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.
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:
What Are the Causes?
There are several causes associated with it. These include:
What Are the Treatment Options?
There are several treatment modalities available:
What Are the Preventive Measures?
Patients and the general public can follow preventive measures like:
The main triggering factors of mouth ulcers are,
- Minor trauma (self bite, toothbrush injury, injury due to dentures, and high temperatures from hot food).
- Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Other triggers include,
- Weak immune system.
- Irritant food items like spice foods, coffee, and chocolate.
- Family history.
- Oral hygiene products consisting of sodium lauryl sulfate.
These triggers also act to prolong the healing of these ulcers.
Minor aphthous ulcers measure less than 5 mm in diameter, and major aphthous ulcers measure greater than 5 mm in diameter. They are somewhat circular or oval and range from pale yellow to gray with a red ring of inflammation. Some inflamed ulcers are reddish in appearance.
Aphthous ulcers are a kind of wound of the lining of the mouth. They get infected and swell up. They frequently get irritated by teeth, tongue, fingers, cutleries, and food or get bitten by mistake. All these lead to pain.
Minor aphthous ulcers heal within a week or a maximum of ten days. Major aphthae take several weeks (approximately two to four weeks) to heal.
Aphthous ulcers at times occur secondary to celiac diseases, Crohn’s disease, Behcet’s disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, diabetes, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection.
Mouth ulcers occur in people with autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Behcet’s syndrome, and Crohn’s disease. But these are not aphthous ulcers.
Aphthous ulcer is one of the lesions. Lesions mean the damage caused to the tissue due to a physical condition like trauma or injury and medical condition that can be inflammatory, infective, malignant, or pre-malignant in origin.
Tongue ulcers heal on their own without any intervention within two weeks. It differs from person to person. In some people, it heals within a week; in some, it may be prolonged. However, the maximum period of healing is two weeks.
Minor aphthous ulcers last for a week or ten days, and the duration of major aphthous ulcers range from two weeks to months.
Following measures must be taken to prevent aphthous ulcers to some extent.
- Living a stress-free life.
- Being careful while brushing or eating to avoid injuries to the lip, tongue, and inner cheek region.
- Correction of nutritional deficiencies.
- Management of systemic disorders.
- Avoiding foods that irritate the mouth’s lining like spicy foods, hard and crunchy foods, fruits like pineapple, lemon, orange, etc.
Medications like topical Lidocaine and Benzocaine numb the ulcer to reduce pain. Antiseptic mouthwashes like Chlorhexidine mouthwash, vitamin and mineral supplements, and topical steroids are prescribed for mouth ulcers.
Though there is no cure for aphthous ulcers, they regress within their designated duration. During their presence, symptoms of pain and discomfort can be managed with medications. Saltwater mouth rinse, anesthetic ointment application, and ice application can be done to relieve pain and swelling at home. In addition, identification and elimination of the trigger are necessary for rapid healing.
There is no treatment to cure aphthous ulcers in general. However, mouthwash with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties can be used. Chlorhexidine mouthwash, drinking cool water, and saltwater gargle help ease pain and discomfort. They heal on their own.
Last reviewed at:
10 May 2019 - 2 min read
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