15th Mar, 2016
These are painful sores that appear in the mouth. They occur commonly and are usually associated with many diseases. Mouth ulcers can simply be defined as a break in the oral/mouth epithelium, thus exposing the nerve ending. It causes excruciating pain, great discomfort and quite often prevent people from feeding properly especially when consuming spicy foods and citrus fruits.
As against various myths that mouth ulcers result solely due to the failure of an individual to consume pepper and spicy foods, there are various causes of mouth ulcers, they include, but not limited to:
- Trauma: which could either be mechanical, chemical, thermal or electrical
- Aphthous ulcer
- Drug related
- Nutritional deficiencies e.g. in case of scurvy resulting from vitamin C deficiency
- Immune deficiencies e.g. HIV/AIDS
- Malignancies e.g. squamous cell carcinoma
The two most common causes of mouth sores are trauma and aphthous, hence they will be dwelled upon extensively for the scope of this piece.
- Mechanical/physical causes: These occurs when you bite yourself accidentally. It could also result from a broken tooth with a sharp, pointed or jagged edges. In addition, from denture (a removable plate or frame holding one or more artificial teeth) irritation for denture wearers and occasionally from sharp foreign objects placed in the mouth. Presentation of this type of ulcer is in diverse ways but usually, they present as a painful, single, irregularly shaped ulcers.
- Chemical causes: These results from introduction of toxic substances e.g. aspirin tablet, acid from wet cell batteries, insecticides etc into the mouth, thus resulting in a mouth sore. The sores appear as a reddish or occasionally whitish eroded surface of the affected part. The sores heal spontaneously in about a week.
This is one of the most common causes of mouth sores. It has a prevalence rate of 10-30% of the general population. The exact cause is unclear, but recent evidences implicate immune suppression and immune related causes. Aphthous ulcers are sudden sores we notice in our mouth without any prior history of any form of trauma.
There are various factors that could predispose to this type of ulcer, they include; allergy, genetic predisposition, endocrine/hormonal imbalances, emotional stress, hematological (blood related) deficiencies, HIV/AIDS etc. In our environment, emotional stress and endocrine/ hormonal imbalances are the leading predisposing factors. Endocrine imbalances in the form of menstruation or pregnancy lowers the immune system and invariably manifest in the form of mouth sores, so also emotional stress, often common in students writing exams, workers having a tough time meeting set targets, people going through heartbreak etc.
These groups of people tend to experience mouth sores which present as a small round ulcer, covered with a whitish yellow membrane. The ulcers may appear alone or in multiples in the lips, cheeks, gum and floor of the mouth. They cause excruciating pain and impede feeding; they heal with or without scar formation depending on the type of aphthous ulcer (minor or major).
Moreover, mouth ulcers are very painful and discomforting, often militating against the wellbeing of the individual affected. They are usually self-limiting i.e. they heal on their own without application of any medicament and do not leave behind any scar. A red flag is raised when duration and frequency of mouth sores increases, it portends an imminent danger as it could be a chronic infection or a malignancy (cancer).
Conclusively, soft, bland and balanced diets are recommended for individuals having mouth ulcers. Emotional and physical stress should also be minimized as much as possible because they are a major cause of mouth ulcers. In cases where the frequency and duration of mouth sores increase, it is advised that such an individual visits his/her Dentist as a matter of urgency.
Having a recurrent sore in your mouth? Or a sore that isn't healing? Why don't you chat with our Doctors now?
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