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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Mouth ulcers

Oral ulcer; Stomatitis - ulcerative; Ulcer - mouth

Last reviewed: January 21, 2013.

Mouth ulcers are sores or open lesions in the mouth.

Causes

Mouth ulcers are caused by many disorders. These include:

A skin sore caused by histoplasmosis may also appear as a mouth ulcer.

Symptoms

Symptoms will vary based on the cause of the mouth ulcer. Symptoms may include:

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

Exams and Tests

Most of the time, a  health care provider or dentist will look the ulcer and where it is in the mouth to make the diagnosis. You may need 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 underlying cause of the ulcer should be treated if it is known.
  • Gently cleaning your mouth and teeth may help relieve your symptoms.
  • Medicines that you rub directly on the ulcer such as antihistamines, antacids, and corticosteroids may help soothe discomfort.
  • Avoid hot or spicy foods until the ulcer is healed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

Some types of cancer [link to Squamous cell carcinoma [01-000829] that may first appear as a mouth ulcer that does not heal. See:

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

 A mouth ulcer does not go away after 3 weeks.

You have mouth ulcers return often, or if new symptoms develop.

Prevention

To help prevent mouth ulcers and complications from them:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day.
  • Get regular dental cleanings and checkups.

References

  1. Daniels TE. Diseases of the mouth and salivary glands. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 433.
  2. 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.

Review Date: 1/21/2013.

Reviewed by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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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. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

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. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Systemic interventions for recurrent aphthous stomatitis (mouth ulcers)Systemic interventions for recurrent aphthous stomatitis (mouth ulcers)
    Mouth ulcers (sores) are one of the most common oral problems and many people suffer with them repeatedly. These can be painful and slow to heal. At its worst, this can cause significant difficulties in eating and drinking. This review found that many different treatments were used to manage this condition, although the evidence of their effectiveness remains inconclusive.
See all (33) ...

Figures

  • Oral thrush.
    Canker sore (aphthous ulcer).
    Lichen planus on the oral mucosa.
    Mouth sores.

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