Mouth Ulcer

Having a mouth ulcer can be a painful and frustrating experience. A small sore spot or a larger, more persistent ulcer can interfere with everyday activities like eating and speaking. But what exactly causes mouth ulcers? What are the best ways to treat and prevent them? In this article, we will delve into the world of mouth ulcers and provide you with valuable insights and information.

What is a mouth ulcer?

Mouth ulcers, also known as canker sores, are small, shallow sores that appear inside the mouth. They can vary in size and shape, ranging from tiny, round spots to larger, oval-shaped ulcers. These ulcers can develop inside the lips, cheeks, gums, and even on the tongue. While most mouth ulcers are harmless and resolve on their own within a couple of weeks, some may be more persistent and require medical attention.

There are two main types of mouth ulcers: minor and major. Minor ulcers are the most common and typically measure less than 1 centimetre in diameter. They usually heal within 1-2 weeks without scarring. Major ulcers, on the other hand, are larger and can take several weeks to heal. They may also leave behind scars once they heal. It’s important to note that mouth ulcers are not contagious, so you don’t have to worry about spreading them to others.

Common causes of mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers can be caused by a variety of factors, and pinpointing the exact cause can sometimes be challenging. However, several common triggers are known to contribute to the development of mouth ulcers.

Accidental bites, burns from hot food or drinks, and aggressive tooth brushing can all cause trauma to the delicate tissues inside the mouth, leading to the formation of ulcers.

Some acidic and spicy foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and chili peppers, can irritate the mouth and trigger the development of ulcers. Additionally, individuals with food sensitivities or allergies may experience mouth ulcers as a result of consuming certain foods.

Emotional stress and anxiety can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to developing mouth ulcers. Stress can also exacerbate existing ulcers and delay the healing process.

Certain medical conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies (particularly vitamin B12, iron, and folate), gastrointestinal disorders (such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease), and autoimmune diseases (like lupus and Behcet’s disease), can increase the risk of developing mouth ulcers.

Types of mouth ulcers

As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of mouth ulcers: minor and major. Let’s take a closer look at each type and their distinguishing characteristics.

However, to give you an idea of prices, we have created a table that showed the average prices for cosmetic dental treatments.

Minor ulcers

Minor ulcers, also known as aphthous ulcers, are the most common type. They are usually small in size, measuring less than 1 centimetre in diameter. Minor ulcers are typically round or oval-shaped and have a yellowish or greyish centre with a red border. These ulcers are painful but usually heal within 1-2 weeks without scarring.

Major ulcers

Major ulcers, also referred to as major aphthous ulcers, are larger and more severe than minor ulcers. They can measure more than 1 centimetre in diameter and often have irregular shapes. Major ulcers are deeper and take longer to heal, often leaving behind scars. These ulcers can be extremely painful and may require medical intervention to manage the symptoms.

Home remedies for treating mouth ulcers

If you’re experiencing the discomfort of a mouth ulcer, several home remedies can provide relief and promote healing. While these remedies may not cure the underlying cause of the ulcer, they can help alleviate the symptoms and expedite the healing process.

Gargling with warm salt water can help reduce inflammation and soothe the ulcer. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds, and then spit it out. Repeat this process several times a day.

The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey can help speed up the healing of mouth ulcers. Apply a small amount of honey directly onto the ulcer and leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing your mouth.

Aloe vera gel has soothing and healing properties that can provide relief from mouth ulcers. Apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to the ulcer and leave it on for 10-15 minutes before rinsing your mouth.

Remember, while these home remedies can be effective in managing mild cases of mouth ulcers, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Over-the-counter treatments for mouth ulcers

In addition to home remedies, there are several over-the-counter treatments available that can help alleviate the discomfort of mouth ulcers and promote healing. These treatments are easily accessible and can be used as a supplement to home remedies or as standalone options.

Over-the-counter gels and creams containing ingredients like benzocaine or hydrocortisone can provide temporary relief from the pain and inflammation associated with mouth ulcers. Apply the gel or cream directly onto the ulcer as directed on the packaging.

Antimicrobial mouthwashes can help reduce the risk of infection and promote healing. Look for mouthwashes containing ingredients like chlorhexidine or hydrogen peroxide and use them as directed.

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help alleviate the pain associated with mouth ulcers. Follow the dosage instructions provided on the packaging.

It’s important to carefully read and follow the instructions on any over-the-counter treatments and consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms persist or worsen.

When to see a doctor for mouth ulcers

While most mouth ulcers heal on their own within a couple of weeks, there are certain situations where it’s advisable to seek medical attention. If you experience any of the following, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional:

If an ulcer doesn’t heal within 2 weeks or keeps recurring, it’s important to have it checked by a doctor. Persistent ulcers may be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires further investigation.

If the pain from a mouth ulcer is severe and interfering with your ability to eat, drink, or speak, it’s recommended to seek medical advice. Severe pain may indicate a more serious condition or infection

If you notice swollen or tender lymph nodes in your neck or jaw area along with a mouth ulcer, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional. Enlarged lymph nodes can be a sign of infection or inflammation.

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice if you have any concerns about your mouth ulcers.

Prevention tips for mouth ulcers

While it may not always be possible to prevent mouth ulcers, there are several measures you can take to reduce their occurrence. By following these prevention tips, you can minimize the frequency and severity of mouth ulcers:

Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily to remove food particles and bacteria from between your teeth.

Identify and avoid foods that tend to trigger mouth ulcers for you. Spicy, acidic, and rough-textured foods are common culprits. Keep a food diary to track any patterns between your diet and the development of ulcers.

Find healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety, as emotional stress can weaken your immune system and increase the risk of mouth ulcers. Engage in activities that help you relax, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.

If you engage in activities that may increase the risk of mouth injuries, such as contact sports, wear a mouthguard to protect your mouth from accidental trauma.

By implementing these preventive measures and making positive lifestyle choices, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing mouth ulcers.

Complications and associated conditions with mouth ulcers

In most cases, mouth ulcers are harmless and resolve on their own without causing any complications. However, there are certain situations where mouth ulcers may be indicative of a more serious underlying condition or can lead to complications.

If a mouth ulcer becomes infected, it may cause additional pain, swelling, and redness. In severe cases, the infection can spread to other areas of the mouth or throat, leading to further complications.

While rare, persistent or recurring mouth ulcers can be a sign of oral cancer. If you have any concerns about the appearance or behaviour of your mouth ulcers, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Chronic mouth ulcers may be a symptom of underlying nutritional deficiencies, particularly deficiencies in vitamin B12, iron, or folate. If you experience frequent or persistent ulcers, it’s advisable to have your nutrient levels checked.

If you have any concerns about your mouth ulcers or notice any unusual symptoms, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


Mouth ulcers can be painful and disruptive, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can effectively manage and prevent them. Understanding the common causes, symptoms, and types of mouth ulcers is the first step towards finding relief. Whether you choose to try home remedies, over-the-counter treatments, or seek medical advice, it’s important to prioritize your oral health and well-being. By practising good oral hygiene and making positive lifestyle choices, you can minimize the occurrence of mouth ulcers and maintain a healthy, pain-free mouth. Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional for guidance.


Dudding, T., Haworth, S., Lind, P.A. et al. Genome-wide analysis for mouth ulcers identifies associations at immune regulatory loci. Nat Commun 10, 1052 (2019).

Jinbu Y, Demitsu T. Oral ulcerations due to drug medications. Japanese Dental Science Review. Volume 50, Issue 2, May 2014, Pages 40-46.

Looking for a Cosmetic Dentist to enhance your smile but not sure what treatments would work for you?

Look no further than our No Obligation Cosmetic Smile Evaluation.

Our comprehensive evaluation, which includes a teeth assessment and head x-ray, equips our expert dentist Burwood to offer you personalized cosmetic treatment advice tailored to your oral health and facial structure. Aimed at enhancing your smile to its fullest potential, our no-obligation consultation will empower you with in-depth knowledge and recommendations.

Start your smile transformation journey today!

Get In Touch With Us Today!

*Some appointments require a refundable deposit during peak hour times.