gently for five minutes before washing your mouth.
  • Aloe Vera – Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Aloe Vera helps reduce the swelling caused by mouth sores. Also, it functions as a cooling agent, relieving burning or tingling sensation in the mouth.
  • Coconut Oil – Coconut Oil is an excellent home remedy for mouth sores. Being rich in anti-microbial properties, it helps prevent redness and inflammation caused in the mouth. You must put a few drops of coconut oil in the affected areas and let it stay for 10 minutes.
  • Turmeric Powder – One of the most easily available ingredients in the kitchen is turmeric powder. Due to its anti-inflammation properties, it helps reduce pain and inflammation caused by sores. You should apply turmeric powder paste with water twice daily for effective results.
  • Yogurt – Yogurt with probiotics has good bacteria that can help heal wounds from canker sores and improve oral health. Additionally, battling oral bacterial infections reduces discomfort and improves intestinal and oral health.
  • Clove Oil – One of the most popular spices in India, Garam Masala, requires cloves as a necessary ingredient. The flower bud is where clove oil is extracted. When dealing with oral ulcers, dab the area directly with a small piece of cotton and apply the oil. Remember, before applying the oil, gently wash your mouth with warm water. Cloves’ anti-bacterial qualities help in ideal oral health, thereby reducing inflammation and pain in the mouth.
  • Saltwater Gargles – Gargling with salt water can help maintain oral hygiene and may ease pain and suffering associated with dental treatments, sore throats, and mouth sores. A simple and affordable substitute for medicinal mouthwashes is saltwater gargles.
  • Chamomile – Bacterial infection of the mouth can be treated locally with chamomile. You can also use chamomile as a mouth rinse by making chamomile tea. You can take chamomile tea with a spoonful of honey for better benefits.

8. Tips to Remember if You have Mouth Sores

  • Many bacteria exist on our fingertips, so try not to touch the sore directly, as this could cause the illness to spread further.
  • When brushing your teeth, use a soft toothbrush to avoid rubbing too hard, which could cause mouth sores to bleed.
  • Avoid salty, acidic, and spicy foods that can cause further irritation and intolerable burning pain in the mouth.
  • Applying ice to the canker sores provides a numbing effect and reduces swelling.
  • Consume a proper, balanced, and nutritious diet and reduce stress, which might adversely affect the body. Therefore, you should consider the previously given ideas to reduce pain and speed up the healing process from mouth sores.

Mouth sores are a common problem that happens to almost everyone once in a lifetime. They are usually not serious and go away in 1 or 2 weeks. But, if it doesn’t go away, it can become an issue, and one should seek a doctor’s advice.

Eating becomes difficult due to these wounds, which can irritate and burn the mouth. As mentioned above, some oral medicines, rinses, and gels may be helpful. On the other hand, severe and recurring mouth sores are an indication of an underlying illness that requires medical diagnosis and treatment.

Last Updated on by Dr. Lehri Srivastava


Sathi Chakraborty, MSc Biology
Dr. Lehri Srivastava

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