What are Mouth Ulcers? : Mouth Ulcer Guide

Mouth ulcers are small oval sores, red in colour, which develop inside the mouth. They are commonly found in the inner part of the cheeks, inside the lips, under the tongue or on the soft palate. This type of ulcer is not contagious unlike cold sores and usually disappears after a couple of weeks.

These are also known as ‘canker sores’ or ‘aphthous ulcers’.

Mouth ulcers affect both men and women although women are more commonly affected. Teenagers are especially prone to developing these which can often be a result of stress, poor diet or a lack of sleep!

You may find that you develop mouth ulcers if you are ‘run down’ or have high stress levels.

What does a mouth ulcer look like?

It is a round or oval type of swelling with a yellow or white coloured centre. It may have a ‘crater-like’ appearance and is often red and painful. Most people experience a single mouth ulcer but it is not uncommon to develop several ulcers at once.

You may experience pain when you eat or drink anything hot or cold. For those suffering with chronic mouth ulcers, they can expect to see as many 15 or 20 at a time.

Types of mouth ulcers

There are three types of mouth ulcers which are as follows:

  • Minor ulcers
  • Major ulcers
  • Herpetiform ulcers

Minor ulcers

Around 80% of all mouth ulcers are the minor type. They are oval or round in shape and are no bigger than 10mm in size. They have a pale yellow colour but often look red and swollen although they are not usually painful.

Usually just the one ulcer appears but up to five can appear at the same time.

This type of ulcer lasts for a week to ten days and disappears without any scarring.

Major ulcers

This type of ulcer is bigger and deeper than a minor ulcer and tends to occur in about 1 out of 10 cases. Usually one ulcer develops although two can appear at the same time. This ulcer lasts from ten days to several months but in some cases, they can remain for a year or two. These painful ulcers leave a scar after they have disappeared.

Herpetiform ulcers

Also known as ‘pinpoint’ulcers: these tiny ulcers are no bigger than 3mm in size and appear as clusters. These clusters can contain from four or five ulcers up to 100. In some cases they can combine together to form large, irregular shaped groups of ulcers.

This type of ulcer appears in 10% of cases.

They usually take a week to ten days to clear and don’t result in any scarring.

Mouth ulcers are more common in people aged between 10 and 40. After that they tend to appear on occasions but this is less likely over time. Basically the older you get the less chance you have of developing mouth ulcers.

At some point you may stop developing mouth ulcers altogether.

Are mouth ulcers contagious?

No. You cannot get mouth ulcers from kissing or sharing a glass which has been used by someone with a mouth ulcer.

But what are contagious are cold sores which are formed from the herpes virus and can be transmitted via personal contact, e.g. kissing.

Some people rarely develop mouth ulcers but there are others who suffer from these on a regular basis. Around 1 in five people experience ‘recurring’mouth ulcers which can be a miserable experience.

If you are one of these unlucky sufferers then find out more in our persistent mouth ulcers section.

Are some people more prone to developing a mouth ulcer than others? Find out more in our next section.

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