What are Mouth Sores?

Article Sections:

What are Mouth Sores?

Mouth sores are common in both adults and children, and affect both men and women. The term 'mouth sore' refers a number of different lesions of the mouth caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and irritation. Common bacterial and viral mouth sores include canker sores and cold sores, where other sores are caused by loose or ill-fitting dentures, braces and retainers. Some mouth sores can also be caused by an underlying disease or disorder. It is always recommended to visit your dentist for a prognosis if you are prone to mouth sores.

Mouth sores are almost always painful, and regular activities such as eating and talking usually exacerbate the symptoms. Many people with various mouth sores have trouble eating or swallowing. There are, however, many ways to treat mouth sores. In many cases, mouth sores can be treated with natural over the counter ointments and medications.

Common Mouth Sores Symptoms and Causes

There are many types of mouth sores which are all caused by various viruses, bacteria, fungi or irritation/trauma. Below is a brief description of the most common:

  • Canker Sores - Canker sores are ulcers of the mouth, usually found on the cheeks, gums or under the lips. Many canker sores are 'roundish' in shape - a whitish film surrounded by a red outline - and are relatively painful depending on size and where they are located. Caused by a virus, Canker sores are not contagious, however once someone has a canker sore they have a greater chance of a recurring canker sore. Canker sores are caused by many factors or triggers: fatigue and stress can increase the chance of a recurring canker sore outbreak. Cuts to inside of the mouth from teeth, braces or dentures can greatly increase the chances of a canker sore outbreak. Lowered immune system strength or poor diet can also contribute to the recurrence of canker sores. Some doctors have found that digestive or intestinal disorders such as ulcerative colitis are linked to canker sores. Although doctors and scientists still are not certain exactly what causes the canker sore, there is significant evidence of viral or bacterial infections of the mouth contributing to the outbreak of canker sores.

  • Irritation or Trauma Sores - These sores are caused by a physical action such as cheek biting. Braces and dentures can also create sores by rubbing against the gums or inside of the cheeks.

  • Cold Sores - Cold sores can usually be found on or around the lips, and sometimes on the cheek, nose or even the eyes. Cold sores are itchy, painful blisters that eventually burst and scab. They last for about 1-2 weeks but usually reoccur. The reason for this is that cold sores are mouth sores caused by Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 - a virus that is yet incurable. Over 80% of adults are infected with HSV1. After an outbreak, the Herpes Virus stays dormant until certain factors trigger it to become active - thus causing another cold sore outbreak. Once you have HSV1, many things can trigger an outbreak of cold sores. Stress, damage to the lip tissues, exposure to prolonged sun and a lowered immune system are all examples of factors that contribute to cold sore outbreaks.

  • Leukoplakia - Leukoplakia is a whitish patch that can be found on the inside of the cheeks, on the gums or on the tongue. Leukoplakia is due to an excess of cell growth which can be caused by a number of factors including tobacco smoking or chewing, the habitual chewing the inside of the cheeks, dentures or braces that do fit properly or any other constant irritation to the inside of the mouth. If your symptoms match those of leukoplakia, it is important to see your physician to check for any cancerous tissues.

  • Candidiasis - Candidiasis is also known as thrush or moniliasis, and is a fungal or yeast infection of the mouth caused by yeast reproduction in the mouth. People with dry mouth can easily contract Candidiasis due to lack of saliva which helps kill certain bacteria in the mouth. Dentures or braces can also cause fungal infections including Candidiasis. Candidiasis forms as small whitish bumps on the inside of the mouth. Antibiotics, which decrease the amount of normal bacteria in the mouth, can also cause candidiasis. Good oral hygiene, saliva substitutes and medication containing probiotics such as acidophilus, or the supplement Lysine can greatly decrease or eradicate outbreaks of Candidiasis.

Next: Mouth Sore Treatments and Prevention

What are Mouth Sores?