Q: For six months I've been having a problem with recurring mouth ulcers.
Every two to three weeks, small sores pop up on my lips and inside my mouth
on my cheeks and gums. They're not pretty, but even worse, they hurt and sometimes
it's hard to eat. How can I make them go away?
Dr. Donnica: It sounds like you're describing "canker sores"
(aphthous stomatitis), a common condition that affects up to one in five adults.
No specific cause has been identified, but they do not seem to be infectious
or contagious, unlike "cold sores," which are usually caused by Herpes
simplex (type 1 herpes virus). Most theories focus on canker sores being caused
by certain triggers to an immune system problem. As you described, the worst
thing about mouth ulcers is the pain, which is worse with eating, drinking and
If you have a mouth ulcer that is causing you worry, see your doctor. Canker
sores can also be associated with other systemic diseases, so your doctor will
want to rule those out. While there is no cure or consistently reliable treatment
for this condition, there is one FDA-approved topical medication to treat canker
sores called Aphthasol.
There is also an in-office dentist applied treatment called Debacterol, which
may give relief and speed healing. Other treatment strategies include avoiding
known triggers, following a healthy diet with vitamin supplementation, and practicing
excellent oral hygiene, including use of antibacterial rinses (e.g. Listerine).
Practicing stress-reduction may also be helpful. Some people find relief from
topical steroid treatments (e.g. Kenalog, Lidex gel, Decadron rinses). For the
on-going online survey results from canker sore sufferers and what has worked
for them, go to www.mouthulcers.org.
Created: 11/21/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.