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Mouth Sores: What can they indicate and how to treat

Mouth sores can be caused by canker sores, minor bumps or irritations from this region, or viral or bacterial infections. Lip herpes are an example of a common virus infection that causes small spots that hurt an cause a burning sensation on the lips. 

In some rarer cases, especially when the ulcer persists for more than 1 week, it may also indicate more serious conditions such as lichen planus, syphilis, oral cancer, lupus or ulcers caused by reaction to certain medications, such as Alendronate, anti- inflammatory drugs or chemotherapy sessions, for example.

When the mouth wound arises, it is necessary to seek medical or dental care so that they can assess the characteristics of the injury and identify the reason for the change. Generally, these lesions disappear within 7 to 10 days, when their cause is resolved, however, in more complicated situations it may require treatment with drugs such as antibiotics, corticosteroids or immunosuppressants, depending on each case.

So the main causes of mouth sores and what to do in each case are:

Mouth Sores: What can they indicate and how to treat

1. Canker Sores

Canker sores, scientifically called aphthous stomatitis, is characterized by the appearance of one or several round ulcers that are usually small and round. They can appear anywhere in the mouth, such as the lips, tongue, cheek, palate or even the throat, causing a lot of pain and difficulty eating and speaking.

The onset of canker sores can be related to bites, consumption of citrus foods, altered mouth pH due to poor digestion, lack of vitamins or allergy to medications and even stress. In cases of recurrent canker sores, although its cause is not fully explained, it may be related to imbalances of the immune system.

How to treat: Canker sores can heal without the need for medication, being indicated to remove its triggering causes. In some cases, especially when the cold sore is uncomfortable and painful, anesthetic ointments such as benzocaine, topical corticosteroids such as triamcinolone or fluocinonide, or healing agents such as polycresulene may be indicated.

In addition, it is important to improve your diet and go to the doctor to find the cause for your debilitated immune system, so that it may be possible to initiate appropriate treatment.

2. Lip herpes

Viral infections are one of the main causes of mouth sores, mainly caused by cold sores. This infection is acquired through contamination with the herpes simplex virus due to contact with secretions of other people's active lesions.

Canker sore lesions are characterized by small blisters that are painful and may be accompanied by redness, itching and burning, which usually disappear within 10 to 14 days.

How to treat: Your doctor may advise you to use antiviral medication, such as Acyclovir, as a pill or ointments, to speed up the healing process. To relieve pain or discomfort, it may also indicate preparations containing anesthetics.

Other types of viruses that can also cause mouth sores are HIV, Coxsackie virus, Epstein-barr virus and Cytomegalovirus (CMV), for example. In addition, mouth sores can be caused by bacteria such as gingivitis, syphilis or soft cancer, for example. Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis is a more severe form of gingivitis, which can cause large lesions in the gum region.

3. Bruises

Minor mouth injuries can be formed on a daily basis, and often their cause may go unnoticed. Some examples are those formed by accidental bites, a maladjusted prosthesis, orthodontic braces, or even excessive brushing.

Some people may cause mouth sores from eating very hot or cold foods, causing a thermal burn, which is more common on the tongue or palate. In addition, irritation may also arise from contact of the mucosa with very acidic or basic substances such as acetylsalicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid or some oral care products, for example.

How to treat: This type of wound usually heals within a few days if the cause has been removed. The dentist may indicate an ointment that facilitates healing, such as Polycresulen, for example. It is also recommended to adjust the prosthesis or any other orthodontic appliance and better the tooth washing technique.

In cases of injuries that often arise, it is important to note whether there is any habit, such as biting and scratching or using any products that may be causing the problem. If it is caused by stress or anxiety, consultation with a psychologist can help treat these problems.

Mouth Sores: What can they indicate and how to treat

4. Other diseases

Some of the systemic diseases related to the appearance of mouth sores include:

  • Behcet's disease;
  • Lichen planus;
  • Pemphigus;
  • Erythema multiforme;
  • Lupus erythematosus;
  • Celiac disease,
  • Crohn's disease;
  • Cancer.

Autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders are worrying causes of mouth sores, and are usually long lasting and associated with other symptoms such as fever, weight loss, tiredness, diarrhea or other injuries to the body, such as the genital region, for example.

How to treat: The treatment of these diseases is done by a rheumatologist, gastroenterologist, general practitioner or oncologist, with specific medications, which may include corticosteroids, immunosuppressants or chemotherapy, for example.

In addition, mouth sores may be caused by drug reactions, which cause inflammation of the mouth mucosa and may cause ulceration. Some medications associated with this effect are Alendronate, anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy, Penicillamine, Sertraline, Losartan, Captopril or Indinavir, for example. The treatment is done by the removal or replacement of these medications by the doctor.

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