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Causes Mouth Sores and How to Get Rid of Them

Mouth Sores

Mouth sores, though frustrating, are usually harmless and temporary. You can reduce your chances of outbreaks by identifying potential triggers and practicing good oral hygiene. If a sore persists or you experience unusual symptoms, consult your dentist, like the experts at Dentist Surprise AZ, for proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember, with some care and home remedies, you can keep your smile healthy and comfortable.

Mouth Sores (1)

The Many Causes of Mouth Sores

While the exact cause of a particular mouth sore might remain a mystery, several common factors can contribute to their development:

  • Minor Injuries: Biting your cheek or tongue, brushing too harshly, or ill-fitting dentures can all create openings in the delicate lining of your mouth, allowing for ulcers to form.
  • Canker Sores (Aphthous Stomatitis): These are the most common type of mouth sore, appearing as small, round ulcers with a white or yellow center and a red border. The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, but stress, certain foods (like acidic fruits or spicy dishes), and hormonal fluctuations can be triggers.
  • Cold Sores (Fever Blisters): Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), cold sores are highly contagious and typically appear as small, fluid-filled blisters around the lips or mouth. Unlike canker sores, cold sores develop on the outside of the mouth.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: A lack of vitamins B12, iron, or folate can contribute to mouth sores.
  • Food Allergies or Sensitivities: Certain foods, such as chocolate, coffee, or dairy products, may trigger mouth sores in some individuals.
  • Certain Medications: Some medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or chemotherapy drugs, can cause mouth sores as a side effect.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Conditions like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, or Behçet’s disease can increase your susceptibility to mouth sores.

Identifying the Culprit: Uncovering the Source

While pinpointing the exact cause of your mouth sore can be tricky, some clues might help:

  • Location: Canker sores typically appear on the inner cheeks, lips, or tongue, while cold sores form around the lips or outside the mouth.
  • Appearance: Canker sores are usually round with a white or yellow center, while cold sores appear as clusters of small blisters.
  • Symptoms: Canker sores are typically painful, while cold sores might be itchy or tingly before blistering.

If you’re unsure about the cause of your mouth sore or if it persists for more than two weeks, consult your dentist or doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Finding Relief for Mouth Sores

The good news is that most mouth sores are harmless and will heal within a week or two. However, there are steps you can take to manage the discomfort and promote healing:

  • Saltwater Rinse: Make a solution of one-half teaspoon of table salt dissolved in a warm glass of water. Swish thoroughly for 15-30 seconds several times a day. The salt can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  • Over-the-counter (O.T.C.) Pain Relief: Pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage discomfort. Topical gels or ointments containing lidocaine or benzocaine can numb the area and provide temporary relief.
  • Protective Measures: Avoid irritating your mouth further by using a soft-bristled toothbrush and brushing gently. Avoid alcohol-free mouthwash and acidic or spicy foods that might aggravate the sores.

Natural Remedies for Mouth Sore Relief

While there’s no scientific cure for mouth sores, some natural remedies might offer comfort:

  • Honey: Honey has natural antibacterial and healing properties. Apply a small amount directly to the sore for soothing relief.
  • Aloe vera: The gel from aloe vera leaves has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain and promote healing. Choose a product specifically formulated for oral use.
  • Licorice Root: Licorice root extract has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain associated with mouth sores. Look for licorice throat lozenges or sprays containing glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient.

Important Note:  If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor before using any herbal remedies.


Mouth sores, often painful and disruptive, can arise from various causes, including viral infections like herpes simplex, canker sores, trauma from dental appliances, and certain systemic diseases. Nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin B12, iron, or folic acid, can also contribute to their development. Stress and hormonal changes are additional triggers. To manage and alleviate mouth sores, maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial. Using antiseptic mouthwashes, avoiding spicy or acidic foods, and applying topical treatments can provide relief. Over-the-counter medications may reduce pain and inflammation. If sores persist or are recurrent, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider to rule out underlying health issues and receive appropriate treatment.

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