The causes of Mouth Ulcers : Mouth Ulcer Guide

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a mouth ulcer but experts say that they are caused by a variety of factors which include:

  • Mouth injury: biting or chewing the inside of the mouth causes ulcers as does the excessive use of a toothbrush. They can also be caused by dental treatment, a sports injury or poorly fitting dentures.
  • Bad diet: a diet lacking in certain vitamins, folic acid or iron can trigger the development of mouth ulcers.
  • Allergies: in rare cases a food allergy might be a factor or an allergy to bacteria present in the mouth.
  • Hormones: women are more prone to mouth ulcers than men which are due to changes in their hormone levels. They are likely to develop mouth ulcers at the onset of a period, during pregnancy or after menopause.
  • Stopping smoking: many people who stop smoking find that they develop mouth ulcers as a consequence. This is the body’s reaction to chemical changes from smoking cessation and these ulcers will disappear after a short period of time.
  • Hereditary: there are cases where more than one member of a family is prone to mouth ulcers. If either of your parents are prone to persistent mouth ulcers then there is very good chance you will do the same.
  • Medical condition: mouth ulcers can be caused by an underlying medical problem such as Coeliac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Reiter’s Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis and immune system disorders e.g. HIV. Any disease which causes an inflammation in the body or affects your immune system in some way can cause mouth ulcers. Note: but not every ulcer will be the aphthous type.
  • Medicine: mouth ulcers can develop as a reaction to a certain type of medication. These include beta-blockers (e.g. high blood pressure), Nicorandil (angina medication) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In the latter case this includes over the counter drugs such as Ibuprofen. Mouth ulcers can develop when the medicine is first taken or if the dosage is increased. In most cases this is a temporary side effect and will disappear after a period of time.
  • Bacteria: there are numerous kinds of bacteria present in the mouth and these can cause mouth ulcers. One such example is ‘helicobacter pylori’.
  • Diet: foods which are highly acidic are known triggers for mouth ulcers and include eggs, coffee, cheese, strawberries and pineapple.
  • Lifestyle: excessive stress or anxiety puts pressure on the immune system which can also cause mouth ulcers. Smoking and drinking to excess can also lead to the development of ulcers.
  • Toothpaste: many brands of toothpaste contain the ingredient sodium lauryl sulphate which can cause mouth ulcers.

It is argued that mouth ulcers are caused by two things: the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells within the mouth instead of an invader or damage to the inside of the mouth caused by a puncture wound or accidentally biting the inside of the cheek. Whatever the causes, there can be nothing more miserable than developing a mouth ulcer. They can make it difficult to eat or drink as normal and can even affect the speech.

Most of us who have experienced mouth ulcers know how annoying and painful they can be. Sufferers of chronic or persistent mouth ulcers often find that they become tired, have swollen lymph glands and a raised temperature. There is a general feeling of being unwell or ‘off-colour’.

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