Dental & Oral Health

Aphthous Ulcers - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Written by
Dr. Soheel Hussain Zargar
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published on May 10, 2019   -  2 min read



Majority of people complain that they have difficulty eating due to pain from an injury in the mouth. This injury is more commonly due to an ulcer, which is medically referred to as aphthous ulcer or canker sores.

Aphthous Ulcers - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Majority of people complain that they have difficulty eating due to pain from an injury in the mouth. This injury is more commonly due to a mouth ulcer, which is medically referred to as aphthous ulcer or canker sores. This is the most common type of ulcer found in the oral cavity and is primarily located on the soft tissues like underneath the tongue, lips, and oral mucosa like cheeks.

This ulcer can be identified easily due to its location and shape, which is mostly well circumscribed and measures around 5 mm or more. Ulcers less than 5 mm occur in clusters, but in case the ulcer is large, then it occurs either singly or in pairs. In some cases, many small ulcers fuse and form a large irregular ulcer, which resembles the irregularly shaped ulcer of herpes.

Most widely found ulcer is recurrent aphthous stomatitis, which occurs for 7 to 10 days and then disappears. This period is associated with all symptoms of an ulcer.

What Are the Common Symptoms?

The common symptoms of the ulcer are:

  • Pain and burning in the mouth.
  • Difficulty in eating.
  • Difficulty in taking hot liquids and spicy foods.
  • Fever and lymphadenopathy in some cases.
  • Dehydration due to inability to eat properly.

What Are the Causes?

There are several causes associated with it. These include:

  1. Emotional stress among young age groups like relationship affair.
  2. Poorly fitting dentures, abrasions, and injuries to the oral mucosa.
  3. Underlying diseases like Crohn's disease.
  4. Vitamin deficiency diseases.
  5. Pregnancy and associated hormonal changes.
  6. Using mouthwashes and toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate.
  7. Patients allergic to foods like eggs.
  8. Genetic factors.
  9. Frequent oral sex damaging the epithelial lining of the mucosa.

What Are the Treatment Options?

There are several treatment modalities available:

  • Use of topical corticosteroids like Triamcinolone gel three times daily for 5 to 7 days.
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash daily for 5 to 7 days to prevent infection of the ulcer.
  • Antibiotics are prescribed if the patient has fever and lymph node enlargement.
  • Vitamin supplementation.
  • Treatment of underlying cause.

What Are the Preventive Measures?

Patients and the general public can follow preventive measures like:

  • Stop smoking, as it increases the incidence of aphthous ulcers in susceptible patients.
  • Avoid taking hot liquids and foods.
  • Use properly fit dentures.
  • Avoid oral sex, as it can damage the epithelium of the mucous membranes. It can result in severe infections like syphilis and gonorrhea.
  • Avoid stress and anxiety. If you frequently get ulcers, consult a psychologist.
  • If you develop ulcer after using toothpaste or mouthwash, then stop using it.
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers should take proper diet to ensure balanced nutrient supply, as they are susceptible.
  • Treatment of underlying diseases like Crohn's disease.
Last reviewed at:
10 May 2019  -  2 min read




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