Mouth Ulcers or Canker Sores are small, painful lesions or sores in your mouth that can develop in the oral cavity or on the base of your gums.

They can often make drinking, eating, and talking uncomfortable.

Females, young adults, and those with a family history of mouth ulcers are at a higher risk of developing them.

These ulcers are not contagious and usually go away with a week or two.

Mouth ulcers may range in size and the exact symptoms depend on the type of ulcer you have.

However, if you develop a canker sore that is large or causes severe pain, or it tends to last longer than 1 to 2 months, then you should seek medical advice.

Moreover, it is important to note that they are different from cold sores.

Read on to learn about the types, causes, symptoms, and more about mouth ulcers.

Types of Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers usually appear on the inner cheeks and can last for 1 or 2 weeks.

Some may also appear on the tongue i.e tongue ulcers.

Most of them are harmless and clear up without any medications or medical treatment.

There are 3 types of mouth ulcers and include:

Herpetiform Ulceration, HU

A herpetiform ulcer is a subtype of aphthous ulcer and they get this name because they resemble the sores associated with herpes.

However, they are not contagious like herpes.

HU ulcers recur quickly and may appear as a condition that never gets better.

mouth ulcers 1

Minor Ulcers

These types of ulcers can range in size ranging from 2 millimeters or 2 mm to 8mm across.

These types can take up to 2 weeks to get better and may also cause minor pain.

Major Ulcers

These ulcers are bigger than minor ulcers and are often irregular in shape.

You might notice them be raised and penetrate deeper into the tissues than minor ulcers.

Moreover, they can take more than 2 or longer weeks to go away and can also leave a scar on the tissue when they clear.

Causes of Mouth Ulcers

Doctors or dentists have not been able to identify the exact causes of mouth ulcers, however, the causes may vary from one person to another.

There are certain factors that can aggravate mouth ulcers.

These are as follows:

Smoking, citrus foods, and the ones that are highly acidic or spicy, biting the tongue or insides of your cheeks.

mouth ulcers causes

Braces, poor-fitting dentures, and other dentistry apparatus that may rub against your mouth or gums.

A poor or deficient filling, stress, anxiety, hormonal changes during pregnancy, puberty or menopause, certain medications, or genetic factors are all causes of mouth ulcers.

Learn more about fillings and dentures here.

In some cases, mouth ulcers can develop as a result of medical conditions or nutritional deficiency.

For instance, medical conditions like Celiac or Crohn’s disease, vitamin B12, or iron deficiency or weak immune system can all trigger ulcers to form.

Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers

Ulcers can be painful and can cause drinking, eating, and talking difficult. Moreover, you might also have difficulty maintaining oral hygiene.

HU lesions may:

  • appear severely painful
  • recur quickly making the infection continues
  • take more than 10 days to heal
  • increase in size and eventually form a large and ragged ulcer together
  • appear everywhere in your mouth.

Moreover, HU lesions are present more in women than men and are common in older adults.

Symptoms of Minor and Major Ulcers

The symptoms of minor and major ulcers include one or more painful lesions on the cheeks, the roof of your mouth, or the tongue.

The appearance of round lesions that have red edges and are either yellow, white, or gray in the middle.

During an extreme outbreak of ulcers, you may also have a fever, sluggishness, and swollen glands.

Are Mouth Ulcers Cancerous?

Mouth ulcers and mouth cancer are both different in their symptoms.

However, if the ulcers keep on recurring, then you should seek medical advice.

There are a few differences between mouth ulcers and mouth cancer.

Keep them in mind, and they can help you to understand the early signs and symptoms.

Mouth ulcers are painful, however, cancer is not.

mouth ulcers 3

Mouth ulcers will clear in not more than 2 weeks, while mouth cancer will not go away and will spread.

Mouth cancer patches may appear rough, hard, and not easy to scrape off.

Mouth cancer is often a mixture of red and white areas or you might see large white areas that appear either on the tongue, the back of your mouth, the gums, or on the cheeks.

Heavy alcohol consumption and tobacco or its by-products often are the causes of mouth cancer.

Learn more about smoking and its effects on gum diseases.

Treatment of Ulcers

In most cases, you do not need any medical treatment for mouth ulcers.

However, if you frequently get them or they cause severe pain, then there are a few medical treatments that can help decrease pain and healing time.

This includes the following:

You can treat mouth ulcers with a salt water rinse with baking soda to get rid of them.

By placing milk of magnesia on your mouth ulcer.

Covering mouth ulcers with baking soda paste.


Using OTC or over-the-counter medications like a topical anesthetic that includes Anbesol.

Applying ice, using a mouth rinse that contains steroids to reduce pain and swelling.

Topical pastes. placing damp tea bags in your ulcer and taking supplements like folic acid, vitamin B6, B12, and zinc.

Try natural remedies for mouth ulcers like chamomile tea, echinacea, myrrh, and licorice root.

Home Remedies

It is important to consult your doctor or dentist if you have concerns about your oral and dental health, as home remedies do not replace the importance of medical treatment.

If you have mouth ulcers that are not severe, you can use the following home remedies to get rid of them at home:

1# Salthwater Rinse: Saltwater rinse can help dry out mouth ulcers.

For this, you can mix 1 tsp salt in warm water and swish around your mouth for 15 to 3 seconds.

2# Clove Oil: Clove oil is a known remedy for many dental conditions.

It can successfully manage pain when you apply it to the irritated part of your mouth.

clove oil

3# Aloe Vera: Aloe vera can help reduce pain due to mouth ulcers and speed up the healing process.

You can apply its gel directly to the ulcer or drink its juice.

4# Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is famous for its antimicrobial properties and fights against harmful strains of bacteria in your mouth.

Swishing 1 tbs of coconut oil, sesame, or other edible oil is known as oil pulling.

Moreover, it can help reduce plaque and help with sores.

5# Zinc Supplements: Certain nutrient deficiencies like folic acid, zinc, vitamin B6 and B12 can cause ulcers to develop in your mouth.

Thus, taking zinc supplements can help reduce the occurrence of ulcers and boost your immune system.

6# Apple Cider Vinegar: A popular home remedy for a variety of ailments.

It has the ability to destroy bacteria in your mouth and clear it up. However, vinegar may sting up the ulcers, so you can try another remedy if you are experiencing pain.

When to Visit a Doctor

Individuals who frequently get mouth ulcers often find themselves confused because they do not understand what conditions need to be addressed by the doctors or dentist.

There is some situation where an individual should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Some of these situations are:

Unusual ulcers that appear in a new spot, the ones that are spreading and last for more than 3 weeks.

Moreover, ulcers that appear as non-painful in 1 or more areas of your mouth need medical attention.

Others may need to seek medical attention or treatment if:

  • a fever appears
  • painful or big ulcers develop
  • an ulcer develop after starting a new medication
  • secondary bacterial infections.

Tips to Prevent Them

You can take certain steps to prevent mouth ulcers.

Avoiding certain foods that cause irritation in your mouth is helpful. This includes avoiding acidic foods, and fruits like pineapple, grapefruit, oranges, or lemon as well as chips, nuts, or spicy food items.

Instead of eating spicy and acidic foods, you should choose whole grains and alkaline or non-acidic foods and vegetables.

Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet and taking multivitamins are helpful in preventing them.

Moreover, you should avoid talking while you chew your food.

prevention tips

This helps to reduce accidental bites. Reducing stress and maintaining good oral and dental hygiene, flossing once a day, and brushing after meals can help.

Proper sleep and enough rest not only prevent mouth ulcers but also a group of other illnesses as well.

For some people, avoiding soft bristle toothbrushes and mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate is also helpful.

Moreover, your dentist can give you wax to cover your dental or orthodontic mouth devices that have sharp edges.

This helps to avoid them from rubbing with the insides of your cheeks or gums.

Final Thoughts

Mouth ulcers can be painful and discomforting, however, most of them go away with a week or so. Some types of mouth ulcers can be painful and other symptoms like fever or severe pain accompany them. They can be discomforting and can make eating, drinking, and even swallowing difficult.

Mouth ulcers or recurrent aphthous stomatitis affects the soft tissues of your mouth and can be due to oral lichen planus, oral cancer, and hand-foot, and mouth diseases.

Most of the ulcers go away with time. However, if you observe them be persistent, long-term, or their symptoms or appearance looks like that of mouth cancer, then you should seek medical attention.

Medical treatment use sodium lauryl sulfate. You can try certain home remedies like using salt water rinse, aloe vera gel, or using supplements to reduce the recurrence of mouth ulcers.