Mouth ulcers are painful sores that appear in the mouth. While there are a lot of causes and symptoms of mouth ulcers, some are more common than others. Despite being sore enough to interfere with eating, ulcers aren't serious, and you can manage them at home. Medical intervention is only necessary if ulcers last more than a week. Ulcers show up in a variety of colors and appear as round sores on the tongue, inner cheeks, or lip. Mouth ulcers are not cold sores and should not be mistaken as such.

Viral Infections

One of the most common causes of a mouth ulcer is the cold sore. Along with other viral infections such as chickenpox, cold sores are something we all get. While ulcers generally do not look like cold sores, the herpes simplex virus that causes them can also cause ulcers. One of the best treatments for an ulcer, particularly when you've come down with a virus, is to eat a plain diet, avoiding salty or acidic food and drink until the ulcer calms down.


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Vitamin Deficiency

Deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, or folate can be another cause of mouth ulcers, though this side effect is rare. B12 plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells and DNA. B12 deficiencies get more common as you get older. While a deficiency can be to blame, an ulcer alone will not identify the problem. Only some people will experience oral symptoms, and a swollen tongue is much more common than an ulcer. Treatment for vitamin deficiencies, if you've had a diagnosis, can involve changes in your diet, or supplements. Your doctor may also give you an injection, and a dentist can provide an antibacterial mouthwash.


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Weakened Immune System

A shoddy immune system is a huge component of many conditions. When your immune system is weak or overworked, it's much easier for your body to be susceptible to catching something. When a viral infection or high-stress situation occurs, the immune system may attempt to overcompensate. Often, if this is the cause of your mouth ulcers, you'll also experience colds and viruses. Many vitamins on the market can improve your immune system, as can adding protein to your diet and more importantly, getting enough sleep.


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Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a bowel disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract leading to severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and malnutrition. Mouth ulcers are another, albeit rare, symptom to add to the list. Treatment can greatly reduce the likelihood, however, and includes anti-inflammatories and immune-modulating drugs.


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Biting the Inside of Your Mouth

Biting the insides of your mouth is an even more common cause of mouth ulcers than a viral infection. Plenty of people don't realize when they chew or bite their tongues or the inside of their mouths. This often occurs in relation to stress, much like teeth-grinding, and dental conditions that cause the latter can amplify the former. Once a sore develops, many people will irritate it further, again unconsciously. Mouthwash and lozenge spray can help prevent exacerbation of existing open sores in the mouth.


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Stress and Anxiety

Stress-related ulcers in the mouth are very common, affecting about 20% of adults. High stress and anxiety can affect the immune system and, as mentioned above, a weak immune system often leads to problems like mouth ulcers.  Taking steps to manage your stress can reduce your chances of getting mouth ulcers, as well as many other conditions.


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Hormonal Imbalances

During the menstrual cycle, an increase of progesterone can cause some women to experience oral changes such as swollen gums and salivary glands, or mouth sores. If you notice sore gums or more ulcers around your period, consider seeing a doctor. These symptoms are due to normal hormonal fluctuations but are often unnecessary.  You can also help yourself by drinking plenty of fluids.


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Dental Issues

Dental conditions such as poorly-fitting dentures or a defective filling can cause damage to the mouth. Since mouth ulcers can be caused by a range of sources, it is wise to monitor them. If your ulcers last for weeks, you keep getting more, or they become more painful, see a physician. However, if you notice the appearance of the mouth ulcer coincides with dental work, your dentist might have the answers you need. He or she can prescribe antimicrobial mouthwash or a softer toothbrush.


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Celiac Disease

People who have celiac disease cannot consume gluten; doing so triggers an immune response in the small intestine that can lead to nausea and discomfort. Gluten-sensitivity can show itself in a manner of ways including abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss. In a recent study, researchers found recurrent mouth sores can sometimes be the only symptom a person with celiac disease exhibits. A gluten-free diet decreases the symptoms of celiac disease, which can also reduce mouth sores.


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Finally, ulcers can be a side effect of certain medications. Mouth ulcers are an unfortunate side effect of some anti-inflammatories and beta-blockers. Chemotherapy medicines are also responsible for causing mouth ulcers. If it turns out your mouth ulcers are because of medication you're taking, ask a pharmacist about alternatives. Changing medications can quickly remediate ulcers.


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