Most mouth ulcers naturally disappear after two to three weeks and don't need specific treatment. They’ll usually heal naturally without treatment if they occur only occasionally and only cause mild discomfort.
Mouth ulcers are also known as apthous ulcers. They’re very common with most people having at least one during their lifetime. They're particularly common in women and young adults. Mouth ulcers can’t be transferred from person to person.
Symptoms of mouth ulcers:
- aching inside the mouth
- swollen skin around the sore
- problems occur when chewing or tooth brushing
- loss of appetite
Causes of mouth ulcers:
- Nutrition deficiency such as iron, vitamin C and B12
- Food triggers such as peanuts, tomatoes, strawberries, cheese
- Stress can also exacerbate mouth ulcers
- Hormonal imbalance for women
- Hand foot mouth syndrome
- Poor oral hygiene
- Accidental biting of cheek
- Broken chipped tooth
- Viral infection
- Autoimmune disease
- Coeliac disease
- Reaction to medication
Outcome: A sore mouth which can give either constant pain or pain when eating. Occasionally some ulcers can cause itching and irritation, rather than pain and usually heal after two to three weeks. If they don’t naturally go you should see your dentist to get them checked out!
Treatment: If the ulcer is caused by a chipped tooth seek dental treatment. Whilst the ulcer is uncomfortable some simple home remedies include:
- Infusion of coriander or turmeric boiled in water, allowed to cool and gently sipped several times a day.
- Coconut milk or tomato juice sipped regularly can also help.
- Crushed pineapple eaten slowly several times a day.
If your ulcer is painful, your GP or dentist can prescribe a medication to help ease your symptoms. You can also buy mouth ulcer medicines over the counter without a prescription at your local pharmacy.
Speak to your pharmacist about which medicine would be most suitable for you. Some mouth ulcer gels aren't suitable for children under 16.
Types of medicines used to treat mouth ulcers include:
There are a number of these on the market and most can be bought over the counter at your local pharmacy. Antimicrobial mouthwash will help to kill bacteria, viruses or fungi that may cause a mouth infection, particularly if you're unable to brush your teeth properly. The most commonly used mouthwash for this condition is chlorhexidine gluconate. You normally have to use it twice a day. Children should not be given chlorohexine mouthwash. NOTE this mouth wash may stain the teeth, cleaning your teeth prior to use will help prevent this but ALWAYS follow your dentist’s instructions.
Mouth ulcer medications contain a low dose of corticosteroid to make the ulcer less painful. It's best to start using corticosteroid medication as soon as a mouth ulcer develops. Caution: children who are under 12 shouldn’t use this cream.
The way corticosteroid medication acts is to reduce inflammation. Hydrocortisone is the most commonly prescribed corticosteroid. It comes as a lozenge, which you should allow to slowly dissolve in your mouth. These are normally taken four times a day.
Should your mouth ulcer be very painful, your GP may prescribe a painkiller. Benzydamine mouthwash or spray is most commonly used, for no more than seven days.
The mouthwash form of benzydamine may sting or feel numb when you first use it, but this should lessen with continued use. Should symptoms persist contact your pharmacist or GP.