Mouth ulcers are very common they affect at least 20% of the population and are more common in women than men. Thankfully they are not contagious so sharing a glass or cutlery will not pass them from one person to another.
There are three main types:
Minor ulcers – these are the most common type of ulcer accounting for 80% of cases. They are small approx 2-8mm and usually heal naturally within 10-14 days. They will not cause any scarring.
Major Ulcers – are larger and deeper than minor ulcers and usually have raised or irregular borders. They are usually more than a 1cm in size, take longer to heal and may leave a scar.
Herpetiform Ulcers – these are multiple ulcers the size of a pinhead. The number can range from 5 to 100. Sometimes they can fuse together to form larger irregular shaped sore which are painful.
In most cases mouth ulcers are not caused by infection, most minor single ulcers are caused by damage to the mouth e.g. biting your cheek, incorrect tooth brushing or from a sharp tooth or filling.
Other causes of mouth ulcers may be stress, hormonal changes, vitamin b12 deficiency, iron deficiency, crohn’s disease, celiac disease, reactive arthritis, immunodeficiency, reaction to certain medications, herpes virus, anaemia, hand foot and mouth disease and some patients find they get mouth ulcers when they give up smoking.
Most mouth ulcers will clear up in 10-14 days but depending on the location they may be painful. Using a soft toothbrush when brushing your teeth, using a bacteria reducing mouthwash, avoiding hard foods and those that have been known to cause ulcers in the past and trying to relieve your stress levels will help the ulcer to heal quicker. If it is caused by a sharp tooth then a visit to the dentist is a must. Sometimes there is a need for painkillers or a type of medicine called corticosteroid which helps to reduce the inflammation.
If your mouth ulcer lasts for more than a couple of weeks it is best to have it checked out.