Mouth Ulcers: Benign or Sinister?

A painful red or yellow sore that appears inside the mouth on an occasional or regular basis is called a mouth ulcer. There are many causes of ulcers, and this article discusses the most common. 

If you ever notice a sore in your mouth that isn’t healing, please call to make an appointment with your dentist.

Types of Ulcers

Traumatic Ulcers

Ulcers can occur in response to trauma. Common causes include:

  • biting the cheek or tongue
  • the presence of rough or sharp fillings or teeth
  • overly-vigorous tooth brushing or
  • poorly fitting dentures.

It’s usually easy to diagnose a traumatic ulcer because the cause is located adjacent to the injury. These ulcers usually begin to heal as soon as the cause has been removed.

Recurrent Aphthous Ulcers

These ulcers usually appear in clusters on a recurrent basis. They can be small or large, and are usually very painful. The cause of this type of ulcer hasn’t been determined, but it’s thought that they can be hereditary. 

Recurrent aphthous ulcers are not contagious.

Infectious Ulcers

Some viral and bacterial infections cause ulcers in the mouth. An example is the herpes simplex virus, which causes the ulceration commonly known as cold sores.

Health Conditions That Cause Mouth Ulcers

Some disorders of the blood, skin, and gastrointestinal tract can cause ulcers to appear in the mouth. 

Oral Cancer

One of the first signs that oral cancer is developing is the appearance of a mouth ulcer. The most significant risk factors for oral cancer are smoking, tobacco use, and heavy drinking, but cancer can also occur in the absence of these.

When Should Your Dentist Review Your Mouth Ulcers?

You should ask your dentist to review your mouth ulcers:

  • If the ulcers don’t begin to heal after two weeks
  • If the ulcer increases in size even when the area is not being traumatised
  • When ulcers keep coming back
  • If you have any concerns at all about their presence. 

In our practice, Dr Teo will examine the ulcer and offer a diagnosis and course of treatment where appropriate. If she believes an ulcer has an underlying medical cause or needs further investigation she will refer the case to the appropriate medical practitioner.

Dr Teo’s practice was founded on a preventive philosophy. This is why an oral cancer check is completed as part of every check-up appointment in our practice.