Mouth ulcers are small white swellings or sores surrounded by an area of redness. While mouth ulcers are not contagious, they are often confused with cold sores, which are caused by the contagious herpes virus. There are multiple types of mouth ulcers. If you experience frequent mouth ulcers on your gums, tongue or in your mouth, learn more about how you can quickly differentiate them from one another.
It is also possible to have up to 100 very small, painful ulcers which last for one to two weeks. However, these last two varieties are very rare. You may get ulcers in other parts of the body such as your eyes or genital area. It is important to tell your dental team about this.
How common are mouth ulcers?
Mouth ulcers are very common. Most people will have at least one during their lifetime. They affect at least 20% of the population. Studies have shown that mouth ulcers are more common in women and young adults.
Types of mouth ulcers
Surprisingly, there are numerous types of mouth ulcers. Each type of ulcer has different symptoms and outcomes, and some are more common than others.
Minor aphthous ulcers.
These are the most common type of canker sore. They can appear inside the cheeks, and on the lips, tongue and gums and, more rarely, on the roof of the mouth. Most of these ulcers are the size of the top of a pencil and can sometimes come in clusters. You can get four to six at any one time. They heal within a week or two, and they don’t cause any scarring, reports the Mayo Clinic.
Major aphthous ulcers.
These are a more severe type of mouth sore, but fortunately they’re not as common as the minor variety. The sores are usually larger than 1 centimeter in diameter. In addition to being wider, they can also be deeper than minor mouth sores. Major sores can be very painful. When they heal, which can take six weeks or more, they can leave behind extensive scars.
These uncommon ulcers affect very few people with mouth sores. Despite their name, they’re not caused by the herpes virus. They’re made up of clusters of anywhere between 10 and 100 sores, explains the Mayo Clinic, and these clusters of small sores can sometimes merge into one large ulcer. Despite this, they usually heal in about a week, and they don’t cause scarring.
Mouth ulcers prevention
To lessen the likelihood of an ulcer outbreak, especially for those with a history of recurrent mouth ulcers, a number of measures can be taken.
- Avoid foods that may trigger ulceration.
- Focus on a healthy balanced diet. It should contain sufficient amounts of nutrients and vitamins.
- Maintain a good dental hygiene and using a soft toothbrush to avoid irritation
- Reduce stress and get plenty of sleep.