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Causes of mouth ulcers

Ulcers in the mouth are a common symptom of infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other underlying diseases and conditions. Mouth ulcers result from pathogens, such as fungi, viruses and bacteria, which inflame the lining of the mouth. This causes swelling, redness, and ulcer formation. The presense of these ulcers can range from being of little or no consequence, to the patient enduring a lot of discomfort.

Most minor, single mouth ulcers are caused by damage to the mouth, which can take place by accidentally biting the inside of your cheek while you are eating or perhaps from a sharp tooth, filling or from food.

These types of ulcers usually heal within a week or two and are not a sign of any serious problem.

What are the causes of recurrent mouth ulcers?

The cause of mouth ulcers that keep coming back is uncertain. Some of the factors that may trigger recurrent mouth ulcers are listed below:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Hormonal changes – some women develop mouth ulcers during their monthly period which quickly clear up in a few days
  • Eating certain foods – for example: peanuts, almonds, cheese, tomatoes, strawberries, wheat, flour, coffee and chocolate
  • Toothpaste additives – there is evidence to suggest that the additive sodium lauryl sulphate, found in some toothpastes, may cause or aggravate mouth ulcers in some people
  • Stopping smoking – when you first stop smoking, you can sometimes find you develop mouth ulcers. This can happen as a result of your body dealing with the change in chemicals in your body but do not be put off by this. The mouth ulcers will only be temporary and will soon disappear

Medical conditions

In some cases, recurrent mouth ulcers may be a sign of an underlying medical condition, some of which are listed below:

  • Viral infections – this included herpes simplex which is the cold sore virus; hand, foot and mouth disease and chickenpox
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency – this happens when a lack of vitamin B12 causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly
  • Coeliac disease – this is a common digestive condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten
  • Crohn's disease – this is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system
  • Reactive arthritis –  this is a condition that causes inflammation in various places in the body, usually as a reaction to an infection
  • Lichen planus – this is a non-infectious, itchy rash that can affect many areas of the body
  • Behçet's disease – this is a rare and poorly understood condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels
  • Immunodeficiency – this is when the body's immune system is suppressed or attacked: a good example of this is HIV or lupus

Usually, the vast majority of mouth ulcers clear up by themselves within a week or two. However, if your ulcer/s last any longer than three weeks please do make an appointment to see either Dr Jacobs or Dr Roy at Dental fx who will carefully examine you, ask questions and assess whether there is a need for further investigation. If you are at all unsure, please call us, we are here to help.

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