Mouth sores are experienced by many Americans at some point during their lives, some repeatedly. These are painful lesions that appear on the lips, gums, tongue, or other tissues in the mouth, painful spots that are often red or white. Some of the most common types:

  • Cold sores aka fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious, transmitted by kissing or sharing food or beverages, with more than half of Americans having been infected, though only 20-40% develop cold sores.
  • Canker sores aka mouth ulcers are not contagious and usually go away within a couple of weeks, but are experienced by 20% of Americans.
  • Thrush aka candidiasis is a yeast infection that is common among denture wearers.
  • Leukoplakia is common among smokers, but the thick, white patches usually go away without treatment.
  • Oral cancer lesions or red or white sores differ from other sores in that they do not heal.

Stress can be a major factor in why mouth sores appear, especially if the body’s immune system is weak due to poor diet, inadequate hydration, and lack of exercise. B vitamin complex or a multivitamin, taken twice a day, can help prevent mouth sore recurrence.

Try reducing stress by walking in a pleasant area, listening to beautiful music, meditating, or leading a more balanced life to reduce the chances of getting mouth sores.

Hormonal changes can be an important factor in their appearance. Smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol, and eating very spicy or hot foods can also cause sores. So can brushing teeth too hard or irritation from orthodontic devices, as well as biting your lip, tongue, or cheek.

If you are being treated for cancer, especially with radiation of the head or neck, these sores can result. Other conditions that can increase the risk include HIV, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lupus, and celiac disease.

You can reduce discomfort by rinsing your mouth with saltwater several times a day. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can reduce pain, as well as cold sore and canker sore sticks. Lysine, an amino acid, and oregano oil supplements are popular treatments for virus-caused sores. Steroid gel and anti-inflammatories can also help.

While inflicted, you should avoid irritating sores by eating foods that are hot, spicy, salty, or citrus, while ice cream and sherbet are soothing.  

If you have a mouth sore, Dr. Marine can help diagnose it and discuss your best options for treatment.

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