Mouth Sores

What are mouth sores?

Mouth sores are any open blisters found in the oral cavity. These are commonly seen in the lips, the tongue, the gums, the palate and the inside of the cheeks. Examples include canker sores, cold sores and fever blisters.

What causes mouth sores?

There are myriad reasons for mouth sores. Many are caused by infectious organisms, bacterial, viral or fungal. Cold sores or fever blisters, for example, are caused by a virus, herpes simplex. Others may be due to trauma from the teeth or from some other physical or chemical injury. Others may be entirely due to an existing medical problem, for example cancer or an autoimmune disease. Finally, it could also be cause by an allergic reaction or to a dietary deficiency. Since the causes of mouth sores are very different, treatment strategies for them will also vary.

How are mouth sores treated?

  • Generally, treatment depends upon the underlying cause for the mouth sore. However, common personal care strategies include:
  • Gargling with cold water
  • Avoiding hot, spicy, salty and acidic foods
  • Oral hygiene
  • Pain medications

When should I see a doctor?

Although over-the-counter medications are commonly available for mouth sores, you will need to see a doctor when:

  • It lasts longer than two weeks
  • You have an immune deficiency (HIV) or you are a cancer patient on treatment
  • There are lesions or rashes in the other parts of the body
  • You have weight loss
  • The sore is abnormally large or is enlarging rapidly
  • You have a severe allergic reaction to your medication