Earlier in part 2 and part 1 of our A-Z Guide of common dental problems and conditions, we covered problems associated with a condition called mouth ulcers. To quickly summarize, mouth ulcers are small (or large) white spots that appear inside your mouth. In most cases, they only cause a bit of irritation whenever you eat or talk loudly. They also heal naturally so you just need to be careful about your habits while you are affected by mouth ulcers. In this article, we do a comprehensive analysis on mouth ulcers. What are they? How do they form? What are the main symptoms? What's the best way to treat and prevent mouth ulcers? All of this is covered in our ultimate guide to mouth ulcers & canker sores.
What are mouth ulcers?
In basic terms, mouth ulcers are white spots that appear on your gum. Usually, everyone gets a mouth ulcer at least once in their lifetime. The white spot appears due to an open sore in your mouth and there are several ways that open sore could have appeared. Mouth ulcers are also known by other terms such as apthous ulcers and canker sores. Mouth ulcers can be generalized into three main categories: minor, major, and herpetiform. I will briefly explain what the differences are between each of these ulcers.
As the name implies, a minor ulcer is very small in size. It is usually less than 8mm in diameter so it is barely visible. Since they are so small, you will not really notice any pain or irritation that results from the minor ulcer. The major ulcer is slightly bigger than the minor ulcer. They are also a lot deeper than the minor ones so you will definitely feel a lot of pain whenever you consume something hot or cold. Unlike the minor one, the major ulcer takes more than a week to heal. It may even result in scars so every care needs to be taken in order to treat major ulcers. The last type on the list is the herpetiform ulcer. This type can be seen as a mix of minor and major ulcers. At the beginning, herpetiform ulcers can appear in their tens or hundreds. These tiny spots eventually merge together to form weirdly-shaped ulcers. Since their shape is irregular and very large, they tend to cause a lot of pain to the patient. Luckily, herpetiform ulcers only affect a very small percentage of medical patients.
So how do these ulcers exactly form? The main cause is usually the lack of dental hygiene. For example, if you don't clear all the bacteria in your mouth by not brushing and flossing your teeth on a daily basis, your chances of contracting ulcers and other dental diseases increase by a significant margin. Mouth ulcers can also also be triggered by other causes such as the lack of vitamin & nutrients, smoking, eating certain types of food in large portions such as chocolate and coffee, stress, and hormonal changes. As you can see, unless you know how bad your dental hygiene is, it's not that easy to identify the main cause of your mouth ulcer condition. The best you can do is to avoid any bad habits while you are having the condition treated.
What are the main symptoms?
As highlighted earlier, the main symptom is the white spot. If you see a white spot, big or small, in your mouth, you are most likely dealing with an ulcer. Other symptoms include pain whenever you consume hot or cold food and beverages. You may also feel slight irritation whenever you shout or scream.
What are the best ways of treating mouth ulcers?
Unless you are dealing with a severe case, mouth ulcers will naturally heal on their own. It's not about treating the mouth ulcer, it's about knowing how to not aggravate the condition even further. For example, you should stop any habits that are detrimental to your dental health such as smoking and drinking a lot of coffee. You should also pay extra attention when you brush and floss your teeth. You should temporarily stop using any teeth whitening products that may cause your teeth or gums to become a lot more sensitive as well.
What are the best ways of preventing it?
I pretty much covered this already. Stop any bad habits like smoking and make sure you maintain your dental health. As I said before, you are likely to have at least one ulcer in your lifetime but if you treat your mouth well, you will only be affected by minor ulcers, not ones that consist of the major or herpetiform types.