Mouth sores and inflammation are common health concerns that affect almost all people of any age. These sores can occur on the soft tissues of the mount like the cheeks, tongue, gums, the floor or roof of the mount. Some develop lesions on the esophagus and tube leading to the stomach.
Some people have redness and swelling of the lining of the mouth or painful, single ulcers. An ulcer is a kind of sore that forms a hole in the mouth’s lining. Mouth ulcers appear red, while others are white due to the dead cells and food debris in its center. Likewise, there may be blisters that are raised and filled with clear fluid. On rare occasions, the mouth may look healthy even if a person experiences symptoms of sores or inflammation.
Usually, mouth sores are just minor irritation that lasts for one or two weeks. But in some cases, ulcers and inflammation can indicate infection, certain types of viruses, or mouth cancer.
Causes of Swelling and Sores in the Mouth
There are several causes of mouth sores and inflammation. It can be due to minor causes or some severe illnesses. Here are the most common.
- Biting your cheek, tongue or lip
- Burn in your mouth
- Irritation from a sharp object such as dentures, retainers or dentures
- Using a very firm toothbrush or brushing too hard
- Chewing tobacco
- Having herpes simplex virus
Additionally, there is no specific cause of canker sores, and they are not contagious. Some people are more prone to having them because of the following reasons:
- Hormonal changes
- Weak immune system due to stress or illness
- Vitamin deficiency
- Intestinal Issues like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease
More so, inflammation and sores in the mouth may also be a reaction or due to the following health conditions:
- Cold Sores - appears in painful, red, and fluid-filled blisters on the lips or mouth. It can tingle or burn before a sore appears. It may be accompanied by mild, flu-like symptoms such as body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and low fever.
- Anemia - symptoms include pale skin and gums, fatigue, lightheadedness, increased or decreased blood pressure.
- Gingivostomatitis - is a common mouth and gum infection in children. Appears as tender sores on the insides of the cheeks and gums. It is yellowish or grayish on the outside and red on the inside. Often, it is accompanied by flu-like symptoms and can lead to drooling and pain.
- Oral Thrush - is a yeast infection that occurs inside the mouth and tongue. It is common in children and infants, but it may also affect adults with a weakened immune system. It appears as creamy white bumps on the tongue and inner cheeks, tonsils, and gums. Bumps can be painful, and there is a loss of taste and difficulty swallowing for people with oral thrush.
- Infectious mononucleosis- is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and affects high school and college students. Symptoms are sore throat, night sweats, fever, and body aches. The symptoms can last up to two months.
- Hand, foot, and mouth disease - it is common in children under five years. It develops as red, painful blisters in the mouth, tongue, and gums. There are also red spots on the palms, feet, and occasionally on the buttocks and genital area.
- Celiac Disease - it is an unusual immune system reaction to gluten, which causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. Symptoms differ and range in severity between children and adults. It may include weight loss, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, mouth sores, and skin rash.
- Cancer - mouth cancer affects all the working areas of the oral cavity, including your teeth, gums, tongue, cheeks, and about two-thirds of the roof and floor of the mouth. White and red patches, and ulcers that do not heal appear inside the mouth. Other symptoms include bleeding gums, weight loss, ear pain, and others.
Other causes include Autoimmune Disorders, bacterial, fungal or viral infection and a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or organ transplant.
Mouth sores can cause pain, especially when drinking or eating. It can be a burning or tingling sensation around the ulcerated area. Depending on the severity, size, or area of the sore, eating, drinking, talking, swallowing, or breathing can become difficult.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Based on common symptoms, you can easily tell that you have a mouth sore. Typical cases of sores and inflammation in the mouth fade soon. However, a further diagnosis might be required if you notice the following symptoms.
- White patches on your sores which could be signs of oral lichen planus or leukoplakia
- If you suspect herpes simplex or other infections
- Persistent sores that get worse after two weeks
- If you are taking medications
- If you started can treatment
- If you have organ transplant surgery
During your check-up, the doctor will examine your mouth, lips, and tongue. They may run some tests, and if they suspect cancer, they may perform a biopsy.
Treatment of Mouth Sores
Minor cases of mouth sores are usually cured within one to two weeks. But the symptoms can last for six weeks. There are also simple home treatments that may help lessen the pain and facilitate faster healing for your sores. What you can do at home to relieve the pain include the following:
- Gargle with saltwater
- Avoid picking at your sores and blister
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcoholic drinks
- Avoid hot, salty, spicy, high sugar foods
- Apply a thin layer of baking soda and water mix
- Take pain medication
- Dap on a solution from 1 part water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide
- Eat cold foods like sherbet and ice
Likewise, treatment may not be necessary for minor sores and inflammation. But for unusually large and painful cases, there are several treatment options you can try.
- Mouth Rinse - doctors may prescribe mouth rinse with steroid dexamethasone to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Topical Medications - OTC and topical prescription medication include gels, creams, and liquid. It may help lessen pain and fasten healing when applied soon as sores appear.
- Oral Medications - when canker sores are severe and are not getting better with topical medications, doctors may prescribe the use of oral medications. You may be prescribed to use drugs such as intestinal ulcer treatment and an oral steroid medication.
- Cautery of Sores - an instrument or a substance is used to sear, burn, or destroy mouth tissue affected with the sore. Using this may reduce healing time or relieve pain.
- Nutritional Supplements - doctors may prescribe supplements for patients who consume low amounts of vital nutrients like vitamin B6, B12 or zinc, and folic acid.
For mouth sores caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, doctors will provide the appropriate medication to treat the disease. In case they suspect cancer, and the biopsy yielded positive, you will undergo surgery or chemotherapy.
- Antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal medications - is given to patients when symptoms are caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Keep in mind that viruses will not respond to antibiotics or antifungal infections. In most cases, you will only need rest, supportive measures, and more fluids.
- Anti-inflammatory medication - these are used to treat multiple autoimmune diseases as well as primary dermatologic conditions. These are used to control inflammation and alleviate symptoms.
- Treatment of underlying cause - painful mouth sores caused by secondary causes like systemic diseases will only get better with proper diagnosis and treatment. Thus, you must go to your doctor for a follow-up.
- Cancer Therapy - if your mouth sores are due to cancer, your doctor will discuss treatment plans and options for you. It may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
What are the normal conditions?
Typically, minor mouth sore leaves no long-term effects on your mouth. Once they heal, they leave no scars on the insides of your mouth. If you have herpes simplex, sores may reappear from time to time. Likewise, severe cases of cold sores may scar. In some cases, outbreaks are more common. It is when you are under stress, you had too much sun exposure, weak immune system, or you have a break in the skin of your mouth.
In case of mouth cancer, long-term effects depend upon the severity, type of cancer, and the treatment plan you seek for your condition.
Risks of Having Mouth Sores and Inflammation
There is no specific way to prevent mouth sores. Everyone experiences having them at one point in their life. Your risks of getting this painful condition are higher if you have an underlying medical condition, weakened immune system, or exposed to potential causes. You can take simple steps to avoid getting them, such as:
- Chew your food slowly
- Avoid hot foods or drinks
- See your dentist if you have dental appliance or hardware
- Relax and de-stress
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and practice proper oral hygiene
- Take plenty of water
- Take vitamin supplements
- Eat a balanced diet
- Avoid food irritants like spicy foods
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol
- Use SPF 15 lip balm when under the sun
When to Seek Medical Attention
If your mouth sores are not going away despite home remedies, make an appointment with your doctor for proper diagnosis and explore other treatment options. Likewise, if you experience sores that are larger than half an inch in diameter, rash, frequent outbreaks, fever, diarrhea, and joint pain.