Mouth Sores

Mouth Sores

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Alternative Name: Aphthous ulcers, canker sores, sprouts, and Indian they call it chhalas.

Terribly irritating, painful and repetitive, a mouth sore is an ulcer on the soft tissue inside your mouth — on the tongue, soft palate and inside the cheeks. Typically, you notice a burning sensation and a round whitish spot with a red edge or halo.

There are two types of mouth sores: Simple and complex. The former may appear three or four times a year and last 4 to 7 days. Complex canker sores are less common but much more of a problem. People with this condition may have sores 50 per cent of the time —as old sores heal, new ones appear.

The first occurrence is usually between the ages of 10 and 20, but it can occur in younger children as well. As a person reaches adulthood, the sores occur less frequently and may stop developing altogether. Women seem to get them more often than men, and they seem to run in families.

Despite a great deal of research, the cause of mouth sores remains a mystery. Current thinking suggests that stress or tissue injury may cause the eruption of common mouth sores.

Some researchers think certain foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes and some nuts may complicate the problem. A minor injury, such as biting the inside of your mouth, may trigger a canker sore.

Some cases of complex canker sores are caused by an underlying health condition, such as an impaired immune system; nutritional problems, such as vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron deficiency; and gastrointestinal tract disease, such as Celiac disease and Crohn's disease.

Some women may develop mouth sores as a part of the pre-menstrual syndrome. Stress appears to be a major player. Mouth sores are common during exam days and may follow a bout of illness or fever.


    Symptoms usually begin with pain or burning, followed in 1 to 2 days by an ulcer. There is never a blister. Pain is severe.

  • Ulcers appear as shallow, round or oval spots with a yellow-gray center and a red border. They are usually than inch (1 centimeters) in diameter.

  • The ulcers almost always form on soft, loose tissue such as that on the inside of the lip or cheek, on the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the soft palate, or in the throat.

  • Larger ulcers are less common; these are irregularly shaped, can take many weeks to heal, and frequently leave scars.

  • People with a severe outbreak may also have a fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and a generally run-down feeling.


The physical examination is usually the most useful and revealing part of the mouth sore diagnosis. The physician will look for small red ulcers covered in a gray-yellow coating, possibly encircled in a halo of white or red. She will also identify where in the mouth the lesions occur. There are several visual cues that can help make the physician make the diagnosis.

There is no specific blood test for a canker sore, but the physician will likely take some blood tests to rule out other causes of mouth sores. These tests usually include a complete blood count (measures the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the blood) and a hemoglobin test. Abnormalities in these blood tests may lead to further diagnostic tests. Serum antiendomysial antibody, antigliadin antibody and transglutaminase assay may be performed if celiac disease is suspected. Often the blood levels of several key vitamins are measured including Vitamin B12, folate (folic acid), and iron. While a vitamin deficiency does not necessary confirm a mouth sore diagnosis, it can be highly suggestive.

A biopsy and examination under microscope is usually needed when the ulcers are very severe.


There is no known cure for either simple or complex mouth sores. But the following remedies provide relief:

    Soothe the sores. Apply boroglycerine using cotton buds. It will provide good relief. You may also use ghee or butter oil.

  • Use ice. Ice will soothe the sores.

  • Use special lozenges. Your dentist or physician may recommend hydrocortisone lozenges to speed up the healing process.

  • For a severe attack, your doctor may also recommend a prescription mouthwash, a corticosteroid salve or an anaesthetic solution.

  • Mouth rinses. Add half-a-teaspoon of table salt to a cup of lukewarm water and rinse your mouth. Repeat every few hours. This may sting a bit. Bland mouth rinses also help to keep the ulcers clean.

  • Take vitamin pills. Use a multivitamin pill, one a day, to tide over the sores. The basis being vitamins could nullify the ill-effects of stress.

  • Avoid abrasive, acidic or spicy foods.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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