Maybe there’s a small bump on the inside of your mouth, somewhere on your cheek. Or there’s one on the outside of your mouth, just next to your lower lip. The sore inside your mouth is somewhat painful and annoying. The one on the outside of your mouth causes you some self-consciousness and makes you want to avoid seeing anyone until it goes away.
Mouth sores take many forms and have a variety of causes, from fungal infections to viruses. In the majority of cases, they are annoying but not usually a cause for alarm. With that said, there are certain instances in which oral sores can be a sign of something more serious. Knowing as much as possible about sores in or around your mouth can help you decide what action to take (if any) the next time you notice a bump or lesion.
What are Mouth Sores?
Several different types of sores can develop in or near your mouth. In many cases, a sore will develop as a result of irritation in a specific area of the mouth. For example, if you accidentally bite down on the inside of your cheek or lip, you might notice a bump or lesion forming there after a few hours or a day.
You can also develop a sore in your mouth if you eat food that has sharp edges, such as potato chips. Sometimes, sores develop when you eat food that’s too hot or too cold. If you have dentures or braces, they can also irritate the soft tissue in your mouth, causing a sore.
Often, the sores that develop as a result of irritation in the mouth are known as canker sores. In addition to irritation, several other issues can also contribute to canker sores, such as stress, changes in hormone levels and nutritional deficiencies.
An example of another common type of mouth sore is a cold sore. Cold sores are considerably different from canker sores. They are caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus and are contagious. Canker sores aren’t contagious.
While canker sores are usually located on the inside of the mouth, cold sores develop outside the mouth, usually near the lips. They usually look like a blister at first, then develop a crusty scab over the surface.
Since they are caused by a viral infection, cold sores can recur. Some factors that can trigger a flare-up or recurrence of cold sores include another infection or illness, high levels of stress, and hormonal changes.
What Can You Do if You Have a Sore on Your Mouth?
For the most part, sores in the mouth do eventually heal, and many will heal on their own. While you have a sore on or near your mouth, you might want to avoid eating foods that can irritate it, such as spicy foods or hot (high temperature) foods. Acidic foods can also irritate mouth sores, so many people try to avoid those as well.
If you get cold sores from time to time, there are some topical gels, creams or ointments that can help to improve your comfort levels and help the sore heal more quickly.
If you regularly seem to get canker sores or sores in your mouth, avoiding certain habits might help to reduce the frequency of developing these sores. For example, if you notice that you tend to get canker sores after eating crunchy or sharp foods, you might consider cutting those foods out of your diet altogether.
Keeping your stress levels low or finding ways to relax and unwind, such as by doing meditation or yoga, can also help to prevent mouth sores.
If you experience cold sores and they occur regularly, your doctor might be able to prescribe you medication to help prevent outbreaks. It’s also worth remembering that cold sores are contagious. When you have an active sore, avoid kissing or sharing cups, straws, and eating utensils with others to keep the infection from spreading.
Should You Worry About Mouth Sores?
For the most part, mouth sores are harmless. They can be uncomfortable when you have them, but most will clear up on their own.
In some cases, however, a sore in the mouth can be one of the earliest signs of oral cancer. Usually, a sore that doesn’t heal after a couple of weeks is a cause for concern. If you do have a sore in or near your mouth that doesn’t heal, it’s a good idea to see a dentist for an oral cancer screening.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who performs oral cancer screenings during the first visit and at each subsequent visit. If you’re concerned about a sore on your mouth, call 305-547-8687 today to schedule an appointment in Miami, FL.