Dental Care

Common Mouth Sores


Many people are frustrated by the pain of mouth sores and stymied in their attempts to get rid of them. 

They cause lots of pain and much fretting and worrying. You almost need an expert to tell you the cause of sores in the mouth.

There are telltale characteristics of the various types of mouth sores, however.

Canker sores

If you're experiencing small, painful ulcerations inside your mouth, they might very well be canker sores.  Properly called aphthous sores, they have a whitish or grayish base surrounded by a raised rim of tender red tissue.  You never find them on the outside of the mouth. 

Your doctor will most likely be unable to pinpoint the cause of these mouth sores; they are possibly viral or bacterial in nature. 

Many people develop them from problems with their immune system.  Fatigue, stress, and allergies also contribute to their formation. 

And if you cut the tender tissue inside of the mouth -biting your tongue or the inside of your teeth, for example- a canker sore is likely to form.

Cold Sores

These are other types of painful sores in the mouth area.  They grow on the outside of the mouth along the lips.  Some people develop them on the chin area or on the skin between the lip and nose.

They are caused by a virus, namely herpes virus type 1.  This virus is very similar but not identical to the herpes virus type 2.  Actually, there are more than six dozen types of herpes viruses. 

The type that causes cold sores results in tiny fluid-filled blisters that form singly or in groups.  Once you've suffered an outbreak of cold sores, you'll find yourself prone to having additional attacks over time. 

What triggers a herpes sore around the mouth?  Doctors speculate that this viral infection can flair up following fever, emotional upset, sunburn, or trauma to the skin. 

Canker Sore vs. Cold Sore:   What's the Difference? 

People often confuse these two types of sores, so let's compare them. 

  • Canker sores form inside the mouth, like sores on the roof of the mouth.  Cold sores form outside.

  • Canker sores have a grayish or whitish ulcerated base surrounded by red tissue.  Cold sores are tiny little blisters. 

  • Canker sores are not contagious.  Cold sores are.

  • Canker sores take a week or two to heal.  No medication is needed, but analgesic mouth washes can provide relief.  Cold sores heal in about a week.  They, too, will heal by themselves, but antiviral ointments can help.

  • Both types of mouth sores can be caused by fatigue or stress.  Both can be caused if the skin has been cut or abraded.  But cold sores are viral; canker sores can be viral or bacterial.

Leukoplakia

When an excess of cells forms along the tissues that make up the inside of the cheeks, or on the tongue or gums, white patches develop. 

This is referred to as leukoplakia, and it is common among those who use tobacco, especially when it is held against the inside of the cheek. 

It can also result from poorly fitting dentures or from excessive chewing on those tissues. 

It is sometimes a precursor to cancer, so your dentist might want to perform a biopsy.  To get rid of it, your dentist will advise that you stop using tobacco or he will fit you with dentures that fit better.

Candidiasis

Also known as thrush or moniliasis, these lesions that look like cottage cheese curds are symptomatic of a fungal infection caused by the Candida albicans yeast.

It occurs most often in people who wear dentures, and it's also common among those who are battling illnesses that have compromised their immune system. 

Most often, those affected are either the very young, the very old, or the very ill.   You can also develop it if you suffer from dry mouth syndrome or if you've undergone a course of antibiotic treatment. 

The cure focuses on prescription medications to eliminate the yeast and good hygiene to maintain a healthy mouth environment. 

Complications from Braces

Many people with braces experience oral lesions, and they fail to realize their difficulties are caused by problems with their hardware. 

You can have a wire broken and out of position that irritates tender mouth tissue.  And some people are allergic to components of their braces. 


  • Allergic Reactions can occur from sensitivity to latex rubber or the metal used in braces.  This is rare, but if you think you are experiencing an allergic reaction you should tell your orthodontist without delay.

  • White Spot Lesions result from the inability to properly cleanse your teeth because the braces get in the way.  If the resulting excessive plaque accumulates on tooth enamel, it can dissolve the enamel.  The mineral content of the enamel changes so it takes on a whitish, opaque appearance.  If this plaque clings to the braces and proximal teeth, you will eventually be able to see the pattern of the braces left on the teeth.  You have to brush your teeth carefully during the time that you have braces in order to avoid this.

  • Mouth Sores.  Sometimes you can develop mouth sores just from the irritating parts of the braces.  The best ways to relieve discomfort are with over-the-counter dental rinses, silicone, or dental wax.  You need to protect that part of the mouth that was irritated so that it can heal.

Learn more about different types of mouth sores in general.

A more specific article about Canker Sores in the Mouth.

 

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