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Mouth sores, Canker sores and Cold sores

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Stomatitis, a general term for an inflamed and sore mouth, can disrupt a person's ability to eat, talk, and sleep. Stomatitis can occur anywhere in the mouth, including the inside of the cheeks, gums, tongue, lips, and palate.

Your dentist is your primary healthcare professional to diagnose and treat canker and cold sores.

Types of stomatitis include:

  • Canker sore, also known as an aphthous ulcer, is a single pale or yellow ulcer with a red outer ring or a cluster of such ulcers in the mouth, usually on the cheeks, tongue, or inside the lip.

    • Depending on the size, it can be painful

    • Usually last 5 to 10 days

    • Tend to come back but are not contagious

    • Are generally not associated with fever

Many things may contribute to the development of canker sores, such as certain medications, trauma to the mouth, poor nutrition , stress, lack of sleep and bacteria or viruses. Canker sores may also be related to reduced immune system because of a cold or flu, hormonal changes, or low levels of Vitamine B12 or folate. Even biting the inside of the cheek or chewing a sharp piece of food can trigger a canker sore.

To ease the pain and symptoms:

  • Avoid hot beverages and foods as well as salty, spicy, and citrus-based foods.

  • Use pain relievers like Tylenol or ibuprofen.

  • Gargle with warm salt water.

  • Use of corticosteroids (including prednisone are the most effective treatment to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Cold sores, also called fever blisters, cold sores are fluid-filled sores that occur on or around the lips. They rarely form on the gums or the roof of the mouth. Cold sores later crust over with a scab and are usually associated with tingling, tenderness, or burning before the actual sores appear.

    • Are usually painful

    • Are usually gone in 7 to 10 days

    • Are sometimes associated with cold or flu-like symptoms

Cold sores are caused by a Herpes simplex type 1 virus. They are contagious from the time the blister ruptures to the time it has completely healed. Once the person is infected with the virus, it stays in the body, becoming dormant and reactivated by such conditions as stress, fever, trauma, hormonal changes, and exposure to sunlight. When sores reappear, they tend to form in the same location. In addition to spreading to other people, the virus can also spread to another body part of the affected person, such as the eyes or genitals.

There is no cure for cold sores. Treatment includes:

  • Taking a dose of valacyclovir at the first sign

  • Coating the lesions with a protective ointment such as an antiviral agent 5% acyclovir ointment

  • Mouth irritations can be caused by:

    • Biting your cheek, tongue, or lip

    • Wearing braces or a dental appliance

    • Chewing tobacco

    • Burning one's mouth from hot food or drinks

    • Having gum disease (gingivitis) or other type of mouth infection

    • Having hypersensitivity to certain things, such as foods or medicines

    • Having certain autoimmune diseases affecting the mucosal lining of the mouth, such as lupus, Crohn's disease, or Behcet's disease

    • Taking certain drugs such as chemotherapy, antibiotics, medications used for rheumatoid arthritis, or epilepsy medications

    • Receiving radiation as part of cancer treatment


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