If you’ve ever experienced a mouth ulcer, you’ll know just how painful and irritating they can be.
They’re an irritating health issue to deal with, but are more common than you’d think and can actually occur for a number of different reasons. According to the NHS in the United Kingdom, it can be a sign of hand, foot and mouth disease, as well as oral lichen planus in extreme cases.
While those cases are rare, ulcers typically develop as a result of another smaller problem. For some, a change in hormone levels can trigger the painful blisters to form, while for other people, they have a family history of mouth ulcers and get them more regularly.
Sometimes a mouth ulcer is just a simple side effect of a more serious, long-term condition. This may include Behcet’s disease, where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells, inflammatory bowel disease, which causes problems along the digestive tract, and coeliac disease, which can prevent the body from absorbing vital nutrients.
A lack of vitamin B12 and iron deficiency can also cause the blisters to form, while a range of medications can also contribute to their development.
In other cases, mouth ulcers can form as a direct result of the things people put inside their mouths. For some, ill-fitted dentures can rub on the gums and cheeks, causing an ulcer to form. Brushing your teeth too hard can also lead to irritation, while burning your mouth with hot foods or drinks is another contributing factor.
If you’re the kind of person who accidently bites your tongue or catches the inside of your cheek with your teeth, this may also trigger an ulcer.
While painful, ulcers usually go away on their own. It is important to seek medical assistance if an ulcer remains in your mouth after three weeks, or if it becomes swollen, red or filled with pus. This can be a sign of infection and you may require medication and further treatment to help it get better. In extreme cases, an ulcer that sticks around for long periods of time can be a sign of mouth cancer.
The easiest way to help heal an ulcer is to avoid irritation to the affected area. This isn’t always easy, especially because we’re regularly eating and using our mouths. Where possible, try and use a soft toothbrush and eat soft foods. It’s also important to drink cool drinks and plenty of water, to ensure that bacteria is continually washed away from the area.
Eating a balanced diet of healthy foods can also help, while it’s also important to get regular check-ups with a dental health professional. It’s important to stay away from salty, spicy and acid foods if you have an ulcer, as this may delay the healing process even further.
Where possible, avoid rough foods and stay away from juices and drinks that are high in acids. It’s also a good idea to avoid chewing gum and to instead keep the mouth clean with the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes, gels or sprays. It’s also important to realise that ulcers aren’t contagious and you can’t catch them from somewhere else, as you would a coldsore.