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Mouth Ulcers

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What are Mouth Ulcers?

BY Bruce Shane 6 July, 2007

Mouth ulcers, also called canker sores, aphthous stomata and recurrent aphthous stomatitis, mostly occur on the inner cheek, inner lip, tongue, soft palate, floor of the mouth, and sometimes the throat. They are usually about 3-5mm in diameter – though sometimes significantly larger, and often appear 2 or 3 at a time – though sometimes there can be 10-20 or more. They effect 1 in 5 people.

They often seem start by themselves as a small bubble or blister (this stage is easy to not notice) which then becomes an open and ulcerated pit or crevass when the pain really starts. Alternatively they can be started by trauma to the lining of the mouth (e.g. by accidently biting onesself).

Severe ulcers cause sufferers to actively avoid eating, drinking, talking, kissing and some sexual acts, which can be awkward socially. Speech is painful resulting in a loss of clarity or enunciation – and sometimes spitting, which doesn’t help. Sufferers often get worn down by the pain and become fatigued and depressed.

typical mouth ulcer

What causes mouth ulcers?

No specific single cause has yet been isolated, though it seems they are not caused by infectious agents such as viruses or bacteria and are therefore not contagious.

The current popular theory is that they are linked to the auto-immune system and an allergic reaction, in that certain triggers (that may be different from one person to the next) cause the mucosal lining (protective layer on the cheeks, gums, tongue, throat etc.) to become compromised, such that it is attacked by one’s own saliva, or unfriendly bacteria within it.

How to prevent mouth ulcers

Avoid (or at least don’t over-use) mouthwashes and toothpaste with a powerful anti-microbial action. Avoid toothpaste with harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).

B vitamins are generally cited as being beneficial, particularly B12. B vitamins are not stored in the body so choose a supplement with a prolonged or slow release.

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