People across different ages, both old and young experience different forms of oral lesions, irritation, swellings or sores for at least three times each year. All these lesions and sores are not the same, there are numerous types of mouth sores and disorders. Some are contagious while others aren’t. Mouth sores, irritations and lesions can be very painful, they can actually interfere with eating, swallowing and even speaking. If your mouth sores or irritations appears to persists for more than one week, then you should see a health professional for proper examination.
Normally, mouth sores and ulcers are less common and occur more often in people who have previously had them. They last for a week and clear out on their own without treatments. However, they are usually small and shallow and usually appear in the mouth, lips or tongue and often make eating and talking uncomfortable. Among the most common types of oral irritation or sores are canker sores, cold sores, leukoplakia and candidiasis (oral thrush). (1)
Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are small, painful lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums and tongue. These sores can be painful and are often confused with cold sores. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are caused by the contagious herpes virus. Canker sores are not contagious, but the exact cause is unknown. Scientists believe that stress, weakened immune system or tissue injury is the cause of simple canker sores. It’s also thought that certain foods such as citrus or acidic fruits such as lemons, oranges, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, and strawberries can trigger a canker sore or make the problem worse.
It may also surprise you to learn that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, an impaired immune system; nutritional problems, such as vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron deficiencies can also cause canker sores.
Cold sores is also known as fever blisters or herpes simplex. They appear as painful, fluid-filled blisters around the soft tissues of the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. It’s important to know that canker sores occur inside the mouth, while cold sores usually occur outside the mouth. Also, cold sores are very contagious since they are usually caused by a type of herpes virus. At the earliest stage of the infection, cold sores are sometimes confused with a cold or flu.
Leukoplakia are thick, white patches with red borders that usually develop on the inner cheek, gums or on the surface of the tongue. Sometimes, these patches are precancerous and can progress to oral cancer. The most common causes of leukoplakia includes smoking, excessive alcohol and tobacco use, badly fitting dentures, broken teeth and chewing on one’s cheek. As long as the problem has not progressed to cancer, it often heals when the factors causing the lesions are removed. For some patients, leukoplakia stops when they quit tobacco, or remove ill-fitting dentures and replace them with properly fitting one.
Candidiasis (oral thrush)
These painful, creamy, yellow-white or red patches that occur on moist surfaces in the mouth is a fungal infection caused by candida albicans. Candidiasis or oral thrush is often seen among denture wearers, newborns, those debilitated by disease and those whose immune system is not functioning properly. Also, patients who have chronic dry mouth, or who are taking or have just completed antibiotic treatment, are highly susceptible to candidiasis. Well, the treatment options for candidiasis is quite simple.
Antifungal medications may be used when the underlying cause is unavoidable or incurable. If the problem is as a result of medications, reducing the dose or changing the treatment may help. Also, cleaning dentures is important in preventing denture-induced problems.
Are canker sores contagious?
Canker sores are not contagious, not even through kissing. Canker sores will usually go away by themselves after a week or so, but they can make it difficult to eat or talk, so you may want to seek relief in the meantime. The painful sores can develop anywhere inside your mouth — on the tongue, roof or floor of your mouth, or inside your cheeks.
In the meantime, if it turned out that your canker sores seem to be related to stress, learn and use stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation and guided imagery. It is also important to avoid those foods that your are allergic to and those foods that could irritate your mouth tissues. Avoid nuts, chips, pretzels, certain spices, salty foods and acidic fruits, such as pineapple, grapefruit and oranges as they are associated with canker sores. (2)
In addition, try to eat healthy foods to help prevent nutritional deficiencies and weakened immune system. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day. If the pain is too severe, you can apply ice to the sores to reduce swelling and pain. You can also use a topical numbing medicine to reduce pain caused by canker sores. In one of my previous post, I explained some of the ways plus home remedies to treat canker sores. You read the post here – 8 working remedies for canker sores.