Mouth ulcers can be painful and most of us suffer from them at one time or another. So what can you do about them…and when should you ask your dentist for advice.
The commonest type are called “aphthous” ulcers ( pronounced “app-thuss”). These affect 25% of the population, mainly children and adolescents. Crops of several small ulcers appear on the insides of the cheeks , lips and tongue…sometimes for no apparent reason!
The good news is that they often heal on their own in 1-2 weeks. The bad news is that they come back every few weeks or months and they can be quite uncomfortable.
The cause of aphthous ulceration is not known. It tends to run in families.
Exacerbating factors include stress ( e.g. exam times).
Over-vigorous and/ or clumsy work with the tooth brush can cause localised ulcers, as can wolfing down hot pizza cheese.
Orthodontic braces are a common culprit. When braces are first fitted it is common for your mouth to be sore for the first week or so and ulcers can occur. Read how to care for braces when they have just been fitted.
(NOT the same as genital herpes…which is the type 2 virus)
Type 1 herpes simplex virus is “endemic” in the UK population ( i.e. most of us have it ) and can occur at any age. You can be a carrier of the virus without having noticed any particular symptoms.
Primary oral herpes presents as painful ulcers on the gums, lips and cheeks which heal within 10-14 days. There can also be associated fever, halitosis and a white coating on the tongue.
Recurrent infections occur in a third of patients in the form of a cold sore.
What can I do about my mouth ulcers?
Most mouth ulcers heal within 10-14 days. It is important to keep your mouth clean as possible to prevent infection of the ulcers and to allow your body to heal itself.
Chlorhexidine mouthwash ( sold as Corsodyl™ ) is useful as an antiseptic if you are suffering from ulcers and is available from pharmacists. Side effects include staining of the teeth so do not use on a long term basis.
Simple painkillers may also be helpful and it may be wise to stick to a soft diet.
If you feel unwell or have a temperature, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
If you are in the middle of orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist will make sure that there are no sharp bits before you leave the surgery when you come for your routine appointments.
When should I seek professional advice?
If mouth ulcers are severe and persistent it may be a good idea to see your dentist for advice. Ulcers on the gums can be signs of other oral conditions which may need dental treatment.
Mouth ulcers can also be a “marker” for iron, B12 and folate deficiency. Your dentist can advise whether a referral to your GP or other healthcare professional is needed.
You should see your dentist or doctor if a mouth ulcer persists after 3 weeks. Long standing ulcers can be a sign of mouth cancer which is increasing in incidence in the U.K.
Mouth ulcers can occasionally be a sign of other conditions such as generalised skin disorders and gastrointestinal conditions.
For more information
Click here: NHS Choices
About Cleveland Orthodontics
Our specialist-led practice has been established since 1996 and provides brace treatment to people of all ages from across the North East, including Middlesbrough, Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees, Billingham and Redcar.
We offer NHS orthodontic treatment for children and a range of modern white and “invisible” braces for adults of all ages such as Invisalign. FREE consultations are available… you can either telephone for an appointment on 01642 243 020 or book through our website.