Mouth sores can be a minor annoyance…or the sign of a more serious disease or disorder. There are many different causes: bacterial, viral or fungal infections may be the culprit, but irritations from ill-fitting dentures or a sharp edge from a broken tooth or filling might also be to blame. Whatever the cause or degree of symptoms, they should be watched carefully and you should call us to examine any mouth sore that lasts a week or longer.
Common Types of Mouth Sores.
Among the most common mouth sores are:
Canker sores. Small white or gray ulcers with a red border which occur inside the mouth, canker sores are not contagious. You may find one or many, and they often recur. Some experts believe that immune system problems, bacteria or viruses may contribute, but their exact cause is unknown. Fatigue, stress or allergies can increase the chances of a canker sore erupting. Hot foods or beverages as well as irritations from biting the cheek or tongue may also contribute. Intestinal problems, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, may make some people more prone to canker sores.
Treatment of Canker Sores. Canker sores usually heal on their own within a week or two. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics and mouth rinses may provide some relief. Hot, spicy or acidic foods can irritate the sores.
Cold sores. Cold sores—also called fever blisters or Herpes simplex—are groups of fluid-filled blisters that can be quite annoying and painful. They often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores are caused by Herpes Virus Type 1. Unlike canker sores, they are very contagious. Initial infection (primary herpes) may be mistaken for a cold or flu and can cause painful lesions throughout the mouth.
Once a person is infected with primary herpes, the virus stays in the body. Occasional outbreaks can occur. Fever, sunburn, skin abrasions or stress may bring on an attack.
Treatment of Cold Sores. Cold sore blisters usually heal on their own within a week. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can ease the discomfort. Prescription antiviral drugs may reduce this type of infection.
Leukoplakia. Leukoplakia appears as a thick, whitish patch on the inside of the cheeks, gums or tongue. Common among tobacco users, leukoplakia is caused by excess cell growth. Irritations such as loose dentures may cause leukoplakia to develop. Leukoplakia can sometimes progress to cancer. A biopsy may be recommended if the patch looks suspicious.
Treatment of Leukoplakia. We examine the lesion and use biopsy results to help determine how to manage the condition. Removing the factors that contribute to the lesion are important: quitting tobacco or replacing ill-fitting dentures or bridges.
Candidiasis. Candidiasis (also called moniliasis or oral thrush) is a fungal infection common among denture wearers. it most often occurs in people who are elderly, debilitated by disease, or those with immune system problems. People with dry mouth syndrome are also susceptible to candidiasis. An outbreak of Candida may occur following antibiotic treatment, which can reduce the amount of normal bacteria in the mouth.
Treatment of Candidiasis: Prevention of the conditions that caused the outbreak is our primary focus. Good oral hygiene is key, including careful cleaning of dentures and removal of them at bedtime. Saliva substitutes and prescription medications may help when the underlying cause is unavoidable.
Remember—call our office to examine any mouth sore that lasts a week or longer. For more information on these and other dental health matters, please visit www.ada.org.