Mouth Ulcers is the term given to the appearance of painful open sores inside the mouth caused by a break in the mucous membrane or the epithelium on the lips or mouth. This is a condition that affects many people of variable ages including teenagers. In fact teenagers are the most frequently affected group, though many experience their first lesions well outside this age range. Usually one to five small ulcers appear (< 1mm wide) on the inside of lips or cheeks, floor of the mouth or tongue. The ulcers tend to be concentrated towards the front of the mouth.

The types of oral ulcers are diverse and are the result from many different causes such as physical or chemical trauma, infection, viruses, medical conditions or medications, cancerous and sometimes non-specific processes. The most common form is called minor aphthous ulceration followed closely by cold sores (Herpes Simplex virus).


Symptoms of an ulcer vary depending on the cause of the ulcerative process. They usually start with a sharp stinging or burning sensation at the site of the impending mouth ulcer. These change in a few days, to a red spot or bump followed by an open ulcer. It will appear usually as a white or yellow oval with a red inflamed area around it. The ulcer which itself can be extremely painful may be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes or jaw which can be mistaken for toothache.

How to treat

We highly recommend Orabase protective paste for aphthous ulcers (this is available over the counter in pharmacies). When used as instructed,  this works really well to help ease the pain associated with Oral sores. If you apply this orabase as soon as you feel an ulcer starting it will help stop it in its tracks. For more severe ulcers or larger/major aphthous ulcers a steroid in the orabase is invaluable-we tend to prescribe Kenalog in these instances.

For cold sores we recommend an anti-viral cream such as Zovirax (available over the counter in pharmacies). Again applying this as soon as you feel the tingle/burning sensation actively stops the progression of the cold sore (this is really only effective when applied before the appearance of any sores/spots). For those of you working in the UK  I recommend  visiting a GP or Dentist there as a drug called Penciclovir is available on prescription, and this works on cold sores evan after they have appeared on your lips/face/nose and is very effective in reducing their duration.

Compeed is also available over the counter in Ireland and the UK and claims to treat cold sores effectively.

It is imperative that you contact your Dentist or your Doctor if any mouth ulcer persists for more than 2 weeks.

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