Mouth ulcers, also known as canker sores or aphthous ulcers, are shallow, painful sores that can develop on the inside of the mouth, including the lips, cheeks, tongue, and soft palate. They can be caused by various factors, and while they are often benign and heal on their own, they can sometimes be associated with underlying medical conditions. Mouth ulcers can be a symptom or result from the following:
- Minor Trauma: Accidental biting of the cheek, tongue, or lip, or minor injuries to the mouth’s lining can lead to the formation of mouth ulcers.
- Stress and Anxiety: Emotional stress and anxiety can contribute to the development of mouth ulcers in some individuals.
- Diet and Nutrition: Nutritional deficiencies, particularly deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid, can be a factor in mouth ulcer development.
- Food Allergies: Some people may experience mouth ulcers as a result of food allergies or sensitivities, especially to certain acidic or spicy foods.
- Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those occurring during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, can be associated with mouth ulcer outbreaks in some individuals.
- Infections: Viral or bacterial infections, such as herpes simplex virus (cold sores) or bacterial infections, can lead to mouth ulcers.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are forms of IBD, can sometimes be associated with mouth ulcers.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like Behçet’s disease, lupus, or celiac disease may include mouth ulcers as a symptom.
- Medications: Some medications, particularly those that can irritate the mouth’s lining, may lead to mouth ulcers as a side effect.
- Dental Appliances: The presence of sharp or ill-fitting dental appliances, such as braces or dentures, can cause friction and lead to the development of mouth ulcers.
- Chemotherapy: Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can cause mouth ulcers as a side effect.
- Other Local Factors: Poor oral hygiene, the use of tobacco or alcohol, or exposure to irritants can contribute to mouth ulcer development.
While most mouth ulcers heal within one to two weeks and do not require medical treatment, persistent or severe ulcers, those associated with other concerning symptoms, or recurrent ulcers may warrant a medical evaluation. In such cases, a healthcare professional can assess the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment. If you experience recurring or painful mouth ulcers, it’s a good idea to consult a dentist or a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and management.