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Mouth Sores: Causes, Treatment, Cost and Home remedies

Last Updated: Mar 15, 2022

What is a mouth sore?

A mouth sore is a small, shallow sore that can appear on any of the soft tissues, floor and roof of your mouth, on lips and cheeks or at the base of your gums. In some cases, you can develop sores on the oesophagus, the tube leading to your stomach. Mouth sores are generally harmless and last for about two weeks. However, in extreme cases, they can be a sign of mouth cancer.

You must consult a doctor if you experience sores that are more than half an inch in diameter, rashes, joint pains, diarrhoea or fever. Mouth sores can occur if you bite your tongue, cheek or lip, chew tobacco, brush your teeth too hard or use a very hard bristled tooth brush. They may also occur if you have braces, retainers or dentures. Minor mouth sores go away naturally but major ones might need to be treated.

What do mouth ulcers look like?

Mouth ulcers or sores usually develop on the soft tissue region in the mouth including lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and floor as well as the roof of the mouth. These may be a result of weakened immunity or exposure to the herpes simplex virus.

Mouth ulcers appear as round or oval-shaped sores. These are with a white or yellow-colored center, surrounded by a red border of inflamed tissue.

Summary: Mouth sores appear round or oval-shaped with a white or yellow colored center surrounded by a red border. These look like small bumps on the soft tissue or mucosa inside the oral cavity.

Are mouth sores serious?

Mouth sores are not always serious. Mild cases are accompanied by the appearance of small-sized sores which are not recurrent. These are not as painful and get healed spontaneously without undergoing treatment. On the other hand, there are cases associated with serious symptoms of mouth sores.

The size of the sores in such cases are larger i.e more than half an inch. These larger sores being painful cause difficulty in eating, swallowing, breathing, or speech. They show frequent outbreaks as well as recurrence and may be associated with fever or diarrhoea and rashes.

Summary: Mouth sores get resolved easily when accompanied by mild symptoms. But it becomes serious and recurrent when the symptoms are severe including the larger size of the sores associated with pain, fever, diarrhoea, and difficulty in breathing, eating, or swallowing.

What causes mouth sores?

There can be several reasons which can cause mouth sores and the usual reason can be:

  • If your mouth gets burnt
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Get your tongue bitten
  • If you brush your teeth too hard or if your toothbrush is very hard
  • If you get irritated with any kind of sharp objects like braces or dentures.

There can be some other causes as well that can also cause mouth sores:

  • Prescription medications or over-the-top medications
  • Gingivostomatitis
  • Oral thrush
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • An autoimmune disorder
  • Cancer
  • Celiac disease
  • Bacterial infection
  • Fungal infection
  • Viral infection
  • A weak immune system

Why won't my mouth sores go away?

Healing of mouth sores usually takes 10 to 14 days in mild cases. But when the condition varies from being moderate to severe, it may take around six or more weeks to recover. Such cases do not resolve spontaneously and require serious treatment under the supervision of a doctor.

Mouth sores occur again and again and do not go away in the following conditions:

  • Repetitive biting of tongue, lips, or cheeks
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Prolonged irritation after wearing dentures, braces, or retainers
  • Using a hard toothbrush
  • Exposure to herpes simplex virus
  • Persisting physiological abnormalities like irritable bowel syndrome
  • Stressful mode of life
Summary: Mouth sores are recurrent in some conditions including the prolonged wearing of dentures, braces or retainers, repetitive biting of the tongue, lips, or cheeks, or frequent exposure to the herpes simplex virus. Elimination of causative factors is important to prevent a recurrence.

Do mouth sores need to be diagnosed?

Though mouth sores can get treated on their own and needs a bit of handling sometimes they can get worse, thus the real reason needs to be diagnosed. These are situations for which you should need to go to the doctor:

  • White-colored patches on the sores
  • If you have been suspected with herpes simplex or another infection
  • If you have started taking cancer treatment
  • If you have recently gone through any transplant surgery
  • If you have changed your medication or if any medicine is not suiting

Should I see a doctor or dentist for mouth sores?

Consultation with a doctor or dentist is not required in all cases of mouth sores. Mild cases get recovered easily within 10 to 14 days without seeing a doctor. However, severe cases need the same. Following are the indications for urgent medical attention in case of mouth sores:

  • The occurrence of white patches in the region of sores may be an indication of leukoplakia and oral lichen planus.
  • Infection with herpes simplex virus
  • Sores that are persistent and do not resolve spontaneously
  • Need of a new medication
  • The affected individual has recently undergone transplant surgery
Summary: Mild cases of mouth sores are resolved easily without any treatment, but cases other than that should undergo on-time treatment under the supervision of a doctor or dentist. Delayed treatment may lead to complications like mouth cancer.

Do mouth ulcers get bigger as they heal?

In the first stage of healing, ulcers are not yet formed and are associated with the presence of a burning or prickling type of sensations in the affected area. This is known as the prodromal stage which marks the beginning of the ulcer's healing.

The second stage is characterized by an increase in the size of the formed ulcer. This is the painful phase in which ulcers are formed having a yellow-grey center and surrounded by the red border. In the next and final stage, the pain subsides and the ulcer starts to shrink as a result of the healing process.

How are mouth sores treated?

Mouth sores get treated by themselves within 10-14 days and they last up to six weeks. They get healed by themselves but if it is taking much time then you can do some treatments for them to be healed:

  • You can avoid eating hot and spicy, high sugar foods, salty and citrus food
  • Avoid eating tobacco
  • Try doing gargles with lukewarm and salty water to seek some relief from pain
  • Taking medication for pain which includes acetaminophen
  • You can also treat them by applying baking soda and water paste
  • Avoid squeezing or picking the blisters as it can worsen the condition
  • If mouth sores still not get healed by doing all these treatment then you can visit the doctor and take medications prescribed by them which can be a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory drug, or steroidal gel.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Make sure that you consume a healthy and balanced diet while avoiding junk food. Avoid very hot food and drinks. Chew the food slowly. Do not smoke or chew tobacco.

Drink plenty of your water to hydrate your body and mouth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush your teeth gently. Protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun while stepping out.

When should I be worried about mouth sores?

Mouth sores are one of the commonly faced ailments occurring on the soft tissue region of the mouth including lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, etc. These are associated with pain and inflammation.

Difficulty in eating, drinking, breathing, or speech is a common symptom that can be overcome easily over a certain time period. However, the following are the symptoms that can make us worry and require a doctor’s consultation:

  • The size of the sores is larger i.e the diameter is more than half an inch
  • Occurrence of frequent outbreaks
  • Pain in the joints
  • Fever and diarrhoea
  • Appearance of rashes
Summary: Mouth sores are a common ailment affecting mainly soft tissue parts in the mouth such as the tongue, lips, cheeks, gums, etc. These are associated with pain and inflammation and are quite treatable depending upon the severity of symptoms.

How to get rid of mouth sores?

Most mouth sores go naturally in some time. If you do not want to go through medications, you can wait for them to disappear on their own.

Can mouth sores be prevented?

These are the ways in which mouth ulcers can be prevented:

  • By chewing your food slowly
  • By not eating spicy or salty food
  • Use a soft toothbrush and keep dental hygiene
  • Eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water
  • Stop smoking and tobacco
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol
  • Do not let your body to remain in stress for a longer period of time
  • Start taking vitamins such as vitamin B supplements

What vitamins prevent mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers can be prevented by the consumption of immunity-boosting herbs and adequate vitamins in the form of supplements. These should be incorporated into the regular diet so as to strengthen the immune system and prevent mouth sores-like conditions. Some of the preferred vitamins, as well as herbs, include:

  • Vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin A - Among vitamins, folic acid (Vit.B9) and thiamine (Vit. B1) are the most important which accelerate the healing process and also prevent the condition
  • Zinc
  • Herbs like Astragalus, Echinacea, and Wild Indigo
Summary: Prevention of mouth ulcers is possible by incorporating vitamins and herbs as supplements in our regular diet. These boost the immune system and enhance the resistance of our body against mouth sores like infections.

How long does it take to recover?

The time period of recovery depends on the severity of your condition. Most sores go away in about two weeks.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

One session of consultation with a doctor may cost you between ₹200 - ₹600. The cost of acetaminophen may be around ₹100 per 500ml.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Mouth sores may occur again if you go through the same conditions again.

Mouth sores home remedies:

These are the ways in which we can get rid of mouth sores at home:

  • Alum Powder: This is very useful during mouth sores as it is made of potassium aluminum sulfate which is used for food reservations. Alum consists of astringent properties and which helps in shrinking down the tissues and also dries them out. You can directly apply alum powder on the mouth sores and repeat until they are gone.
  • Rinsing mouth with salt water: This is one of the best things that can be done for painful mouth sores. Saltwater helps in the drying up of the canker mouth sores. You can dissolve salt in the water and swirl that in your mouth. Repeating it 2-3 times a day helps get rid of them rapidly.
  • Rinsing the mouth with baking soda: Baking soda helps in restoring the pH balance of the mouth and also reduces inflammation. It heals the mouth sores very fast. You can dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in ½ cup water and swirl it in the mouth. Repeat it 3-4 times a day.
  • Honey: It is full of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and honey helps in getting rid of the pain, redness, and also prevents secondary infection which sores can cause.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties and it prevents bacteria from spreading. The anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil help in the reduction of pain and redness.
  • Milk of magnesia: This consists of magnesium hydroxide which works as a laxative and an acid neutralizer. It does not let the mouth sores thrive for a much longer period of time.
  • Mouthwashes: Different kinds of mouthwashes include sage mouthwash, DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) mouth wash, apple cider vinegar mouthwash. All of these are helpful in the removal of sores from the mouth.
Summary: Mouth sores are a commonly occurring ailment, characterized by the presence of sores or ulcers in the soft tissue area of the mouth including lips, cheeks, tongue, etc. These are quite painful and discomforting. The condition can heal spontaneously in case of mild symptoms while symptoms in moderate or severe cases require urgent medical care and attention.


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Written ByDr. Shivam Malhotra Sleep Medicine(Training),MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery,MD - General MedicineGeneral Physician
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