Read below about oral ulcer, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your oral ulcer from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Oral Ulcer Symptoms

One day everything in your mouth was fine, the next you've got a sore that just won't stop yelling for attention. They can be painful, unsightly, and disturbing. They can feature themselves prominently on your lips and ruin your complexion. An ulcer of the mouth is certainly quite the bother, especially when you have no idea how it got there.

An ulcer is a discontinuity of a surface lining. Oral ulcers include aphthous ulcers which are painful oral ulcers with a grayish base and also known as canker sores. An oral ulcer is an open sore located inside your mouth. Anything that damages the surface layers of the tissues in your mouth can cause an ulcer, whether that be a viral infection, inflammation, or some sort of damaging exposure. Luckily, the mouth tends to heal quite quickly, so most ulcers don't last that long. But while the cause of an oral ulcer isn't always clear, one thing is – they are quite annoying.

Oral ulcers may be associated with these common symptoms:

  • Pain at the site of the ulcer
  • Swelling
  • Pus and other discharge
  • Sore throat
  • Avoidance of certain acidic foods or drinks

Oral Ulcer Causes Overview

Infectious causes:

  • Viral infection: Certain viruses cause ulcers on the lips, in the mouth, or in the throat.
  • Sexually transmitted infection: Some STIs may manifest as oral ulcers.
  • Fungal infection: Fungal infection of the mouth is uncommon and may cause lesions in the mouth, though usually not ulcers

Inflammatory causes:

  • Autoimmune Disease: Your body's immune system may behave abnormally and attack your own tissues. Examples include lupus and Behcet's disease and Crohn's disease.

Cancer causes:

  • Cancer: Cancers and "pre-cancers" of the mouth may manifest as oral ulcers or discoloration.

Environmental causes:

  • Nutritional Deficiency: Your body needs many nutrients to maintain its tissues. Deficiencies of some types of nutrients such as folate and vitamin B12 can lead to oral ulcers.
  • Medications: Oral ulcers are an uncommon but serious reaction to some medications.
  • Chemical Exposure: Chemicals can burn your mouth and cause oral ulcers.
  • Burns: Eating or drinking something that is too hot can lead to thermal burns and resultant oral ulcers.
  • Trauma: Accidentally biting your lip or chewing something sharp can damage the surface lining of your mouth.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Oral Ulcer

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced oral ulcer. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Canker Sore

    Canker sores are small, grayish-white sores in the mouth, often on the inside of the cheeks, lips, and on the tongue. No one really knows why canker sores happen, but it seems to be inherited and susceptible to vitamin deficiencies and allergies.

    1 week

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    painful mouth sore, numerous mouth sores, mouth sore surrounded by a red area, single mouth sore, oral ulcer
    Symptoms that always occur with canker sore:
    painful mouth sore
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Oral Herpes

    Herpetic stomatitis is a viral infection of the mouth that causes fever and red and inflamed gums. This typically happens early in childhood.

    1-2 weeks but recurrent

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, gum pain, painful mouth sore, gum swelling, gum redness
    Symptoms that always occur with oral herpes:
    gum pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Oral Thrush

    Oral candidiasis in infants is a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue caused by a fungal species called Candida.

    34 days without treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    white, lacy plaque on tongue, deep cracks at the corners of the mouth
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Hand - Foot - and - Mouth Disease

    Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children. It is characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.

    7-10 days

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    loss of appetite, cough, fever, new headache, sore throat
    Symptoms that always occur with hand-foot-and-mouth disease:
    spontaneous skin changes
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

    Oral Ulcer Checker

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    Oral Ulcer Quiz
  5. 5.New Onset Crohn's Disease

    Crohn's disease is a disorder caused by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. The damaging inflammation causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition.

    Not expected to reduce life expectancy

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Wegener's Granulomatosis

    An inflammation of the blood vessels by the body's immune system is a rare, but possibly dangerous problem. The inflammation can happen anywhere, but often in the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys.

    Uncertain

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain, shortness of breath, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Blistering Disease (Pemphigus)

    Pemphigus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system attacks healthy cells in the skin and mouth, causing blisters and sores. This is a rare disease, and doctors are not completely sure of the cause.

    Disease resolves in 3/4 of treated people within 10 years.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nasal ulcer, skin peeling, hoarse voice, painful rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Laryngeal Cancer

    Laryngeal cancer typically develops from the cells of the topmost layer of the vocal cord area. It can be caused by using tobacco products or drinking excessively.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, unintentional weight loss, hoarse voice, trouble swallowing, pain with swallowing
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Mouth and Throat Sores From Cancer Treatment

    Mouth sores are a common side effect of cancer treatment (chemotherapy or radiation therapy). Some types of chemotherapy are more likely to cause this than others. Cancer treatments are used to kill the bad cancerous cells, but unfortunately they also affect healthy cells. The cells of the inner lining of your mouth, esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to stomach) and stomach can get damaged too. This can result in symptoms like red areas or a burning feeling in the mouth, painful sores and painful or difficulty swallowing.

    In most cases, mouth sores get better within a few days.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Oral Ulcer Treatments and Relief

Oral ulcers are, for the most part, a fact of life. You are bound to get one at some point and typically they go away after a few days because your mouth heals quite quickly. However, severe or recurrent ulcers may be indicative of any underlying disease process and should be investigated by a healthcare professional.

At-home oral ulcer treatments:

  • Avoid irritating foods: Certain foods and drinks, especially hot, spicy, or acidic ones, can irritate the oral ulcer and cause pain.
  • Ice: Ice can dull the pain and swelling associated with some ulcers, especially those caused by biting the lip.
  • Over-the-counter topical analgesics: Certain pain medications can be applied directly to the site of the ulcer and dull the pain or protect the site from further damage.
  • Oral hygiene: Keep brushing your teeth and use an antiseptic mouthwash to cut down on the risk of infection and hasten healing of the ulcer.
  • Watch and wait: Most ulcers come and go on their own time and will improve as the mouth does its best to heal the area.

Professional oral ulcer treatments:

  • Oral exam: Your doctor will likely perform an extensive oral exam.
  • Laboratory testing: Your doctor may perform blood tests or swabs of the ulcer to figure out what is causing it.
  • Medications: Some causes of ulcers will respond to medications. This is typical of many infections and autoimmune diseases.
  • Surgery: Rarely, oral ulcers are a symptom or manifestation of a disease requiring surgery, such as cancer of the mouth.

You should seek help without delay if you have:

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Oral Ulcer

  • Q.Have you ever taken a course of antibiotics in your life?
  • Q.Do you feel fullness or pressure in your face?
  • Q.Do you feel pain when you swallow?
  • Q.What color is the area right around your sore/blister/bump?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our oral ulcer symptom checker to find out more.

Oral Ulcer Quiz

Oral Ulcer Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced oral ulcer had symptoms persist for:

    • 47% Less Than a Week
    • 26% Less Than a Day
    • 11% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced oral ulcer were most often matched with:

    • 33% Canker Sore
    • 33% Oral Herpes
    • 33% Oral Thrush
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having oral ulcer

Oral Ulcer Quiz