Your Master Guide to Mouth and Tongue Sores

Mouth ulcers and all sorts of tongue ailments may be generally small and not contagious, but like tiny paper cuts, they have a way of tremendously interrupting the quality of one's daily life. They interfere with your ability to talk and eat, and they may even diminish your appetite and cause overall fatigue. Knowing all about these annoying health issues will help you combat them, so let's dig into the causes, symptoms, and prescribed or DIY remedies for every and all mouth and tongue ulcers.

Mouth Sores

Canker Sores dictionary definition
Mouth ulcers are also known as canker sores and aphthous ulcers. They are small but painful lesions that can pop up on any area of your mouth or gums. They appear white or yellow, with red inflamed edges, but they are not contagious. They usually disappear on their own in two weeks. If they don't, or you suffer extreme pain, see your doctor. In severe cases, you may experience swollen lymph nodes or fever. Depending on their size, canker sores are divided into three groups:
-Minor canker sores are usually round. They're the ones to heal over the course of two weeks or less. They will leave no scarring.
-Major canker sores are deeper and usually have irregular shapes. They will take up to six weeks to heal and may leave some scarring. 
-Herpetiform canker sores are a cluster of 10 to 100 tiny canker sores. These, like minor canker sores, will heal in two weeks and leave no scarring. 

What Are the Triggers?

Canker Sores
There is no one root cause of canker sore researchers agree upon. There are many possible causes. We gathered the most likely ones:
  • Injuries from dental work, brushing too harshly, or the occasional accidental bite. Ouch!
  • Food sensitivities. The usual culprits are acidic foods, such as strawberries, citrus fruit, and pineapples.
  • Lack of vitamin B-12, B-3 (niacin), B-9 (folic acid), zinc, iron, or calcium. Read more here on further signs you lack folic acid. 
  • Stress.

Canker sores vs. cold sores

Only cold sores can occur outside of your mouth. While cold sores first appear as blisters and then pop, canker sores skip straight to the sore part. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus, whereas canker sores are not even contagious. And lastly, unlike canker sores, cold sores can also appear on your nose. For further reading on cold sores and home remedies, click here. 

When to Seek Help?

Woman at the Dentist
If the mouth ulcer is abnormally large, or new ones appear before the old ones heal, we would advise you to consult your doctor. You should also seek the advice of a doctor if your ulcers are painless or they extend out to your lips. If you find that canker sores are a recurring ailment and that they usually appear with fever, diarrhea, or cause you severe problems with eating and drinking, go to the doctor as soon as possible, as these may be symptoms of more severe health issues. 
If it's a small and harmless sore, the doctor can prescribe you the nutritional supplements you may be lacking, a mouthwash that contains a steroid to reduce pain and swelling, or even over-the-counter benzocaine (topical anesthetic) products like Orajel or Anbesol. In most cases, these medications won't heal the wound, but they will ease the pain. Some other over-the-counter options include Orabase, Zilactin-B, Kank-A, Peroxyl, or Vanos.  

What Are Some At-Home Remedies?

Natural remedies with mortar and pestle
Since canker sores usually don't require a trip to the doctor, you can try a few safe DIY remedies.
The easy and instant ones are:
1. Holding ice in your mouth to shrink blood vessels, reduce swelling, and ease the pain. 
2. Rinsing with 1/2 cup salt water and 1 tsp. baking soda. 
3. Applying Manuka honey or coconut oil to canker sore 4 times daily.
4. Applying a cotton swab with clove essential oil to ease the pain. 
5. Use a DIY Echinacea or Sage mouthwash. 
If you're looking for more elaborate recipes, consider these:
1. Dilute a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide with equal parts of water. Apply 3 times daily with a cotton swab. 
2. Apply milk of magnesia to the sore with a cotton swab. Let sit for a few seconds and rinse. 
3. Apply a wet chamomile teabag for a few minutes. You can use the tea to swish around your mouth. 
4. Use herbal licorice extract supplements. Mix the powder from one capsule in 1 cup warm water, swish for 3 minutes, and spit. 
Consider avoiding acidic fruits, nuts, chips, or anything spicy if you have a canker sore. That will irritate your ulcer. Include more whole grains in your diet and opt for more alkaline foods, like yogurt and cucumbers.

Tongue Sores

Geographic Tongue
If your tongue looks like this, there's a good chance your tongue is peeling. This happens when there's slight damage to the surface of the tongue. Not to worry, this is not as severe as it sounds. This can happen when you burn your tongue with hot foods or beverages, eat something too spicy or acidic, or bite your tongue. After such events, your body will deliberately peel your tongue, much like your skin peels after a sunburn. We suggest jotting down some of the burnt tongue remedies in this post and sticking them on the fridge so that you have the solution ready when you need it. These remedies will probably not prevent the peeling that will come during the following days, but they will ease the pain instantly. 
There are other ailments that can cause a peeling look on your tongue. Oral thrush is a yeast infection that causes a white tongue. For these cases, your doctor will prescribe an antifungal medication. There are also some natural remedies you can try at home.
Have you heard of the term geographic tongue? This is one of the mysteries of the oral medicine world, as no one really knows what causes it. A geographic tongue will look like a peeling tongue (the same as the picture above), and sometimes, there will be tingly sensations when eating certain foods. Those foods are individual for every person. 
Finally, check out this post to educate yourself about the effects of oral health on your overall health. You can also learn more about mouthwash, and the foods you can incorporate into your diet to fight plaque buildup. 
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