Mouth Sores: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention Methods

Mouth Sores: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention Methods

What causes sores in the mouth?How do you heal sores in your mouth?When should I be concerned about mouth sores?How long do mouth sores last?What virus causes sores in mouth?What virus causes mouth ulcers?

What are mouth sores?

Mouth ulcers are a frequent medical condition that afflicts a significant portion of the population at some point during their lives.

These ulcers can manifest themselves on any of the soft tissues that are found in your mouths, such as your lips, the inside of your cheeks, gums, tongue, and even the floor and roof of your mouth.

Mouth sores, which also include canker sores, are often a minor irritant and only endure for one to two weeks at the most. In certain instances, they may be an indication of an infection caused by a virus such as herpes simplex, or they may point to more serious causes such as oral cancer.

It’s possible that a common or temporary condition, such as the ones listed above, is what’s causing the sores in your mouth.

canker sores

genital herpes


infectious mononucleosis (also known as IM) (mono)

either a lack of folic acid or anaemia

thrush in the mouth

the sickness that affects the hands, feet, and mouth


an intolerance, or an adverse reaction, to a food or drug.

trauma or burns

It is also possible for mouth sores to be the result of a condition that lasts for a longer period of time or an illness that is more serious.

celiac disease

cancer of the mouth

pemphigus Vulgaris

Continue reading to find out what causes mouth sores, what symptoms they exhibit, how to identify them, and how to treat and get rid of them.

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What does it look like when you have mouth sores?

According to the Merck Manual, a variety of medical disorders can lead to ulcers in the mouth.

Depending on the cause, they could have a distinct appearance. It is possible for mouth sores to form in a hue that is distinct from the tissue that surrounds them, including white, yellow, red, or purple.

The mouth sores that are depicted in the following pictures vary greatly. These pictures are not meant to serve as a diagnostic tool in any way. It is preferable to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment if you have mouth sores that do not have an obvious cause, mouth sores that return after healing, or mouth sores that linger for an extended period of time.

Canker sores

Canker sores have the appearance of little ulcers in the mouth that are oval in form and can be white, grey, or yellow in colour. They may appear to have a crimson “halo” of irritation surrounding them. In certain cases, they manifest themselves as a painful red region.

A little ulcer that is shallow and located on the inside of your mouth is called a canker sore.

You may also hear people refer to canker sores as aphthous stomatitis or aphthous ulcers. According to the findings of research conducted in 2021, they are rather frequent and impact approximately 20 percent of the general population.

In most cases, they are quite safe, and within a few weeks, they will heal on their own. If you have ulcers that keep coming back, it’s possible that they’re caused by something else, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, a vitamin deficiency, or even HIV.

Canker sores can be categorised based on their size, according to Trusted Source. This can include the following

minor wounds are defined as those with a diameter of less than one centimetre and a healing duration of one to two weeks.

significant wounds are those that are more extensive, measuring between 2 and 3 centimetres in diameter, and their recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to many months.

herpetiform lesions are those that have a diameter of one to two millimetres, but appear in clusters of ten to one hundred lesions and can take a few weeks to recover.

What factors lead to the development of canker sores in the mouth?

Canker sores are typically brought on by a traumatic event, such as biting the inside of your cheek, but they can also be brought on by burns, allergies, or sensitivities. There could be additional factors at play here. Canker sores, on the other hand, are not communicable.

It’s possible that some conditions will make you more susceptible to getting them. These may include the following:

a compromised immune system as a result of previous sickness or stress

alterations in hormone levels, such as menstruation

vitamin deficiencies, most notably of folic acid and vitamin B12

problems with the intestines, including Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

contamination of drinking water with hazardous substances

tension on either the emotional or psychological front

tobacco use or a previous history of tobacco use

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Herpes simplex

The blisters that characterise cold sores are packed with fluid and appear close to the mouth and the lips. They can have a reddish colouration or a deeper hue. Before a noticeable sore appears, the region that is afflicted may first tickle or burn.


Herpes simplex type 1, the virus that causes cold sores, is responsible for causing cold sores (HSV-1). In addition, outbreaks may be followed by very minor symptoms that are similar to those of the flu, such as a low fever, body pains, and swollen lymph nodes.

This virus may lie dormant within your body for long periods of time. According to a study from 2021, the sores that develop as a result of the virus becoming active again can persist anywhere from two to six weeks. This can happen when the immune system is compromised or when there is a lot of stress in the body.

Instances of outbreaks are more likely to occur if:

are under stress

are sick or suffer from a compromised immune system

have had an unhealthy amount of sun exposure

have a split in the surface of the skin that covers your mouth.

Cold sores are caused by a virus that is contagious and can be passed on to others by direct contact with a cold sore. Kissing, sharing food, or even sharing cosmetics and other personal items can all spread it. It is also possible to become infected with HSV-1 even if there are no visible sores.

Cold sores and genital herpes, both caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2, can have a similar appearance. Genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. If either you or your partner is experiencing an active outbreak of the virus, then it is important to use a condom or another form of barrier protection whenever you engage in sexual activity.

A lack of folate can lead to anaemia.

Insufficiency in folate, commonly known as vitamin B9, is what leads to a condition known as a folate deficiency. Folate is an essential B vitamin that is used in the production and maintenance of DNA. It is absolutely necessary to ensure the normal growth of embryos. Anaemia caused by a lack of folate in the diet is referred to as folate deficiency anaemia.

Anaemia develops when your body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells. If you have fewer red blood cells than normal, damaged red blood cells or impaired red blood cells, you may have trouble moving adequate oxygen throughout your body. It is possible for it to have an effect on the many organ systems in your body.

Mouth sores are a common symptom of anaemia and a folate deficit as well. Mouth sores are a symptom of anaemia and can be caused by a number of different forms of anaemia, including iron deficiency anaemia and folate deficiency anaemia. These wounds can seem like little mouth ulcers or canker sores and can be white, grey, yellow, or red in colour. They may also be shaped like canker sores.

Anaemia is one of the numerous symptoms that may be caused by a folate deficiency. Other symptoms include:



pale skin

swelling of the tongue

grey hair

youngsters who are not developing normally

In addition, anaemia can induce additional symptoms, which may include the following:

pale, chilly skin

pale gums




blood pressure that is either elevated or lowered

a heart that is beating or thumping

Anaemia can be brought on by a wide variety of factors and can develop suddenly or over a protracted period of time. Rapid onset of anaemia may be due to any of the following:

injury-related loss of blood




heavy flow during menstruation

diseases of the digestive tract such as ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer

Chronic anaemia may be caused by autoimmune disorders, genetic abnormalities that are inherited, excessive lead exposure, or any one of a number of other conditions.

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Gingivostomatitis is an infection that frequently affects youngsters and can be found in the mouth and on the gums.

It might cause painful sores to develop on the gums or on the inside of the cheeks. They are similar to canker sores in that the outside of the lesion may be yellow or grey and the inside may be red. The intensity of one’s pain might vary widely.

Gingivostomatitis is the medical term for swelling and sores that occur in the mouth. through Wikimedia Commons and licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0 is the work of James Heilman, MD.

If you have gingivostomatitis, you can also suffer some moderate symptoms that are similar to those of the flu. It may become painful to eat and cause you to drool if you have these sores. Some very young children will flat-out refuse to eat.

According to studies from 2021, ulcers induced by this illness can last anywhere from two weeks to three weeks.

Infections with viruses like HSV-1 and coxsackievirus, as well as infections with bacteria like Streptococcus, are frequently the root cause of gingivostomatitis. It’s also possible that you got these infections because you don’t clean and floss your teeth frequently enough.

Mononucleosis, or infectious mononucleosis

A rash is one of the symptoms that may accompany infectious mononucleosis, generally known as mono. This rash could appear on the skin, or it might appear on the inside of your mouth. It’s possible that flat patches will look pink or purple.

The Epstein-Barr virus is what’s responsible for infectious mononucleosis in humans (EBV). Teenagers and young adults in high school and college are frequently affected by this condition.

The symptoms of infectious mono include a painful throat and drainage from the throat.

According to a trusted source from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms normally remain for two to four weeks but may continue for several additional weeks in certain cases.

Additional symptoms may include the following:


enlarged lymph glands

throat irritation



night sweats

body aches

Throat thrush

The condition known as oral thrush is caused by a yeast infection that manifests itself on the tongue and the inside of the mouth. Although it is most common in newborns and children, adults who have it may have a symptom of a compromised immune system. Your chance of acquiring it may be increased if you have a dry mouth or if you take certain medications, such as antibiotics.

It has the appearance of creamy white pimples and can be removed by scraping it off the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the gums, or the tonsils.

An overgrowth of Candida, which is a form of yeast that is found naturally in the body, is the root cause of oral thrush. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this illness is often treated with antifungal drugs for a duration of seven to fourteen days (Reliable Source).

Other possible symptoms include the following:

a painful sensation in the area of the bumps

a sensation similar to cotton in the mouth

absence of flavour

a painful experience when trying to swallow or consume

skin that is dry and broken around the edges of the mouth

The ailment is known as hand, foot, and mouth

The viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease are members of the family known as enteroviruses. It is very frequent in youngsters who are younger than 5 years old.

It results in painful blisters that are red and appear in the mouth, on the tongue, and on the gums. In addition to this, you might see flat or raised red spots on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, buttocks, or anywhere else in the genital area. On darker skin tones, the lumps could have a colour that is somewhere between the skin and a greyish-brown.

Other possible symptoms include the following:


throat irritation

feeling unwell

skin rash

The condition that affects the hands, feet, and mouth is contagious but seldom results in major complications.

During the first week, the infection is more likely to spread to others.

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The development of a white patch inside the mouth is known as oral leukoplakia. People who use any form of tobacco are more likely to have this condition.

It’s possible that your tongue and the lining of your mouth will develop thick, white spots if you have leukoplakia. It is possible for them to be elevated, brittle, or appear to have a “hairy” appearance.

The leukoplakia of the mouth looks like a white spot. The photographs were taken by Michael Gaither and were provided by Wikimedia.

Leukoplakia is a benign condition that most of the time fades away on its own. On the other hand, research conducted in 2021 reveals that between 1 to 9 percent of patients with this illness may acquire mouth cancer. If you suspect that you have this illness, it is important to see a medical professional as soon as possible so that a diagnosis may be made.

Appointments at the dentist on a regular basis can help detect leukoplakia.

Lichen planus of the oral cavity

The mucous membranes of the gums, lips, cheeks, and tongue can be affected by oral lichen planus, a condition that is characterised by persistent inflammation.

It is possible for it to develop white, lacy, elevated patches of tissue in the mouth, which can resemble spiderwebs in appearance. It is also possible for it to develop sore, swollen areas that are bright red in colour and have ulcers. When open ulcers are present, they can bleed and make it painful to eat or brush your teeth. It is also possible for them to sting or burn.

A rash that looks like lacy white lace may be present in the mouth if you have lichen planus.

The lichen planus is not an infectious disease. However, because it is a chronic illness, there is no treatment for it.

It is possible that taking medication, such as corticosteroids and medications for the immune response, as well as using a gentle toothpaste, will help manage the symptoms.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is characterised by an abnormal reaction of the immune system to gluten, which can result in damage to the lining of the small intestine. A deficiency in the absorption of essential nutrients including B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, and calcium may be the result of damage to the villi, which are the fine threads that resemble hair and are located in the small intestine.

A lack of certain vitamins might put a person at risk for developing diseases like anaemia. Because of this, there is a possibility that you will get mouth ulcers.

Abdominal discomfort and other gastrointestinal symptoms are the hallmarks of celiac disease, which is brought on by a sensitivity to the protein gluten.

The severity of the symptoms varies, and they may be experienced differently by adults and children. These might be some of them:


weight reduction

stomach discomfort


joint discomfort



stools high in fat

skin rash

ulcers of the mouth

Symptoms can include the following things in children:

weight reduction

a pause in growth

a lagging start to puberty

persistent cases of either diarrhoea or constipation

stomach discomfort

teeth that are yellow or otherwise stained

The ailment known as celiac disease is one that lasts a lifetime and cannot be cured. Celiac disease can be controlled with dietary changes and strict adherence to staying away from foods that contain gluten including wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Cross-contamination with these components may also cause symptoms to appear in those who have celiac disease.

Cancer of the mouth

Cancer of the mouth, often known as oral cancer or simply cancer of the mouth, is a form of cancer that begins in the mouth or oral cavity. This consists of the lips, cheeks, teeth, gums, the front two-thirds of the tongue, the roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. The multiplication and spread of aberrant cells are what lead to the development of cancer.

Ulcers, white spots, or red patches that form inside the mouth or on the lips and do not heal can be signs of oral cancer. These kinds of tissue alterations inside the mouth are referred to by medical professionals as leukoplakia and erythroplakia respectively.

Additional oral cancer symptoms may include the following:

weight reduction

bleeding gums

ear discomfort

lymph nodes in the neck that are swollen and painful

Visit a physician if you notice white areas on the inside of your mouth that cannot be explained. They can take a biopsy to examine the tissue for any signs of cancer or precancerous cells. A more favourable prognosis can be achieved with the early identification of malignancies such as mouth cancer.

Pemphigus Vulgaris

Pemphigus Vulgaris is an uncommon autoimmune illness. When you have an autoimmune disease, it indicates that the immune system of your body is attacking healthy tissue in your body when it shouldn’t. The mucous membranes and skin of the mouth, throat, nose, eyes, genitals, anus, and lungs can all be affected by pemphigus Vulgaris in addition to the skin.

It can create painful blisters on the skin that also itch and are prone to breaking readily and bleeding. If you have blisters in your mouth or throat, you may experience pain during swallowing or eating.

Pemphigus Vulgaris is the condition that causes blisters on the skin. DermNet New Zealand is responsible for photography.

Pemphigus Vulgaris may present itself with the following symptoms:

blisters that originate either on the skin or in the mouth

blisters that may or may not be present

skin lesions that may leak, crust, or peel.

Systemic corticosteroids are typically the medication of choice for treatment.

What are the signs and symptoms of sores in the mouth?

Most commonly, mouth sores may cause your mouth to become red and painful, particularly when you are eating or drinking. A burning or tingling feeling may also be caused by them in the area around the sore. It may be challenging for you to eat, drink, swallow, talk, or even breathe if you have sores in your mouth since the size, severity, and location of the sores all have a role. Blisters are another possible complication of the lesions.

If you suffer any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible:

wounds with a diameter of more than one and a half millimetres

numerous occurrences of ulcers in the mouth


joint discomfort



Why do I get sores in my mouth?

Mouth sores can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from insignificant, common causes to more serious disorders. Generally speaking, you are more likely to get a mouth ulcer if you:

Chew on your tongue, cheek, or lip if you dare.

I’ll make your mouth burn.

suffer from discomfort caused by a pointy object, like braces, a retainer, or dentures

You clean your teeth too vigorously or with a toothbrush that is too firm.

ingest tobacco in the form of chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes.

carry the herpes simplex virus in their bodies

On occasion, mouth sores are the consequence of, or a response to, the following:

drugs that can be purchased over-the-counter or with a doctor’s prescription, such as antibacterials or corticosteroids


infectious mononucleosis (also known as IM)

thrush in the mouth

the sickness that affects the hands, feet, and mouth

chemotherapy or radiation therapy

autoimmune diseases

bleeding disorders


celiac disease

infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi

a compromised immune system as a result of having HIV or having recently received an organ transplant

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Should you see a doctor if you have mouth sores?

It is not always necessary to consult a medical practitioner in order to determine whether or not you have a sore in your mouth. However, you should get in touch with a qualified medical expert if you:

if your sores have white patches on them, this may be an indication that you have leukoplakia or oral lichen planus.

herpes simplex virus infection or another infection, or you suspect that you do;

have sores that either does not go away after a couple of weeks or get worse after that amount of time

I recently started taking a different drug.

begun therapy for cancer

recently underwent surgery for a transplant

Your mouth, tongue, and lips will all be examined by a qualified medical practitioner during your appointment. If they have reason to believe that you have cancer, they will likely conduct certain tests including a biopsy on you.

How to get rid of ulcers in the mouth

Mouth sores that aren’t serious usually heal on their own within a week to two weeks. There are a few straightforward home treatments that could assist alleviate the discomfort and possibly speed up the recovery process. You might also consider:

Avoid foods that are extremely spicy, salty, citrus-based, and heavy in sugar.

Stay away from both alcohol and smoke.

rinse your mouth with warm salt water.

consume cold things like ice, ice pops, sherbet, and other cold foods.

Take a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, if you need to (Tylenol)

It is important to refrain from picking or squeezing any blisters or sores.

Apply a paste made of baking soda and water in a thin layer.

Apply a solution that consists of one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water by gently dabbing it on.

Talk to your local pharmacist about additional drugs, pastes, or mouthwashes that are available without a prescription that might be of use.

Medications for mouth ulcers

It is possible that pain medicine, an anti-inflammatory drug, or steroid gel will be prescribed to you by a medical expert if you go to see them about your mouth sores. If your mouth sores are the consequence of an infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, your doctor or other healthcare professional may prescribe you an antibiotic to treat the infection.

In the event that a patient has oral cancer, a biopsy will be performed initially. After that, you could be required to undergo surgery or chemotherapy.

Can mouth ulcers be avoided altogether?

There is no one surefire way to stop mouth ulcers from developing. Nevertheless, there are measures that you can take to lessen the likelihood of acquiring them. These may include the following:

avoiding excessively hot foods and drinks

Taking their time munching

utilising a gentle toothbrush and maintaining good dental hygiene routines are also recommended.

Call your dentist if you suspect that any of your teeth or dental hardware may be causing irritation in your mouth.

a reduced amount of stress

by eating a diet that is balanced out.

decreasing or removing food irritants, such as foods that are too hot or too spicy

consuming vitamin supplements, particularly those containing B vitamins

drinking plenty of water

Stay away from cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.

avoiding or reducing one’s usage of alcoholic beverages

Keep your lips protected from the sun by covering them with a lip balm with an SPF 15 rating.

If mouth sores are left untreated, what are the long-term effects?

Mouth ulcers, in the vast majority of cases, do not cause any long-term damage. They have the potential to produce scarring in some instances.

It’s possible that the sores will come back if you have herpes simplex. Scarring is another potential complication of cold sores.

When you have cancer, the sort of cancer you have, how severe it is, and the therapy you receive all play a role in the long-term side effects and outlook you have.


Mouth sores are very frequent and often only last for one to two weeks at the most.

They can make chewing and drinking extremely uncomfortable. There may be over-the-counter drugs, gels, or rinses that can be of assistance.

Mouth sores that are severe or recurrent could be an indication of a chronic disease or something more serious. Consult a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis as well as treatment if you get mouth sores on a regular basis for no apparent reason or if your mouth sores refuse to heal on their own.

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