What are mouth ulcers?

Ulcers in the mouth are a common symptom of infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other underlying conditions and diseases. Mouth ulcers result from pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, which inflame the lining of the mouth, causing swelling, redness, and ulcer formation. Ulcers most commonly occur on the inside of the mouth but may also occur on the tongue and lips, or in association with more generalized conditions, such as cancer or hormonal changes. Allergic reactions to food and other substances may also cause inflammation, swelling and development of mouth ulcers.

Canker sore is the name for a painful, open sore in the mouth that is medically known as aphthous ulcer. The sores are not contagious and are small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in the mouth and gums. Canker sores may result from mouth injury, viral infections, hormonal shifts, an abnormal immune system, or a diet low in nutrients.

Trauma to the mouth, gums or teeth may result in mouth ulcers due to lacerations. Trauma-related cuts become inflamed, swell, and have the potential develop into a mouth ulcer. Ill-fitting dentures may also cause sores and mouth redness. Any type of trauma to the mouth, lips or tongue can also result in mouth redness as a result of inflammation and swelling around the site of injury.

Damaged to the mouth from hot or spicy foods, chewing tobacco or smoking can cause mouth ulcers. Mouth ulcers may also result from specific medications, including chemotherapy. Underlying conditions that are common causes of mouth ulcers include deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals and hormonal changes.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) or difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for mouth ulcers but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What other symptoms might occur with mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the mouth may also involve other body systems.

Symptoms that may occur along with mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers may accompany other symptoms associated with an infection including:


What causes mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers result from inflammation due to infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. Infections of the skin around the mouth, mucous membranes inside the mouth, gums, and tongue are common causes of mouth ulcers.

Trauma that causes damage to lips, tongue, gums, and inside of mouth is also a common cause of mouth ulcers. Damage to the mouth can be the result of excessive ... Read more about mouth ulcerscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health