What causes mouth ulcers?

Most minor, single mouth ulcers are often caused through mechanical injury for example biting your cheek, not brushing correctly or could be caused through a sharp tooth or filling.  Re-current mouth ulcers can be a sign of an underlying medical problems such as iron or vitamin B12 defiency, crohns disease. Hormonal flucuations and not so good oral hygiene can all cause re-current mouth ulcers.


What are mouth ulcers?

Ulcers normally appear as small lesions that are painful they may be pink or white in colour. Mouth ulcers often cause pain and discomfort whilst eating, drinking and even talking. Although ulcers are uncomfortable they are usually harmless and will go after 1-2 weeks but if they take longer to heal then you must seek medical attention.


Types of ulcers

There are 3 main types of ulcers


1.Minor aphthous ulcer

These are the most common mouth ulcer. They are small, round or oval shaped less than 10mm in size and heal within 1-2 weeks.

  1. Major aphthous ulcer

This type of ulcer is larger in size, generally 10mm or larger, they usually appear 1 or 2 at a time and are deeper than minor ones. They can be very painful and take up to 6 weeks to heal.

  1. Herpetiform ulcer

This type of ulcer is when multiple ulcers occur at one time and join together which forms irregular shapes. Each ulcer can take 1 week to 2 months to heal.


Mouth ulcer symptoms

  • Redness, soreness tenderness, or burning sensation in the mouth
  • Swelling in the mouth around the sores
  • Pain whilst eating, drinking or speaking
  • Irritation by hot or spicy food or drinks

Causes of mouth ulcers

1.General causes

Mouth ulcers can be caused due to a variety of reasons such as poor oral hygiene, stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, hormonal changes such as menstruation, food allergies or sensitivities, family history of ulcers, deficiencies in vitamin B12, iron or folic acid and smoking

  1. Mechanical causes

Mouth ulcers can be caused from biting the inside of your cheek or tongue whilst chewing hard and/or hot food, improper brushing techniques (injury from a toothbrush), sharp teeth or tooth or poorly fitting dentures.

  1. Systemic causes
  • Microbial diseases

Herpetic stomatitis, chicken pox, TB (tuberculosis), HIV, hand, foot and mouth.

  • Gastrointestinal disease

Celiacs disease, crohns disease, ulcerative colitis.

  • Blood disorders

Anemia, Leukemia and neutropenia.  

  • Rheumatoid diseases

Lupus erythematosus, reiters disease and Bechets disease.

  • Cutaneous diseases

Pemphigus, chronic ulcerative stomatitus, licher planus erythem.

Some drugs and medications can also cause mouth ulcers such as ibuprofen, medication for treating angina, high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythm. Ulcer can also be a side effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Self care tips

The majority of ulcers tend to clear up by themselves within a few weeks. You can help ease the pain by using a soft toothbrush to brush teeth, avoiding hot, spicy and acidic food, using a straw to drink through, using lozengers, mouthwashes to ease the pain and aid healing. If self care tips do not help to aid the healing process then seek medical attention.