Comprehensive Guide to Mouth Sores: Causes, Remedies, and When to Seek Help

Comprehensive Guide to Mouth Sores

Most people experience mouth sores at least once in their lifetime, making the ailment a common occurrence. The sores usually appear on the soft tissues in the mouth, such as the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, or lips. They appear individually as yellow, white, or red spots but can also be in clusters. Although mouth sores are painful, they are typically harmless and may not require medication in most cases. They are also not transmissible but can cause significant discomfort that interferes with your regular schedule.

There are various types of mouth sores, some often indicating underlying oral cavity issues. Examples include canker sores, which commonly appear on the mouth edges as red, yellow, or white sores; leukoplakia, which appears as grey or white patches inside the mouth; oral thrush, which can be creamy white or red patches or sores; and erythroplakia, which are red patches under the tongue or on the lower front gums.

The causes of the mouth sores depend on the type. Possible causes include minor trauma like tongue biting, spicy or acidic foods, irritation from habits like smoking, and medication like antibiotics.

Symptoms of mouth sores also vary, examples being redness on the mouth edges, soreness when brushing or eating, pain that intensifies when you eat sour or spicy foods, and sores that are yellow, white, or grey in the middle.

Understanding Mouth Sores

Mouth sores, also known as canker sores, are shallow ulcers that usually appear on the inside section of the cheeks, lips, or tongue. The sores can have red borders and white or yellow centers. There are various types of mouth sores, and they can be painful enough to make talking and eating difficult. The sores can appear in clusters or singularly. They do not spread to nearby tissues and are not contagious – you cannot transfer them to other people.

The cause of mouth sores is unclear, but several factors can trigger their manifestation. Some of these factors include injuries during a dental procedure, stress, accidental bites or strain from dental braces, lack of enough minerals or vitamins in the body, and spicy foods.

Also referred to as mouth ulcers, mouth sores are easy to identify; they are characterized by a shallow ulcer with a red border and white or yellow center. The size of the swelling varies and may begin with a tingling or burning sensation. Most people experience pain for a week, but it can last for two weeks or longer. The sores never leave a scar, but recurrence is usually likely.

Although canker sores are non-cancerous, they can be confused with oral cancer because of their appearance. However, cancer sores do not heal without medical intervention. That is why you should schedule a consultation for sores that last more than three weeks, especially if they appear without an explanation. A doctor can conduct a physical exam to determine the specific type of mouth sore.

 Common Causes of Mouth Sores

Common Causes of Mouth Sores

Mouth sores occur when part of soft tissue erodes to form lesions that can be painful. The sores can appear at any age, but some types are common in specific age groups. For instance, gingivostomatitis is more likely to appear in children, whereas leukoplakia commonly affects older adults. You can develop mouth sores at any point in your lifetime, but they mostly disappear without medical intervention.

Causes of mouth sores

  • Injuries and abrasions in the oral cavity

Dental treatments, especially braces and dentures, can sometimes cause injuries that lead to lesions. In most cases, they clear without medical intervention. However, you can discuss your concerns with your dentist if the sores keep recurring when you have the braces. The injuries may also be self-inflicted by accidentally biting the lip, cheek, or tongue. Brushing too hard or using a tough-bristled brush can also injure your mouth.

  • Irritation from acidic or spicy foods

Spicy food can cause blistering in the mouth, making it harder to eat, talk, or drink. Eating hot food or smoking can also cause mouth tissue degeneration to form lesions.

  • Viral infections

Infections like herpes simplex virus can also cause mouth lesions known as cold sores, which is the contagious type that can be passed onto other people upon contact.

  • Weakened immune system

Autoimmune diseases like HIV/AIDS and other conditions like anemia, lupus, or HPV can increase susceptibility to mouth sores. Some medicines and treatment procedures like radiation therapy on the upper part of the body and inadequate vitamins or minerals in the body system are also triggers. Other causes of mouth sores include gastrointestinal disease, mouth cancer, stress, and hormonal changes.

Unlike most mouth sores, cancer does not clear on its own; consulting a professional is recommended if the lesions do not heal after three weeks. A healthcare provider can diagnose the type of lesion and recommend proper management or treatment.

Not All Mouth Sores are Alike

Not All Mouth Sores are Alike

Most mouth sores heal after one or two weeks, but some can linger for longer, which may point to a more serious condition. The sores may appear different depending on the cause, but they often emerge with white, yellow, purple, or red colouring on the tissues. Some mouth lesions are usually less than a centimetre and may disappear within a week. Others can be two to three centimetres and may take more than three weeks to heal, and other types can appear in multiple clusters, taking a few weeks to disappear.

Although they are typically harmless, knowing how to differentiate the various lesions is essential. For instance, canker sores are the most common mouth lesions that appear singularly. They can arise from trauma, like burns and bites, and are not contagious, making them different from cold sores, which are caused by herpes simplex virus and appear as liquid-filled blisters that mostly form on the lips. The herpes simplex can be dormant in the body until triggered by other conditions like stress or a weakened immune system.

Other diseases with similar symptoms as mouth lesions include mouth cancer, which is characterized by the growth of abnormal cells and may appear as white or red patches in any part of the mouth, including the tongue. Unlike mouth sores, oral cancer does not heal and requires a professional diagnosis.

Consult a professional healthcare provider if you develop mouth sores – it is the only way to obtain a proper diagnosis and treatment. Contact the Molson Park team in case you suffer from unexplained lesions or sores that do not heal after three weeks.

Not All Mouth Sores are Alike

Home Remedies for Mouth Sores

Proper dental hygiene and a balanced diet are the best home remedies for mouth lesions. Other natural treatment methods for mouth sores include:

Salt and water

Rinsing your mouth with salt water is one of the simplest yet effective methods of combating symptoms of mouth sores. The process can be painful as salt comes into contact with the lesions, but it is efficacious because of the antiseptic properties of salt.

Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a glass of water, gurgle it thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, then gurgle plain water to remove any salt residue. Repeat the process several times a day.


Sage has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties that can benefit the inner cheeks. It can help clear multiple oral cavity issues, especially when taken as a tea.

To prepare the mixture, boil sage leaves for approximately five minutes. Leave the solution to cool before swirling it in your mouth for a few minutes and spitting or swallowing it.


Honey has potent antibacterial and anti-swelling components, making it excellent for clearing lesions. It can effectively reduce the pain and size of mouth lesions and prevent secondary outbreaks. Applying honey on mouth sores also prevents irritation and itching.

The use of honey requires multiple applications daily because the chances of ingesting it are high. The location of canker sores means you will keep swallowing the honey with saliva whenever you apply it, necessitating repeated applications in a day.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide works perfectly for different types of mouth sores due to its antibacterial and antiseptic qualities – it minimizes bacteria and cleanses the sores.

Combine equal amounts of water and hydrogen peroxide, then apply on the lesion using swabs. Alternatively, swish diluted hydrogen peroxide instead of mouthwash for around one minute. Ensure you spit it out afterward.

Baking soda

Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is a popular ingredient in every household, and it can balance the pH by neutralizing acid levels in your mouth. The compound also reduces swelling, which alleviates canker sores. Make a solution consisting of half a teaspoon of baking soda and half a glass of water, gurgle for 20 seconds, and spit. You can also apply baking soda paste on the roof of your mouth for reprieve.

Note: Baking soda is not harmful when swallowed, but spitting it out is recommended.


Antacids can dissolve in the mouth to neutralize the acid from spicy foods or stomach enzymes that could increase acidity. Liquid antacids are also available and offer the same effect, encouraging faster healing.

The Role of the Immune System

Mouth Sores: The Role of the Immune System

The underlying cause of mouth sores remains unknown despite attempts to uncover it. However, scientists agree that sores tend to form when the immune system reacts to trauma in the mouth, like an injury from a bite. At the same time, the chances of the formation of sores increase when you fall sick, which may slow down their healing. The mouth usually has high cell turnover, which substantially reduces when you fall ill, preventing the sores from healing as quickly as they should. That is why you are more likely to get mouth sores when you are sick.

Other triggers of mouth ulcers, like spicy foods, also correlate with the immune system; some people develop mouth sores from allergic reactions to certain foods, and others experience infections from micronutrient deficiency. Additionally, recurrent, persistent, or unexplained mouth sores often indicate the presence of a more serious illness, warranting a thorough evaluation and prompt treatment before the disease weakens the immune system further.

Maintaining a robust immune system is the best way to protect your oral cavity. You can do that by taking a balanced diet with all the minerals and vitamins, avoiding stress, and consulting a professional whenever the sores appear. Expert healthcare providers can also diagnose underlying issues and remedy them quickly.

The Role of the Immune System 

Mouth Sores: Prevention and Care

Mouth sores are impossible to prevent, but with a few practices, you can reduce the chances of occurrence. For example, chew slowly and avoid hot foods, drink lots of water, avoid stress, eat a balanced diet, avoid tobacco and smoking, and use a soft-bristled brush to prevent injuries.

Additionally, you can avoid acidic foods, take vitamin or mineral supplements when necessary, and reduce consumption of alcohol. Proper dental hygiene, including brushing twice a day, flossing, and regular dentist visits, is also critical in protecting your oral cavity. You can also try home remedies for mouth sores, like gurgling salt water, which is recommended because it can speed up the disappearance of the lesions and ease pain.

Proper diagnosis of mouth sores is also vital, even though most mouth lesions are not contagious. Accurate diagnosis helps prevent complications and recurrence. Therefore, you should know the most concerning symptoms and when to seek a professional opinion for further examination. See a doctor if you notice a white patch that could signify leukoplakia, cold sores, lesions that keep recurring or persisting despite home management techniques, fungal infection, sores on the roof of your mouth, or cancer treatment.

Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or any other treatment, according to what they discover. The goal is to ease discomfort and stop the spread of the infection for a lasting solution. Our dental specialists will ensure you receive the best care and remedy for mouth lesions.

Mouth Sores:  When to Seek Professional Help

The cause of mouth sores may not be known, but the lesions tend to run in families. They are not always problematic or contagious, which is why most people ignore them. However, seeking professional assistance is the surest way of ensuring the lesions are harmless since not all mouth lesions are benign. For instance, mouth cancer may start with the same symptoms as canker sores, but it is a more serious condition that requires the intervention of expert medical personnel. Cold sores are also transmissible, yet symptoms might be confused with canker sore signs.

A dentist has the expertise to distinguish the various mouth sores to provide the long-term relief you need. Our professionals can also give you the information you need to deal with the different types of sores. Contact us if the sores persist after mouth rinses using home remedy solutions like salt water, the lesions do not heal after three weeks, or when the sores appear without an explanation.

Final Thoughts on Treating a Mouth Sore

Final Thoughts on Treating a Mouth Sore

A mouth sore may not be life-threatening, but it can still inconvenience you and make regular activities like eating difficult. Some types of mouth sores can be unbearably painful or signify underlying medical issues. Therefore, it’s important to take prevention and treatment measures seriously if the sores appear. Some home remedies include flossing and brushing carefully using a soft-bristled brush to avoid injuries, eating right to ensure enough intake of necessary vitamins and minerals, and rinsing the mouth with salt water.

In addition to the above measures, consulting a professional is essential when you experience sore throat, blisters, thrashes, or lesions. Our expertise is crucial when you do not understand the source of the mouth disease or experience lesions that do not heal after three weeks. We apply our knowledge to prevent viral infections from spreading and stop further mouth infections. Molson Park also has proper medical equipment to simplify diagnosis and ensure we get it right.

Contact us if you notice the first signs of mouth disease, such as tingling or itchiness. We can determine the root cause of the issue and mitigate it accordingly to ensure you proceed with your regular routine without interruptions from oral pain. Giving premium dental services is our goal.