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Mouth Sores

Mouth sores and mouth ulcers can be painful, but aren’t generally the sign of a serious problem.

Mouth ulcers are actually quite common. Known as mouth sores, canker sores or aphthous ulcers, when you've got them you certainly know about it. Because nerves are close to this surface, they can be quite sore. Most often, they will heal in a week or two, by themselves. Sometimes, certain food and drinks can make mouth ulcers even more painful. There are some treatments you can use to speed up recovery. If you have an ulcer that doesn’t heal within three weeks, there may be a bigger underlying problem. See your dentist or GP to have it checked out.

When to see a dentist

If in doubt, check it out.

Book an appointment to see a dentist as soon as possible if:

  • You are in pain
  • Pain lasts longer than a day or two
  • The pain is severe or unbearable
  • You have a fever, earache or pain when you open your mouth wide
  • If you've had mouth ulcers before
  • If you're experiencing stress, or run down

Are you in pain?

Call us if you’re experiencing pain and need emergency dental care. We’ll get you in to see us fast for an urgent appointment.

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Symptoms of a mouth ulcers

Ulcers are typically small but can also be quite large sometimes. Causing a dent on the surface, they are often grey, yellow or white in colour. Mouth ulcers can hurt, intensely at times. Eating, drinking and brushing your teeth can make them even more painful.

See your GP if ulcers are causing you extreme pain, as there may be an underlying problem. Likewise, if you have reoccurring ulcers it may indicate another issue such as a nutrient deficiency. If your ulcers do not heal after three weeks, we also recommend seeing your GP.

Causes of mouth ulcers

We all know how painful it can be to accidentally bite your tongue or the inside of your cheek. This can quickly turn into a mouth ulcer. Other ways you might develop an ulcer are bumping the inside of your mouth with your toothbrush, burning your mouth with a hot drink, wearing ill-fitting dentures or the rough edge of a tooth. The cold sore or herpes simplex virus, a food intolerance, or even an allergy can also cause mouth ulcers. Ulcers can occur with certain lifestyle or health factors, like if you are taking certain medications, you have a nutrient deficiency or have had radiotherapy. Other factors can include:

  • During times of high stress
  • With hormonal changes in females
  • When you are quitting smoking

Get prepared

When you book at one of our dental practices for a problem with your teeth or mouth, you want answers and advice as soon as possible. That’s understandable. It’s useful to think ahead about what your dentist will need to know to diagnose and treat you.

Generally your dentist will ask you about your medical history and then thoroughly examine your mouth, teeth, gums, jaw, tongue, throat, sinuses, ears, nose and neck. You may also need an x-ray, depending on what your dentist suspects might be the cause of your problem.

Your dentist may ask you some questions, such as:

  • Do you have any pain?
  • Where do you feel pain?
  • How bad is the pain?
  • How do you think you got the mouth sore or ulcer?
  • What is your dental routine at home?
  • Have you made any changes recently?

Think about your answers to these questions before your appointment. Being prepared can speed up the diagnosis.

Have questions?

There are some medications that can help when you have mouth ulcers. These may help to ease the pain, protect the area and reduce inflammation. Antiseptic mouthwashes, protective pastes, local analgesics and antiviral creams are all possible options. Talk to your dentist, GP or pharmacist about what’s best for you.

Mouth ulcers generally heal on their own within a week or two. There are some things you can do to ease the pain while they heal - and maybe even speed up recovery. Make sure you use a soft toothbrush and avoid food that may make the pain worse, such as spicy and acidic food. Take a mild pain relief medication.

It's thought that some nutrient deficiencies can cause mouth ulcers. These can include a diet lacking in iron, folic acid or vitamin B12. Talk to your dentist, GP or pharmacist if you have any concerns. They will recommend the best course of action.

Certain medical conditions can cause mouth ulcers. These can include viral infections such as the cold sore, or herpes simplex virus, chicken pox and hand, foot and mouth disease. Nutrient deficiencies including iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 may also cause ulcers. Other health and lifestyle factors such as extra stress, hormonal changes, quitting smoking or a diet high in spicy or acidic foods may cause mouth ulcers to develop. Talk to your dentist or GP if you have any concerns.

We get it. We’re New Zealand’s largest group of dentists so we’ve seen more scared patients than any other dental practice in the country. For most people who are scared about visiting the dentist it’s because they’ve had a bad experience in the past. Relax. Our gentle and compassionate dentists understand how you feel. Whether you’re anxious or worried about experiencing more pain or the potential cost of the treatment, the best thing to do is to let us know how you feel. Making sure you feel comfortable is part of our job.

Sometimes, mouth ulcers just happen and you might not know why. Most of us have experienced them. You may be able to reduce your risk of ulcers developing by fixing any damaged teeth, rough surfaces or ill-fitting dentures. Maintain a nutritious, balanced diet and take good care of your oral health. That means a combination of at-home dental care and building a great relationship with your dentist.

We recommend daily healthy habits and regular visits to the dentist. For optimum oral health:

  • Practice good oral hygiene habits at home including brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day
  • Book hygiene visits with an oral hygienist or oral health therapist twice each year
  • Book routine exam and x-rays visits with your dentist once each year

The Lumino Dental Plan is a cost-effective way to ensure your oral health is given the priority it deserves. It’s an affordable ongoing subscription plan that keeps you on top of your oral health. We know that when you look after your oral health properly with regular preventative care, you’ll be less likely to need to see a dentist in an emergency. You’re also likely to spend less money at the dentist over time.