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Mouth Ulcers: Serious Health Concern or Harmless Unwanted Guest?

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Let’s talk mouth ulcers.

Pesky? Absolutely. Painful? Sometimes. Dangerous? Maybe.

Firstly, let’s get technical: a mouth ulcer is caused by an erosion of your mucous membrane. Let me break that down for you. Your mucous membrane is a soft, moist inner lining found in places like your nose, your lungs, your stomach, and – of course – your mouth.

It’s a pretty amazing part of the body.

It’s soft yet tough, protective without being brittle, and helps keep your insides safe from the outside.

But the mucous membrane is also fragile, and when it gets damaged, ulcers form.

Symptoms for ulcers vary, but common symptoms include:

  • Painful, irritating, or unwanted sores in your mouth, especially on the inside of your cheeks or lips
  • Evidence of swelling (even mild swelling!) around the sores
  • Difficulties chewing, talking, or brushing your teeth due to the sores
  •  Sensitivity when eating or drinking ‘intense’ foods – think buffalo wings, a hot curry, or the grapefruit you ate for breakfast. Anything spicy, sour, or sweet may exacerbate your symptoms.

Where do ulcers come from?

Often, this is caused by injury. Ever accidentally bitten your lip? It’s likely that before too long you found an ulcer in its place. In most instances, ulcers like these are essentially harmless – kind of like an in-mouth equivalent of the very mild cut or a graze on one of your knees. You might decide to treat this with mouth ulcer gel or another remember, but to be honest, it’s likely that it’ll disappear on its own.

This type of mouth ulcer is something like an unwanted houseguest: you wish for it to leave, and at some point you know it will. In the meantime you just have to outlive, outlast, and outplay it, to borrow the catchphrase from a popular reality TV program.

Of course, there are other causes for mouth ulcers. Some medications can make you particularly prone to them. An infection will also cause them to flare up. Stress can make them multiply like rabbits.

In addition to this, around 20% of Australians have a condition that causes reoccurring ulcers. Is there a medical explanation for this? Nope. It’s just the way it is. Sorry.

Serious concerns

Most ulcers will clear up on their own, especially with a little treatment with a mouth ulcer gel. In general, it’ll clear up within the fortnight. Some Amazon shipping still takes longer.

Are these ulcers worth worrying about? Absolutely not. Life is too short.

Some ulcers, however, should be taken seriously. In particular, an ulcer that doesn’t heal could be a sign of serious health issues such as mouth cancer. If you have an ulcer that doesn’t clear up within a fortnight, speak to your GP, especially if you use tobacco problems or drink alcohol regularly. If you regularly get tenacious ulcers that make a home for themselves in your mouth, you need to take this seriously. A little mouth ulcer gel won’t do the trick – that would be like trying to use a tire puncture kit to fix the hull of the Titanic.

Even if the problem isn’t so serious, recurring or tenacious ulcers may be a sign of other serious infections, diseases, and conditions. You may have coeliac disease, autoimmune disease, or a vitamin or mineral deficiency. It is worth speaking to a trusted health professional, especially if:

  • You are concerned about the serious conditions mentioned above
  • Your ulcers are accompanied by other symptoms such as fever 
  • Your stool has traces of blood and/or mucus
  • You have ulcers in other parts of the body

Stike first

It’s easy to think that ulcers are like the weather: something that happens to us but that we have no control over.

In some cases, this is true.

You can take tangible steps to reduce the impact of ulcers. Less impact = less discomfort. Less discomfort = more time to focus on the things in life that truly matter.

There are five ways you can treat ulcers:

  1. Curate what you eat and drink. I like the word ‘curate’. It reminds me of an art gallery filled with carefully chosen works throughout the globe. Not a single piece is there by accident; every work has a place, and every place has a work. Does your approach to what you eat and drink need to be so deliberate? Nope. But aim to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid spicy and sour foods until you have bid a sweet adieu to the ulcer.
  2. Practice good oral hygiene. You know how your dentist always nags you when you visit? I’m on Team Dentist. I know that it can be arduous to floss and brush regularly, but a clear mouth is a good mouth. Think of the mouth of someone with poor oral hygiene as a garden that has been overrun by anything that will grow there. No thanks. 
  3. Switch to a soft toothbrush. Do yourself a favour: walk into your bathroom, take your hard-bristle toothbrush, wrap it in biodegradable paper, then toss it into the sea. Or into the fires of Mordor. For nearly all Australians, a soft toothbrush is the best option – ulcers or no ulcers. But soft toothbrushes are especially good if your ulcers are painful or sensitive. 
  4. Speak to someone about managing your stress. Some ulcers are stress-induced. Consider making a few lifestyle changes, setting up healthy routines for work and rest, heading outside more frequently, cultivating gratitude in your life, and getting enough sleep. If your stress is excessive and gets in the way of your normal life, speak to a GP or relevant medical professional. Will it lead to fewer ulcers? It may. Will it benefit other aspects of the way you live life and love others? Absolutely. 
  5. Use appropriate topic treatment. I love that we live in 2021, not 1021. We have a world of information at our fingertips, life expectancy is higher than ever before, and we don’t have to just grin and bear with ulcers. A mouth ulcer gel with an active ingredient like Choline Salicylate can help lessen the discomfort and ulcers. Aim for a sugar-free product with a pleasant taste – buying bad-tasting mouth ulcer gel is a mistake that people generally only make once. You can find a range of sugar-free, fast-acting, inoffensively flavoured gels in our online catalogue.

In the end, if you’re worried about your mouth ulcers, you should speak to a trusted health professional. In the meantime, follow the quick and easy steps to ensure that your mouth is as free from unwanted guests as possible.