Mouth ulcers are also known as 'aphthous ulcers' or 'aphthous stomatitis'. They can appear on their own or in clusters. They usually develop on the tongue or inside the cheek. They are usually round in shape, have a raised, red surround and a white or yellow centre. They can be painful and irritating and usually last for about a week.

They are very common and affect one in four people at some time during their lifetime. They can affect people of all ages but they are particularly common among children and adolescents. They also affect more women than they do men.

Causes

In many cases mouth ulcers are caused by knocks to the inside of the mouth. Burns, bites or cuts can often lead to ulcers.The development of mouth ulcers has also been linked to stress.Women may find that they develop mouth ulcers around the time of their menstrual period.Certain medicines can cause mouth ulcers. Medicine labels and information leaflets should list any possible side effects.

People suffering from anaemia, coeliac disease and Crohn's disease are also more susceptible to mouth ulcers.

Avoiding Mouth Ulcers

An antiseptic mouthwash may help to keep mouth ulcers at bay.

Avoiding stress may also reduce the occurrence of mouth ulcers. Find out about relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.

Treatment

Mouth ulcers will clear up without treatment but if they are causing particular discomfort there are many products available from pharmacies which can be used to treat them. They are available in many different forms including pastilles, lozenges, melt-in-the-mouth tablets, mouthwashes, creams, sprays, gels, pastes, powders and paint. Some protect the area so that the ulcer can heal properly, some reduce pain, some contain antiseptics to kill any germs and some reduce inflammation.Gargling with salt water can also help to treat mouth ulcers.

While you have a mouth ulcer, avoid foods which may aggravate mouth ulcers such as acidic or spicy foods, fizzy drinks and sharp or rough foods such as crisps and crusty bread.

When To See A Doctor

If your mouth ulcer does not clear up after a week or if they occur regularly, consult your doctor.

If you think that your mouth ulcers may be caused by an underlying medical condition or by a medicine that you are taking, tell your doctor.

Additional Information

For more information about oral care, contact the British Dental Health Foundation on 01788 546365. Or visit their website at www.dentalhealth.org.uk.