Knowing the Various Causes of Mouth Ulcers

Although relatively harmless, mouth ulcers can be a real pain in the neck each time they’re around. These are sores that appear in the mouth, usually on the inside of the cheeks and lips. Also known as apthous ulcers in the medical world, mouth ulcers can give you a hard time most especially whenever you’re eating or brushing your teeth.

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There are many different reasons why mouth ulcers show up. Also, they tend to go away on their own. The kinds brought about by trauma to the tissues inside the mouth (such as accidental bites or eating food with sharp edges) usually go away in a week or two. There are also recurrent mouth ulcers whose cause remains unclear to the experts to date. It is said that about 1 in 5 people suffer from recurrent mouth ulcers, and it tends to run in the family too.

Mouth ulcers come in 3 main types:

  1. Minor ulcers – Measuring about 2 to 8 mm in diameter only, mouth ulcers tend to clear up anywhere from 10 days to up to a couple of weeks.
  1. Major ulcers – These are much bigger and deeper than minor ulcers, so naturally they are more painful and annoying. Also, they usually leave scars inside the mouth. The borders of major ulcers tend to be irregular or raised. It may take several weeks before they completely heal.
  1. Herpetiform ulcers – These are sores inside the mouth consisting of groups of pinhead-sized ulcers.

Even without any medical intervention, mouth ulcers heal naturally. However, the use of antimicrobial mouth washes, topical corticosteroids and other medicines may be prescribed if the mouth ulcers are large, painful and unrelenting.

As mentioned earlier, the reason why mouth ulcers may show up again and again is unclear. Experts say that it may be hereditary in nature as well as brought about by certain triggering factors. Below are some of the usual causes of recurrent mouth ulcers:


It’s no secret that stress can wreak havoc to your body. Stress can leave a negative impact even in your mouth, in the form of painful sores. Properly managing stress can help in warding off mouth ulcers, especially if they tend to appear constantly.


Being in a constant state of worrying, nervousness or uneasiness can be very stressful, and that is why mouth ulcers are likely to show up frequently. Carrying out all sorts of relaxing or calming activities as well as seeking the help of a professional is recommended.

Quitting smoking

Many people who just ditched smoking cigarettes may face recurring mouth ulcers. This is perfectly normal because the body is still adjusting to the sudden change of chemicals in your system.

Hormonal changes

It’s not unlikely for you to encounter mouth ulcers where changes or imbalance in your hormones are going on. For instance, some women tend to suffer from those painful sores in the mouth during their period.

Certain foods

Mouth ulcers tend to recur because of some trigger foods. Trigger foods vary from one person to the other, but there are some that tend to cause recurrent mouth ulcers to many. They include tomatoes, strawberries, chocolates, coffee, cheese, almonds, peanuts and food products with wheat flour.

Toothpaste ingredient

Experts say that it’s possible for sodium lauryl sulfate, an ingredient found in most toothpaste, to cause recurrent mouth ulcers or aggravate currently existing ones.

Viral infections

There are times when microorganisms invading the body are the ones responsible for recurrent mouth ulcers. Some of them include viruses that cause chickenpox, cold sores, and hand, foot and mouth disease.

Crohn’s disease

This is a chronic health problem wherein the lining of the digestive tract gets inflamed upon the consumption of certain trigger foods. When Crohn’s disease flares up, it’s not unlikely for an individual suffering from it to get mouth ulcers.

Celiac disease

Another condition which can cause mouth ulcers to constantly appear, Celiac disease is a disorder of the intestines. The affected individual is sensitive to gluten, a type of protein found in many grains.

Behcet’s disease

A rare condition wherein the blood vessels get inflamed, one of the hallmark signs of Behcet’s disease is the presence of mouth ulcers.

Suppressed or attacked immune system

The likes of HIV, AIDS and lupus tend to cause recurrent mouth ulcers too.

Nutritional deficiency

Being deficient in vitamin B12 or iron is also a known underlying cause of recurrent mouth ulcers.

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