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Mouth Ulcers

Mouth Ulcers

Common Mouth Ulcer

Any break in the lining of the mouth is considered an ulcer. The inside of the mouth is incredibly sensitive and a break will expose the nerves that lie in and underneath it – the mouth ulcer is an exposed nerve.

The common mouth ulcer (minor aphthous) affects about 25% of the population, on occasion, and usually appears as a white, yellow or grey oval with an inflamed red edge. They usually appear inside the lips or cheeks, around or below the tongue – either singly or in crops of three or four. Although they should heal within 7-10 days, and are neither dangerous nor infectious, ulcers can be extremely painful, especially when agitated.

Injury to the mouth is a common cause of ulcers; accidental biting, or a sharp edge on a tooth damage the tissue of the mouth resulting in an ulcer. They may also be linked with general health issues such as hormonal imbalances, puberty, anaemia or diabetes and are often associated with stress and infection from viruses. They can be made worse by inflammation or a secondary infection.

Other Mouth Ulcers

Far less common is the major aphthous ulcer. Larger and usually occurring singly, they can last for up to a month, often leaving a small white scar.

Babies or young children may have ulcers as a result of an acute herpes infection and this condition usually clears up within 10 days.

There are other more serious causes of ulcers, including inflammatory bowel disease and immune disorders, but these are usually accompanied by other symptoms around the body.

The most serious mouth ulcer is that caused by oral cancer. Smoking, especially if combined with the heavy use of alcohol, significantly increases the likelihood of developing mouth cancer. Any mouth ulcer that does not heal within two weeks should be assessed by a dentist or a doctor without delay.

You Can Help – Your Responsibilities

  • Practise good dental hygiene, taking care not to damage teeth and gums
  • Regular dental check ups will help identify any problems at an early stage
  • A healthy diet will enable your immune system to stay strong and resist infections
  • Mouth ulcers normally heal themselves but while the mouth ulcer persists, avoid citrus or acid food and drink – these may make it more painful
  • Over the counter painkilling gel is available for mouth ulcers
  • A mouth ulcer that does not clear up as expected should be seen by your dentist. Most will not be cancer, but your dentist will assess whether the problem warrants further investigation by another specialist
  • Avoiding tobacco completely and drinking alcohol in moderation only will significantly reduce your risk of mouth cancer
  • They are often provoked by stress, fatigue or illness so look after your general health

What Your Dentist Can Offer

  • A thorough check up to ensure that there are no obvious causes for the ulcer such as rough edges or broken fillings.
  • In some cases we may refer you to an oral surgeon for a second opinion.


  • Oral Cancer Check Oral or mouth cancer is an abnormal growth that can occur in any part of the mouth.
  • Contact Us If you need advice on any matters please call us on 01932-220111 and our friendly staff will be pleased to help.