Big Mouth Bites: Understanding Mouth Ulcers and Effective Treatments

Big Mouth Bites


Big Mouth Bites: Understanding Mouth Ulcers and Effective Treatments provides comprehensive insights into mouth ulcers, including their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and available treatment options. Mouth ulcers, commonly known as canker sores, are small and painful sores that develop in the mouth or at the base of the gums. This article aims to shed light on the topic and help individuals seeking information about mouth ulcers.

Table of Contents

  1. Causes of Mouth Ulcers
  2. Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers
  3. Differentiating Mouth Ulcers from Cold Sores
  4. Types of Mouth Ulcers
  5. Diagnosis of Mouth Ulcers
  6. Treatment Options for Mouth Ulcers
  7. Tips for Preventing Mouth Ulcers

1. Causes of Mouth Ulcers

The exact causes of mouth ulcers are not well-defined, but certain factors have been identified as potential triggers. Some of these factors include:

  • Minor mouth injuries caused by dental work, hard brushing, sports injuries, or accidental bites.
  • Dental braces.
  • Toothpaste or mouthwash containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
  • Allergic response to oral bacteria.
  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections in the mouth, such as hand, foot, and mouth disease.
  • Sensitivities to acidic foods and beverages like strawberries, citrus fruits, pineapple, chocolate, and coffee.
  • Nutrient deficiencies, particularly in vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin B12, zinc, and iron.
  • Hormonal changes during menstruation or pregnancy.
  • Emotional stress and lack of sleep.

In some cases, mouth ulcers can also indicate underlying medical conditions that require medical treatment, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, HIV, lupus, oral lichen planus, or Behçet’s disease.

2. Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers typically exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Painful sores that may appear yellow, white, or red.
  • Sores located on the inside of the mouth, including the tongue, cheeks, or lips.
  • Redness surrounding the sores.
  • Increased pain while eating, drinking, or talking.
  • Possibility of having multiple ulcers simultaneously.

Mouth ulcers are generally not contagious unless they are caused by an infection like hand, foot, and mouth disease.

3. Differentiating Mouth Ulcers from Cold Sores

While mouth ulcers and cold sores share some causes and symptoms, they can be differentiated easily. Mouth ulcers only appear inside the mouth, whereas cold sores primarily develop on or around the lips. Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters and are caused by the herpes virus, making them contagious. In contrast, most mouth ulcers are not contagious.

4. Types of Mouth Ulcers

There are different types of mouth ulcers, including canker sores and those caused by hand, foot, and mouth disease. The three main types of canker sores are:

  1. Minor Canker Sores: These small oval or round ulcers measure less than 5 millimeters (mm) and usually heal within 1 to 2 weeks without scarring. They are the most common type of canker sores, accounting for approximately 80% of cases.
  2. Major Canker Sores: Larger and deeper than minor canker sores, these ulcers often measure over 10 mm and may take weeks or months to heal. They can result in long-term scarring due to their size and depth.
  3. Herpetiform Canker Sores: These pinpoint-sized ulcers occur in clusters, frequently appearing on the tongue. Clusters may merge to form larger sores. Despite their name, herpetiform canker sores are not associated with herpes infection. They have irregular edges and typically heal within a month without scarring.

5. Diagnosis of Mouth Ulcers

Diagnosing mouth ulcers usually involves a visual examination by a doctor. In cases where individuals experience frequent or severe mouth ulcers, additional medical conditions may be investigated through further tests.

6. Treatment Options for Mouth Ulcers

In most cases, mouth ulcers do not require specific treatment and heal on their own. However, if the ulcers are recurrent, painful, or causing significant discomfort, several treatments and home remedies can help alleviate symptoms and expedite the healing process. These include:

  • Applying a paste made from baking soda to cover the ulcer.
  • Using other topical pastes for ulcer relief.
  • Placing milk of magnesia on the ulcer.
  • Rinsing the mouth with saltwater and baking soda solution.
  • Using a mouth rinse containing a steroid to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Applying ice to the ulcer.
  • Placing a damp tea bag on the ulcer.
  • Addressing nutrient deficiencies through supplements, particularly vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin B12, zinc, and iron.
  • Utilizing over-the-counter topical products like benzocaine-based ointments (e.g., Orajel and Anbesol).
  • Exploring natural remedies such as echinacea, myrrh, or licorice root in various forms like teas or oils.

7. Tips for Preventing Mouth Ulcers

While it may not always be possible to prevent mouth ulcers entirely, certain measures can help reduce their occurrence. Consider the following tips:

  • Avoid foods that irritate the mouth, such as acidic fruits, nuts, chips, and spicy food. Opt for whole grains, non-acidic fruits, and vegetables in a well-balanced diet. Taking a daily multivitamin supplement can also be beneficial.
  • Be mindful while eating to avoid accidental bites, especially while talking.
  • Manage stress effectively through relaxation techniques and stress-reducing activities.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene by regularly flossing and brushing after meals. Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid mouthwashes containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or alcohol.
  • Seek wax from your dentist to cover sharp edges of dental or orthodontic devices that might cause mouth injuries.
  • Ensure sufficient sleep and rest, as they contribute to overall well-being and may help prevent mouth ulcers.


In conclusion, mouth ulcers, or canker sores, are painful lesions that can significantly impact daily activities such as eating, drinking, and talking. While the exact causes of mouth ulcers are not definitively known, various triggers have been identified. The symptoms of mouth ulcers are characterized by painful sores within the mouth, and distinguishing them from cold sores is crucial. Treatment options for mouth ulcers aim to alleviate pain and promote healing, while preventive measures can help reduce their frequency. If you experience persistent, severe, or concerning mouth ulcers, it is advisable to consult a doctor or dentist for proper evaluation and guidance.