Why You Have Mouth Sores and What to Do About Them

Posted in Uncategorized | December 28, 2023

Mouth sores are very common. Almost everybody will experience them at some point in their lives.

However, they aren’t fun; some can cause pain or make eating almost impossible. There are many reasons why mouth sores develop, with stress playing a considerable role.

Keep reading to learn more about mouth sores, why you have them, and what you can do about them.

What are Mouth Sores?

Mouth sores are breaks in the mucous membrane that line your oral cavity. They come in all sizes and shapes.

Mouth sores could be anywhere in sensitive areas such as the gums, roof, and floor of your mouth, cheeks, tongue, and lips. They’re easily irritated and can be painful.

A mouth sore may stop you from drinking, eating, and speaking. Sometimes, it might be hard to control salivary secretions if you have one.

Types and Causes of Mouth Sores

Different kinds of mouth sores form due to various reasons, and they include:

Canker Sores

Canker sores are medically known as aphthous ulcers. They appear as white or yellow oval or round shapes with a red margin inside your mouth.

Their size can range from 1 millimeter to 1 inch in diameter. Canker sores are non-contagious and usually appear in sets of two or four at a time.

Anyone can have canker sores, but they are more common in younger adults and women. While most people only get them occasionally, some have recurrent episodes of canker sores.

These mouth sores can cause irritation when drinking, eating, and talking.

Causes of Canker Sores

The actual cause of these tiny, painful sores is still unknown. But canker sores can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Acidic foods
  • Oral injuries
  • Hormonal changes
  • Nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, and zinc

Treatment for Canker Sores

Canker sores typically last a week or two. They heal on their own without intervention.

But if they persist for over two weeks or become severe, you may need to see your doctor. Treatments can include prescription drugs, antiseptic rinses, or ointments.

Cold Sores

A cold sore usually starts with tingling around your mouth or on the lips, followed by a burning sensation. Then, an unsightly red sore appears.

Cold sores or fever blisters are tiny, fluid-filled bumps that are quite painful. Unlike canker sores, active cold sores are very contagious.

The virus responsible for cold sores is usually spread through shared lip products or utensils, a kiss, and other close contact.

Causes of Cold Sores

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus often remains dormant but can flare up from time to time due to the following factors:

  • Stress
  • The common cold
  • Fatigue
  • Hormonal changes
  • Excessive sunlight
  • A weakened immune system

Treating Cold Sores

Cold sores can clear up within 7 to 10 days without treatment. Still, applying a cold compress to the sore may numb the pain.

Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen can also provide relief.

See an otolaryngologist if your cold sore hasn’t healed after ten days. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to speed up healing.


Also called thrush, candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida. Candida is a yeast infection naturally present in small amounts in your mouth and other parts of the body.

It appears as white spots that you can wipe away, revealing red, bleeding areas. These white patches tend to coat your tongue and other mucous membranes in your mouth.

You may struggle to eat and swallow properly when you have candidiasis. There might also be slight burning in your mouth or around and underneath your tongue.

Candidiasis can occur in women and men of all ages.

Causes of Candidiasis

Healthy bacteria in your body balance the amount of yeast, preventing yeast overgrowth. Disrupting this balance due to the following factors leads to a candidiasis infection:

  • Stress
  • Inhaled steroids
  • Hormonal changes
  • Weak immune system
  • Lack of dental hygiene
  • High carbohydrate or sugar diet
  • Taking oral contraceptives, medications that cause dry mouth, or antibiotics

Treating Candidiasis

Candidiasis treatment involves taking antifungal medications. Most mild to moderate cases of candidiasis typically clear up within 2 to 3 days after completing treatment.

Most severe candidiasis cases can take several weeks to resolve post-treatment.


Leukoplakia is when white patches or plaques form inside your mouth. The patches can be found inside your cheeks, under your tongue, or lips and are usually painless.

Causes of Leukoplakia

The actual cause of leukoplakia is still unknown. It’s mainly linked to smoking. Other causes include:

  • Rough, uneven teeth
  • Improperly fitted dentures
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Chronic irritation or inflammation
  • Prolonged sun exposure to your lips
  • Injury to the inside of your cheek
  • HIV or AIDS

Treating Leukoplakia

Often, leukoplakia goes away on its own and doesn’t need treatment. Removing the source of irritation can also clear the irritation.

For instance, if ill-fitting dentures or uneven teeth cause leukoplakia, you can readjust the dentures or smooth the teeth out. If the patches have red spots, visit your doctor right away.

Redness might be a sign of oral cancer and requires immediate treatment.

You can have the patches removed with a scalpel or laser if it’s cancerous.

A cold probe may also help freeze and destroy any existing cancer cells.

Fight Mouth Sores with Comprehensive Treatment

The experienced otolaryngologists at Specialty Care Institute understand what mouth sores are and their causes. No matter what kind of mouth sore you have, our ENT specialists can accurately diagnose your condition and provide an effective treatment that will combat your sores.

Do you have persistent or recurring mouth sores? Schedule your appointment today at Speciality Care Institute in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Elgin, or Hoffman Estates, IL, to get to the bottom of what’s causing your mouth sores and find a long-lasting solution.