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    Mouth ulcers

    Oral ulcer; Stomatitis - ulcerative; Ulcer - mouth

    Mouth ulcers are sores or open lesions in the mouth.

    See also: Canker sores

    Causes

    Mouth ulcers are caused by many disorders. These include:

    • Canker sores
    • Gingivostomatitis
    • Herpes simplex (fever blister)
    • Leukoplakia
    • Oral cancer
    • Oral lichen planus
    • Oral thrush

    The skin lesion of histoplasmosis may also appear as a mouth ulcer.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms vary and depend on the specific cause of the mouth ulcer. In general, symptoms may include:

    • Open sores in the mouth
    • Pain or discomfort in the mouth

    Exams and Tests

    A health care provider or dentist usually diagnoses the type of mouth ulcer, based on its appearance and location. Blood tests or a biopsy of the ulcer may be needed to confirm the cause.

    Treatment

    The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. The cause, if known, should be treated.

    Gentle, thorough oral hygiene may relieve some of the symptoms. Topical (rubbed on) antihistamines, antacids, corticosteroids, or other soothing preparations may be recommended for applying directly to the ulcer.

    Avoid hot or spicy foods, which often increase the pain of mouth ulcers.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    The outcome varies depending on the cause of the ulcer. Many mouth ulcers are harmless and heal without treatment.

    There are types of cancer, however, that may first appear as a mouth ulcer that does not heal. See: Squamous cell carcinoma

    Possible Complications

    • Cellulitis of the mouth, from secondary bacterial infection of ulcers
    • Dental infections (tooth abscesses)
    • Oral cancer
    • Spread of contagious disorders to other people

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your mouth ulcers don't go away after 3 weeks. Call for an appointment with your health care provider if mouth ulcers return frequently, or if new symptoms develop.

    Prevention

    Good oral hygiene may help prevent some types of mouth ulcers, as well as some complications from mouth ulcers. Good oral hygiene includes brushing the teeth at least twice per day, flossing at least daily, and getting regular professional dental cleanings and examinations.

    References

    Muñoz-Corcuera M, Esparza-Gómez G, González-Moles MA, Bascones-Martínez A. Oral ulcers: clinical aspects. A tool for dermatologists. Part I. Acute ulcers. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2009 Apr;34(3):289-94.

    Muñoz-Corcuera M, Esparza-Gómez G, González-Moles MA, Bascones-Martínez A. Oral ulcers: clinical aspects. A tool for dermatologists. Part II. Chronic ulcers. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2009 Jun;34(4):456-61. Epub 2009 Apr 14.

    Mirowski GW, Mark LA. Oral disease and oral-cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 22.

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    • Oral thrush

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    • Canker sore (aphthous ul...

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    • Lichen planus on the ora...

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    • Mouth sores

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      • Oral thrush

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      • Canker sore (aphthous ul...

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      • Lichen planus on the ora...

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      • Mouth sores

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      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Mouth ulcers

              Review Date: 2/17/2011

              Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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