Mouth Sores: Large or Small, No Fun at All!
Mouth sores pop up for all sorts of reasons: infection, jagged teeth, loose dentures, braces, chemotherapy and cancer. These sores hurt and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do to stop the pain.
Here’s a guide to the most frequently encountered types of mouth sores.
Canker Sores: The Most Common Mouth Sore
Canker sores burn and sting. However, we still don’t know what causes these sores, even though scientists call them big names like Aphthous Ulcers and Aphthous Stomatitis. On the other hand, it’s clear that these sores show up more frequently when we’re tired, stressed or sick. In addition, people with autoimmune diseases like Crohns or Lupus get them more frequently than others.
Canker sores can show up on our lips, tongue, gums, cheeks or the roof of the mouth and usually last around 10 days. Therefore, if a canker sore lasts more than 2 weeks or is larger than 1cm in diameter, it’s important to have it checked by a dentist because it could be infected or it could be a sign of something more serious. Read more about Canker Sores.
Tips and Home Remedies for Canker Sores:
- Eat bland foods: Spicy, sweet & sour foods can irritate the canker sore and make it hurt worse. In addition, abrasive foods like tortilla chips can injure the sore.
- Rinse with a salt or baking soda rinse: Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda or salt in 1 cup warm water.
- Milk of Magnesia: Dab a small about on the sore several times a day.
- Pain relieving gels or creams: Use them as soon as the sores appear. Commonly used products contain Benzocaine such as Anbesol, Kank-A or Orabase
- Use a Hydrogen Peroxide rinse: Oragel Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse and Peroxyl are both great.
- Brush gently: Avoid jabbing or injuring the sore.
How do people get cold sores?
Cold Sores, also called Fever Blisters or Herpes Simplex, are caused by a highly contagious virus that passes from person to person through personal contact, touch, or saliva as well as through behaviors like sharing eating utensils, razors & towels, or kissing. People most commonly catch the virus as small children. After that, they have it all their lives.
What happens when you have a cold sore?
Although Cold Sores typically show up around the lips, they can occur under the nose and on the skin as well. Furthermore, in young children, cold sores can show up inside the mouth and be mistaken for canker sores. Cold sores are fluid filled blisters and they typically show up after several days of tingling and itching in the blister area. After that, blisters will pop, ooze and crust over before going away. Moreover, they usually appear in the same area every time and can last up to two weeks.
What makes cold sores worse?
Like canker sores, cold sores tend to pop up when the immune system is weak or stressed due to stress, fatigue, emotional upset, illness or even sunburn. See a dentist if the cold sore lasts more than two weeks, if you have frequent cold sores or if symptoms are severe. Read more about cold sores.
Cold Sore Tips and Home Remedies:
- Apply Medicated Cold Sore Ointment: Healing time can be up to a day shorter with frequent application of Docosanol (Abreva).
- Apply Cold Sore Creams: There are many creams at the store that contain alcohol and effectively dry out the sore. For some people, these speed healing time.
- Use Lipbalm and Sunblock: Since sunburn clearly stresses the skin and can cause cold sore outbreaks, keeping your lips moisturized and protected from the sun helps prevent cold sores. In addition, choose a moisturizing lipbalm with a powerful sunblock such as zinc oxide.
- Try a Cool Compress: A cool, damp cloth can help inflammation and reduce redness. Moreover, this can also speed crusting and healing.
- Use Pain Relieving Gels or Creams: Topical creams or gels that contain Benzocaine or Lidocaine help with temporary numbing for pain and irritation.
Mouth Abrasions and Leukoplakia:
Sharp edges of broken teeth, stray wires from braces and anything else scratchy, sharp, pokey or rough can cause uncomfortable white or gray mouth sores called Leukoplakia.
These sores (doctors call them plaques) are dangerous because they increase your risk for oral cancer. Therefore, it’s important to smooth or remove whatever is irritating your mouth before the irritation causes permanent damage. Most importantly, white and gray patches need to be looked at by a doctor to insure that they are cancer free. Read more about leukoplakia.
Furthermore, if you have braces, use your orthodontic wax to cover irritating brackets or wires and protect yourself from cancer later on.
Mouth Abrasions and Leukoplakia
Dentures sores are painful sores on the gums that make using and wearing a denture miserable. Denture spots usually occur for one of three reasons:
- First, the denture is too large.
- Second, the denture isn’t molding to the gums evenly.
- Third, the denture hasn’t been properly cleaned and is causing a fungal infection.
What you can do to fix it:
When the denture is too large:
Firstly, if the denture is too large, it needs to be adjusted and polished. Secondly, help the sores heal by eating a soft diet, rinsing with salt water or baking soda water, and cleaning the denture with nightly soaks in denture cleaner.
When the denture doesn’t mold evenly to the gums:
If your denture doesn’t fit your gums, then either your bone has changed or the denture bite is uneven. Either way, the inside of your denture is going to be uneven on your gums and that makes denture sores. To fix this problem, a dentist will usually reline your denture, giving it a new lining to sit on the gums that fits your gums and bone in their new shape.
When the denture isn’t clean enough:
If a denture isn’t completely cleaned on a daily basis, fungus builds up and can cause a mouth infection called thrush (or candidiasis). In order to get rid of the fungal infection, you’ll probably need prescription anti-fungal medication as well as new denture cleaning techniques. In addition, some people’s mouths are more sensitive than others.
To Prevent Thrush:
- Brush or rinse dentures after every meal.
- Soak dentures every night in denture cleaning solution.
- Brush both the denture and your gums nightly.
- Use antiseptic mouth rinses (with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide) to help keep your mouth clean and infection free.
- If you have frequent mouth sores or dry mouth, DON’T use a rinse with alcohol and try an alcohol free or dry mouth specific rinse like Biotene.
Why does chemotherapy cause sores?
Chemotherapy works because it targets rapidly growing cells. Unfortunately, it doesn’t know the difference between a cancer cell and a mouth cell. That’s why its common for chemotherapy patients to get burn-like sores in their mouths. These sores can make eating, talking, swallowing and even breathing painful. Chemo mouth sores usually show up within two to three days of starting chemotherapy. They’re the worst around seven days and go away after two to three weeks.
Treating chemotherapy sores
There is no way to prevent these sores 100%, but we can take steps that make them better or worse. Sores are definitely more miserable if they get infected. Getting your mouth as healthy as possible before beginning treatment can help reduce chemo sore intensity and complications.
Mouth health affects chemotherapy success
Having a healthy mouth is also important because mouth sores provide a gateway for infection to enter the body when the immune system is weakened from chemo. Keeping the mouth clean is critical to preventing chemotherapy complications.
4 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO GET A HEALTHY MOUTH:
1. See Your Dentist
Make sure your dentist looks in every crack and cranny for infection. Treat any infections present in your teeth or gums. Eliminating infections lowers your body’s stress load and helps it heal more efficiently. Getting rid of infection reduces your risk for complications once you start chemo.
2. Stop Smoking
If you smoke, stopping will not only improve your overall health, it will improve your mouth’s ability to heal, which means a quicker recovery from mouth sores.
3. Eat Healthy!
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will give your body the nutrients it needs to heal and stay strong.
4. Use the Right Tools
Care for your teeth and gums daily using non-alcohol mouthwashes, soft flosses and soft toothbrushes or foam cleaners. This insures that you keep bacteria in the mouth under control and prevent painful infections.
5 TIPS TO GET YOU COMFORTABLE AND EATING AGAIN:
1. Keep up your home care
It can be painful to brush and floss; however, there are special types of brushes and floss that make it easier. Keeping teeth clean is critical to keeping infections from forming and allowing sores to heal.
2. Rinse your mouth
Frequent rinsing with warm salt water or baking soda water helps keep things clean and can speed healing.
3. Magic Mouthwash
This prescription rinse contains coating agents that form a protective layer over the sores as well as numbing agents to help with pain. An alternative to Magic Mouthwash is asking your dentist about Coating Agents and Pain Killer Rinses with similar ingredients to help cover the sores and numb pain to ease eating and talking.
4. Avoid Foods that Cause Pain
Acidic foods, spicy foods, sharp or hard foods and alcohol containing foods or drinks can irritate already irritated mouth tissue (mucosa). Mouth sores are extra sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Room temperature foods and drinks are often the most comfortable.
5. Use a Straw
Using a straw helps you keep liquid off of painful sores.