What Causes Ulcers in the Mouth

All about Oral Ulcers – Oral ulcers are small lesions that occur in the mouth, inside the cheeks or at the base of the gums. They are not contagious and usually disappear within two weeks, but cause discomfort to eat, drink or talk.

What Causes Ulcers in the Mouth
What Causes Ulcers in the Mouth?



The main types of oral ulcers are:

  • Minor ulcers: Approximately 2 to 8 millimeters in diameter and take from 10 to 14 days to heal
  • Major ulcers: These are larger and deeper, often with a raised or irregular border. This type of ulcer can take several weeks to heal and there is a risk of a scar left in the mouth
  • Herpetiform ulcers: This type of ulcer is a set of dozens of smaller wounds the size of pinheads.



There is no exact cause for oral ulcers. However, some factors can lead to the problem. Are they:

  • Minor injuries caused by flossing, hard brushing, biting of the cheek and sports injuries
  • Toothpaste or mouthwashes containing sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sensitivity to acidic foods such as lemon, pineapple, and others
  • Allergic response to mouth bacteria
  • Lack of essential vitamins such as vitamin B12
  • Hormonal changes due to the menstrual cycle
  • Stress
  • Bacterial, viral or fungal infections.

Mouth ulcers can also be a symptom of more serious problems that require medical treatment, they are:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Bechets disease
  • Problems in the immune system
  • HIV.

By quitting smoking people can develop oral ulcers more often for a while. Some medications, including common painkillers, beta-blockers and some targeted for cases of chest pain can cause oral ulcers.


Risk factors

Women and people with a family history of oral ulcers are at greater risk of developing the problem.


Symptoms of Oral Ulcers

Some symptoms of which you have oral ulcers are:

  • Painful wound inside the mouth, on the tongue, back of the roof of the mouth or cheeks
  • Wounds in the mouth that are round, white or gray, with red border
  • Fever
  • Physical slowness
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes.


Seeking medical help

Seek medical help if the oral ulcer lasts for more than three weeks, comes back often, is very large, causes a lot of pain, or leads to a high fever.


At the medical appointment

Specialists who can diagnose an oral ulcer include:

  • General practitioner
  • Dental surgeon
  • Gastroenterologist.

Being prepared for the appointment can facilitate diagnosis and optimize time. That way, you can already get the query with some information:

  • A list of all the symptoms and how long they appeared
  • Medical history, including other conditions the patient has, and medications or supplements that he or she takes regularly
  • If possible, ask a person to accompany you.

The doctor will probably ask a series of questions, such as:

  • How long have you had an oral ulcer?
  • Is this the first time you have this problem?
  • How are your eating habits?
  • Do you have any other health problems?
  • Do you use any medication?


Diagnosis of Oral Ulcers

The doctor or dental surgeon is able to diagnose the ulcers in the mouth only with the visual examination. If they are frequent, the person can be tested for other conditions.


Treatment of Oral Ulcers

Oral ulcers usually end up without treatment within two weeks. However, if an oral ulcer is persistent, painful or large some measures can be taken:

  • Use of sodium bicarbonate
  • Use milk of magnesia in the wound
  • Use benzocaine
  • Apply ice on site
  • Use rinses with steroids
  • Use topical pastes
  • Cauterization on site
  • Take nutritional supplements, if the cause is the lack of some nutrient
    Use some natural remedies like chamomile tea and licorice.


Medications for Oral Ulcers

An oral ulcer can have several causes, so treatment varies according to the diagnosis established by the doctor. Therefore, only a trained specialist can tell you which drug is most appropriate for your case, as well as the correct dosage and duration of treatment.



It is possible to prevent oral ulcers, some measures that avoid the problem are:

Avoid acidic foods, condiments or other that may cause irritation
Make good oral hygiene.