Mouth ulcers are not common in the United States. Only 0.3% of the population suffers from them, but they can be painful and even life-threatening. Statistics do not paint a very flattering picture. They occur most often in children and adolescents, but they are not limited to this group. Many adults also suffer from them, yet the disorder is usually not reported. This is primarily because people tend to suffer through the painful symptoms without seeking treatment.
There is no known definitive cause behind mouth ulcers. But, certain risk factors have been identified. These include: accidentally swallowing a glass of tobacco with acid reflux, minor facial trauma from improper brushing, sport injuries, or traumatic bite from a sweet. These are all risk factors for developing an ulcer, but if you are prone to consuming these foods, avoiding them may help prevent your mouth from becoming irritated and lead to an infection.
The most common symptom of mouth ulcers is bleeding of the gums. If the ulcer is located in the inner tissues of the mouth, the gums may bleed when brushing. This is usually accompanied by redness, swelling, and pain. If the ulcer is located in the outside tissues of the mouth, the gums may bleed when eating or when trying to suck on a tooth. Toothbrush-related injuries are another cause for bleeding of the gums.
Children and adolescents are more prone to developing mouth ulcers than are adults, although infections are possible in either category. Statistics show that young children and adolescents suffer from infections of the mouth more often than adults. Research has shown that infections are more likely to occur during the winter months when children and adolescents are at higher risk for tooth decay and painful infections. A study also shows that children who suffer from infections of the mouth more than twice as often as other children develop painful gum infections that last for at least two weeks.
Prevention of these painful ulcers include a daily brushing regimen; avoiding high acid foods like candy, peanut butter, and junk food; and practicing good oral hygiene, such as regular flossing and cleaning of the tongue, brushing the teeth, and cleaning the tongue regularly with a toothbrush or interdental cleaner. For minor mouth injuries or those resulting from eating or smoking, a dental professional can treat the affected area. Treatments can include antibiotics, decongestants, sedation dentistry, physical therapy, local anesthesia or regional analgesia. If these treatments do not provide effective relief, the doctor may recommend more aggressive treatment including debridement, sclerotherapy, periodontal surgery, or periodontal prophylaxis. Surgery is sometimes recommended to repair damaged nerves and vessels.
Periodontal diseases such as periodontitis cause mouth ulcers because they impair the ability of the gums to fight off infections. As a result, bacteria can accumulate under the gum line. Periodontitis is a major concern for both children and adults due to its ability to cause dental complications. For children and adolescents who participate in sports or other activities that require repeated visits to the gym, the frequent application of antibacterials and antimicrobial medications may promote infections because most mouth ulcers are caused by bacterial infections. Thus, it is important for these individuals to follow good oral health care practices in order to prevent serious dental complications.
There are several causes of mouth ulcers and most of these can be prevented. Some of the risk factors include chronic infections (such as untreated staph infections), under active salivary glands, excessive fluoride intake (which can weaken tooth enamel), malnutrition, dehydration, and unhealthy hormone levels. For those who have a genetic predisposition for mouth ulcers, the best course of treatment is to see a doctor. In addition to taking daily medications, special treatments can be performed in order to shrink existing pockets of tissue and remove impacted teeth. For those with no known susceptibility to mouth ulcers, medical treatments should be pursued first before any conservative treatments.
Men tend to be at a higher risk of developing mouth ulcers than women due to their greater use of the hands and mouths. Common causes include frequent use of the tongue when chewing, poor dental care, sinus infections and allergies, and alcoholism. Other factors that increase the risk include having dry mouth, having a weak immune system, diabetes, poor blood circulation, and tumors within the mouth or throat. The most common treatment methods for developing mouth ulcers include antibiotics, decongestants, nasal steroid sprays, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and finally, surgery.