Most of us have experienced the irritation of a mouth ulcer at some point. These painful spots – also known as canker sores – are small round lesions which appear white in colour with a faint red border. They can develop anywhere on the inside of our cheeks, inner lips, tongue and gums.
Maybe you are prone to mouth ulcers and seem to get them all the time – or maybe you’ve just got your first one in years. They can be pretty painful – but are almost always harmless.
Read on to find out what causes them, and who might be particularly prone to developing them.
Other things which cause injury to the mouth, such as accidentally biting the inside of your cheek or tongue or being hit by the ball during sports, disrupt these delicate tissues and can lead to a mouth ulcer. These are known as traumatic ulcers.
Another common cause of mouth ulcers is food that’s too hot, causing scalding to the mouth or tongue. Food that’s particularly acidic or spicy can also trigger them.
Crisp-lovers should watch out, too, as spiky, sharp foods are also known causes of mouth ulcers due to the micro-injuries they can inflict on the oral mucosa as we crunch them.
Similarly, oral piercing such as to the lip or tongue, can be a risk factor for recurring mouth ulcers due to the jewellery causing irritation to the delicate oral tissues.
Anxious habits such as chewing the inside of your cheek could also be at the root of mouth ulcers in the absence of any clear medical explanation.
Disorders such as Coeliac disease (an intolerance to gluten) and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are some of the more serious causes behind mouth ulcers. Inflammatory bowel diseases can only be diagnosed by a doctor.
This is because they cause inflammation in your digestive system – of which your mouth is a part.
However, these conditions are not usually the cause of mouth ulcers in absence of other symptoms – so don’t worry.
This is a rarer symptom of herpes simplex – so mouth ulcers alone are no cause for alarm. Consult your doctor if you’re unsure.
Last updated: 29 April 2020