It’s not until you develop a mouth ulcer that you recall just how painful and problematic they can be. Even if you’ve experienced them on countless occasions before, the pain and discomfort never fail to take you by surprise.
Research suggests that around 10% of adults are affected by mouth ulcers on a regular basis. Most of which are no direct cause for concern, but can nonetheless cause issues with eating, drinking, speaking and even sleeping.
So it’s worth getting to know what mouth ulcers are all about, if they’re a part of your life you’d prefer to live without.
What Is A Mouth Ulcer?
Without getting too scientific, a mouth ulcer is simply an open sore that can develop anywhere on the skin inside your mouth. In most instances, mouth ulcers occur as a result of direct injury or trauma (such as biting your cheek) or due to hormonal changes due to stress, anxiety, depression or illness. It’s also possible for poor hygiene to increase the likelihood of developing mouth ulcers.
A mouth ulcer can typically be identified as an oval or circular spot, which has a red edge and a white or grey colour inside. They range in size significantly and can stick around from just a few days right up to several weeks. It’s possible for a mouth ulcer to appear anywhere in the mouth – you may also develop multiple mouth ulcers at the same time.
While mouth ulcers in general are benign and pose no specific threat to your health, this doesn’t mean they aren’t quite awful to live with. Using a strong antiseptic mouthwash or powerful electric toothbrush while dealing with a mouth ulcer being a recipe for pure agony.
Nevertheless, there are ways and means to prevent mouth ulcers from occurring in the first place. It’s simply a case of building a better understanding of their most common causes.
What Are the Causes of Mouth Ulcers?
There are various known triggers for mouth ulcers, some of which are more common than others. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly possible for mouth ulcers to simply appear out of nowhere, for no specific reason.
If you suffer from particularly severe mouth ulcers or experience them on a regular basis, it’s worth speaking to your doctor just in case. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed, which could solve the problem and prevent them from coming back.
Generally speaking, however, the vast majority of mouth ulcers can be attributed to one of the following common causes:
- Trauma and injury inside the mouth
- The friction caused by braces or other dental work
- A compromised immune system
- Stress, anxiety and illness
- Excessive consumption of acidic foods
- Consumption of spicy foods
- Insufficient vitamin and mineral intake
- Medications with known side-effects
- Aggressive brushing with a hard toothbrush
- Poor oral hygiene
There are also several habits that can increase the likelihood of developing mouth ulcers, which include biting your nails and putting your fingers in your mouth. The more germs and bacteria you introduce to your mouth, the more likely you are to develop issues like these.
Once again however, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor or dentist if you’re in any way concerned about mouth ulcers. If nothing else, they will be able to point you in the direction of an effective treatment to help relieve your pain and discomfort.
How To Prevent Mouth Ulcers
In some instances, there’s nothing you can do to prevent mouth ulcers from forming. They simply appear out of nowhere and stick around for as long as they intend to. Nevertheless, mouth ulcers are often preventable through simple lifestyle tweaks.
So if an underlying health issue has been ruled out of the equation, it’s worth trying the following methods that can both prevent mouth ulcers and assist the healing process when they occur:
- Switch to a toothbrush with soft bristles and ensure you use a gentle action when brushing your teeth. Better yet, invest in a high-quality electric toothbrush recommended by dentists with a sensitive setting.
- Consider switching to a toothpaste and mouthwash that are designed specifically for sensitive mouths. Once again, you can ask your dentist or pharmacist for their own professional recommendations.
- When your mouth is free from painful ulcers, a strong antibacterial mouthwash can be great for keeping germs and bacteria at bay. Though you may find the most powerful mouthwash products on the market too painful to use if you have mouth ulcers at the time.
- Spicy and acidic foods are known to increase the risk of mouth ulcers for some people, so should be avoided if you develop sores on a regular basis. They should also be avoided to minimise pain and discomfort during the healing process.
- Try to avoid biting your nails or putting your fingers anywhere near your mouth, unless they have been thoroughly washed beforehand.
- There are plenty of pain-relieving gels and creams available that can minimise discomfort and assist with the healing process. Once again however, you need to ensure that they are only ever applied after washing your hands with an antibacterial product.
- Over-the-counter painkillers are also an option, but should be used under advisement from your doctor or pharmacist.
- Avoid anything excessively hot, which could cause further damage to the sensitive skin in and around the sore.
Surprisingly, chewing sugar free gum can also be an effective way to keep mouth ulcers at bay. The reason being that saliva is your mouth’s number one natural defence, helping maintain a healthy balance and keeping things under control.
If all else fails, speak to your doctor about your mouth ulcers and they’ll advise you accordingly.
Sadly, there’s no silver-bullet ‘cure’ for mouth ulcers and nor is there an effective way of eliminating them overnight. Nevertheless, there’s plenty you can do to reduce the pain and discomfort during the healing process, or even avoid developing them in the first place.