The Truth About Mouth Sores: When to Worry and When to Relax

The Truth About Mouth Sores: When to Worry and When to Relax

Mouth Sores and Oral Pathology: Identifying Real Issues

Mouth sores, those pesky irritations that can disrupt your meals and conversations, are a common occurrence. But with various potential causes, it can be confusing to know when to worry and when to simply wait it out. 

At Northshore Center for Oral & Facial Surgery and Implantology, our team of oral surgeons near Chicago, IL can use oral pathology to determine the nature of the mouth sore and create a custom treatment plan. Learn more by calling 847-623-5915.  

What Are Mouth Sores?

man smilingMouth sores, also known as aphthous ulcers or stomatitis, are disruptions in the soft tissue lining of your mouth. They can appear anywhere inside your mouth, including the:

  • Inner lips and cheeks

  • Tongue

  • Gums

  • Roof of the mouth (palate)

  • Floor of the mouth

These sores can range in size and severity, causing discomfort and sometimes making it difficult to eat, talk, or swallow. While typically harmless and temporary, some mouth sores can be persistent or a sign of an underlying condition.

Common Causes of Mouth Sores

The exact cause of mouth sores is often unknown, but several factors can contribute to their development, including but not limited to:

  • Minor Injuries: Accidental bites to the cheek or tongue, vigorous brushing, or ill-fitting dentures can irritate the mouth and trigger sores.

  • Canker Sores: The most common type of mouth sore, canker sores appear as small, round ulcers with a white or gray center surrounded by a red border. The cause of canker sores is not fully understood, but stress, hormonal changes, and certain foods may play a role.

  • Cold Sores (Fever Blisters): Caused by the herpes simplex virus, cold sores appear as clusters of small, fluid-filled blisters, often around the lips or chin. They are contagious and can be triggered by stress, sun exposure, or illness.

  • Angular Cheilitis: These cracks or sores appear in the corners of the mouth and can be caused by a fungal or bacterial infection, a deficiency in iron or vitamin B12, or excessive drooling during sleep.

  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Deficiencies in vitamins B12, iron, or zinc can sometimes contribute to mouth sore development.

Beyond the Physical: Mouth Sores and Your Body’s Signals

woman smilingMouth sores can sometimes offer clues about underlying health conditions. Here are some examples:

  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Vitamin deficiencies, particularly B12 and iron, can contribute to mouth sores.

  • Stress: Feeling overwhelmed? Stress can trigger outbreaks of canker sores or worsen existing ones.

  • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormones, such as during menstruation or pregnancy, can make some women more susceptible to mouth sores.

  • Certain Medications: Some medications, like chemotherapy drugs or immunosuppressants, can cause mouth sores as a side effect.

Red Flags: When to Visit a Dental Professional

While most mouth sores are temporary and resolve on their own, some can signal a more serious underlying issue. Here at NSCOFS we understand the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. This blog post highlights the red flags that indicate it’s time to visit a dental professional for a mouth sore:

  • Persistence: If a mouth sore doesn’t heal within 2-3 weeks, it’s best to schedule a consultation appointment.

  • Pain and Discomfort: While some discomfort is expected, excessively painful or unusually large sores warrant professional evaluation.

  • Recurring Outbreaks: Frequent mouth sores, especially if they appear without a clear trigger, could indicate an underlying condition.

  • Accompanying Symptoms: Fever, swollen lymph nodes, or unusual bleeding alongside a mouth sore require immediate dental attention.

  • Weakened Immune System: People with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to complications from mouth sores, so any persistent sore should be checked by a dentist.

Oral Pathology and Mouth Sore Identification

woman smilingOral pathologists are dental professionals with specialized training in diagnosing and treating diseases of the mouth, jaws, and face. They play a crucial role in identifying the cause of mouth sores. Here’s how oral pathologists approach mouth sore identification:

  • Medical History Review: A detailed discussion about your medical history and any medications you take can provide valuable clues.

  • Clinical Examination: A thorough oral examination will involve inspecting the size, location, and appearance of the sore.

  • Biopsy (if necessary): A small tissue sample may be taken from the sore for microscopic examination to determine the exact cause.

The NSCOFS Team is Here to Help

If you’re concerned about a mouth sore, our team is here to help. We offer comprehensive oral medicine services and can provide an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Schedule an appointment today by calling 847-623-5915 and take charge of your oral health! We have three convenient locations in Deerfield, Libertyville, and Gurnee, IL.