Mouth sores – Symptoms and Causes

Health Insurance Plans starting at Rs.15/day*

Health Insurance Plans starting at Rs.15/day*

Mouth sores – A common element that affects anyone at any point in life. Mouth sores can appear in any of the soft tissues present in the mouth.  

Lips, inner cheeks, gums, the roof of the mouth and tongue are prone to mouth sores.  

Mouth sores are caused by various acute conditions like

Mouth sores like canker sores are usually minor irritation that hardly causes any disturbance lasting for a couple of weeks. In some cases, they can indicate infection or can even be a symptom of mouth cancer.  

Mouth sores can also be caused due to burns and allergies. They are also caused by chronic condition that indicates serious diseases like celiac disease and mouth cancer.  

How to identify a mouth sore? 

It is important for us to know that various conditions can cause mouth sores and how they may look different depending on the cause.

Canker sores 

These look like small oval-shaped that occur in the mouth, usually white or grey in colour. They are constantly irritating and painful.

The canker sores are very common and heal on their own within a week or two. The size of the canker score may vary. This condition is caused by biting the inside of the cheek and burns triggered by allergies or sensitivity.  

Cold sores 

Cold sores appear to be liquid-filled bumps appearing near the mouth or the lips. They are usually red or dark in appearance.

The affected area might burn even before the sore is visible.  

Usually, cold sores are caused by the herpes virus. This virus can be dormant in the body for many days and can reactivate itself, causing symptoms like body pain, mild fever and lymph nodes.

Usually, the virus outbreak is common if a person is constantly under stress, feels sick, has a weak immune system, overexposure to sunlight, and has cuts on the skin of the mouth.  

Also, it is important to understand that this virus is contagious and can spread through contact. A person with cold sores must be careful not to spread them to others.  


Gingivostomatitis is a commonly found infection, especially in children affecting the mouth and gums. It can also make a person exhibit symptoms resembling flu.  

Gingivostomatitis is caused by viral infections or bacterial infections that are formed as a result of not brushing the teeth properly.  


Oral thrush is an infection caused by yeast that develops in the inner mouth and on top of the tongue.  

More commonly seen in infants and children, it can be a warning sign of a weak immune system. A weak immune system can also cause thrush in adults.  

These look like small bumps, usually white, that appear on top of the tongue or inner cheeks that can be scrapped off.  

This is caused by an overgrowth of yeast that occurs naturally in the body. With medication, the oral thrush lasts for two weeks.  


Leucoplakia is a patch that develops in the mouth. The patch is white and is commonly found in people who use tobacco.  

This is often harmless and goes away on its own. However, in rare cases, people with this condition can develop oral cancer. It is important to visit a doctor to take a test and know the treatment.  

Oral cancer 

Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is a type of cancer that originates in the mouth. Mouth cancer can affect the lips, cheeks, gums, teeth, tongue, roof and the floor of the mouth.

Oral cancer can make a person exhibit symptoms like  

  • Unusual weight loss  
  • Bleeding gums  
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and  
  • Severe ear pain.

If there are any explained white patches in the mouth, it is important to consult a doctor immediately.  

How are mouth sores caused? 

There are various factors that can lead to mouth sores from lifestyle activities or health conditions. Some of the reasons a person can develop a mouth sore are as follows:

  • Frequent biting of tongue, cheeks or lips
  • Burn in the mouth irritation from a sharp object like a braces
  • Hard brushing of teeth
  • Tobacco
  • Using firm toothbrush

Some of the other reasons include

What are the symptoms of mouth sores?

Typically, a mouth sore can cause redness and slight pain during the consumption of food or drinking. There is a tingling sensation around the sore. Depending on the size and severity, Mouth sores can make it difficult for a person to eat, drink, swallow or talk.  

Mouth sores can make a person exhibit a few symptoms that require medical attention.  

The symptoms will indicate how severe the mouth sore is, and if a person is unable to manage their symptoms, interfering in their day-to-day routine, it is important to address the issue.  

How to treat mouth sores? 

Minor symptoms usually go away on their own within one or two weeks. Home treatment can be an effective remedy to help reduce pain and improve healing.  

  • Restricting spicy food, citrus-based and food that contains high sugar.
  • Restricting alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Salt water gargle
  • Consuming cold food like ice or sherbet
  • Medication
  • Not touching the sore  
  • The paste of baking soda and water can help treat mouth sores naturally.

How can medication help with a mouth sore? 

A doctor will provide pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs or gel to fight against the symptoms of mouth sores.  

If the mouth sore is a result of infections caused by a bacteria or virus, then a healthcare professional would suggest medications to fight against the infection.  

Steroid gels are applied to the infected area to reduce burns or other symptoms.  

Is it possible to prevent mouth sores?

Completely preventing them is not possible; however, there are various steps a person can adopt to lower the chances of developing them.  

Anyone can reduce the chances of developing mouth sores by

  • Avoiding extremely hot food or drinks
  • Chewing softly
  • Using a toothbrush that is not firm
  • Having good oral hygiene
  • Consuming a balanced diet
  • Avoiding food that can cause irritation
  • Taking supplements, if required
  • Drinking enough water
  • Quit smoking or tobacco use
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Frequent visits to the dentist and regular checkups

By following the above-mentioned ways a person can reduce the chances of developing mouth sores, there are a few factors that cannot be controlled.  

Visiting a doctor can help a person get treatment based on their condition’s severity and cause.  

Can mouth sores lead to complications?  

Usually, mouth sores do not have long-lasting effects or complexities. In some cases, they can be harmful, and the side effects can be severe.  

Is doctor consultation mandatory?

Usually, mouth sores go of naturally, lasting not more than two weeks. Mouth sores and their symptoms can be healed with the help of natural home remedies.  

There is a need for medical assistance if the symptoms or severe. A doctor will analyse the sore and provide treatment accordingly.  

To sum up

Mouth sores are common. They affect many people and appear on the soft tissues present in the mouth.

Severe mouth sores might be an indication of a chronic health condition that may require medical attention.  


How do you heal sores in your mouth? 

Mouth sores are managed and treated using
1· Over-the-counter medications
2. Hydration  
3·Practising oral hygiene
4.Frequent visits to the dentist

 When should I be concerned about mouth sores? 

Medical assistance is required if the mouth sores are large, re-occurring and multiplying. Consulting a doctor is recommended if the mouth ulcers last for more than two weeks.

How long do mouth sores last?

Mouth sore or persistent for 1 to 2 weeks. Usually, within 14 days, the mouth sores will heal on their own.   

What virus causes mouth sores?

The herpes simplex virus can cause most sores. Several other viral infections caused by various viruses can also cause mouth sores and their symptoms.

Can I put salt directly on the mouth ulcer? 

Mouth ulcer requires proper medical treatment. Home remedies like salt have a lesser chance of curing mouth ulcers.
It is better to consult a medical professional and get appropriate treatment.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

Scroll to Top