Mouth ulcers are open sores inside the mouth that often cause inflammation or secondary infection to the affected tissues. Oral ulcers are very common health problem that, according to some studies, trouble more women than men. It is most frequent in population between 16 and 25 years of age.
Main causes of mouth ulcers may be divided in two categories:
- Reduced saliva production that causes dryness of the mouth. Saliva lubricates the inner side of the mouth and helps diminishing infections while preserving the integrity of the mucosa.
- Any kind of physical damage of the mucosa and tongue makes tissue more prone to infection. Ulcers most often occur after dental work when incidental damage causes scratches to the mouth tissue. Damage to the tissue is most often being caused by: a sharp edge of a tooth, unintentional biting, inadequately fitting dentures, dental braces or trauma from a toothbrush.
Chemicals such as Aspirin or alcohol as well as the sodium lauryl sulfate (one of the most common ingredients in toothpastes) may irritate tissues.
Beside these, chemical irritants are also: tobacco use, candies, chewing gums and chewable multivitamins, acidic foods and drinks, various toothpastes and mouthwashes.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa may enter the mouth from hands if the mouth is being touched without having wash hands washed first. More often these microorganisms cause secondary infection to preexisting ulcers. Among these are: streptococci, gonococci, coxsackie, candida albicans, corynebacterium diptheriae, treponema pallidum, mycobacterium tuberculosis, herpes simplex, varicella zoster, morbillivirus, etc.
Vitamin C deficiency affects wound healing and thus can contribute to mouth ulcers. Vitamin B12, iron and folate may also cause the variety of similar symptoms. Insufficient diet may also affect dryness of the mouth and make area more suitable for injuries.
Ulcers often arise as an end product of many different diseases. Recurring episodes of mouth ulcers can point out to an immunodeficiency, signaling low levels of immunoglobulin in the oral mucous membranes. This takes an account of stress, autoimmune conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus and immunodeficiency syndromes like HIV/AIDS. Repeated episodes should be further investigated to diagnose the underlying cause.
Following medical conditions are connected with mouth ulcers: Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease), food allergies and intolerance to
certain substances, Bechet’s disease, diabetes mellitus, lichen planus, pemphigus vulgaris, and chronic nasal obstruction.
Sufficient oral hygiene may help in relieving symptoms. Rinsing the mouth with warm salted water may also help. If ulcers keep it up for longer than three weeks it could be the best to consult the doctor.