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Unwelcome, Unexpected, and Uninvited: When Mouth Ulcers Pay a Visit

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Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and mouth ulcers at the worst time imaginable.

No, I’m not saying that mouth ulcers will hunt you down with the tenacity of the Australian Tax Office. I’m not even saying that you’ll definitely get a mouth ulcer at some point in your life (though if I were a betting man, I’d put good money on it occurring at some point).

Instead, what I mean is that mouth ulcers seem to show up at the worst time imaginable. Your son or daughter’s wedding day. Grandpa’s eightieth birthday in that Italian restaurant he likes. The morning of your long-haul flight to Peru. The Big Interview for the Big Promotion that you have Big Hopes for. Just when you least expect it: bam. Ulcer.

Uncomfortable, distracting, and potentially painful.

Of course, one of the reasons that mouth ulcers seem to appear at the worst time imaginable is because there is never a good time to get a mouth ulcer. Mouth ulcers are like unwelcome guests: they show up uninvited, stick around for far too long, and need plenty of encouragement to leave. No wonder mouth ulcer gel is one of our most popular products.

Mouth ulcer crash course

Let’s wind back the clock. What even is a mouth ulcer?

Basically, a mouth ulcer part of your mucous membrane – the squishy tissue inside your mouth – that’s been damaged or degraded. If you really want to impress someone at the next pub trivia, you could explain that ‘a mouth ulcer is damaged oral epithelium and its underlying lamina propria. What a mouthful!

You’re likely to find ulcers inside your lips or cheeks or on your gums. Minor ulcerations look like a small pale splodge, kind of like an old stain of milk on a red couch (I know red couches aren’t exactly popular; please use your imagination for the sake of this analogy!). Major ulcerations can be larger and have a more pronounced white colour.

Many ulcers are caused by trauma. In other words, they are the result of physical damage, which could include:

  • Biting your lip while chewing your food
  • Small injuries caused by dental work.
  • Irritation and damage caused by brushing your teeth.

Here’s the good news: these ulcers generally clear up within two weeks. Treatment such as a mouth ulcer gel could make the healing process even more speedy. Let that sink in: the body can deal with minor damage to your mouth – a cut, a puncture, a perforation – quicker than Amazon can ship some parcels from the UK.

In fact, I like to think of the mouth as the bamboo of the body. Just as bamboo shoots up faster than any other land-based plant on the planet, so too does your mouth heal faster than nearly any part of your body. That’s because your body directs its wound-repair resources to the inside of your mouth much more quickly than to damage outside of your mouth.

When mouth ulcers refuse to leave

I’ll be as direct as possible: if you have a mouth ulcer that sticks around for more than two weeks, you need to see a doctor. There are some types of ulcers that no amount of the mouth ulcer gel in the world can fix. More concerningly, mouth ulcers that won’t heal can be a sign of significant underlying health issues. This is also true if you have recurrent mouth ulcers.

Mouth ulcers that won’t go away or keep reoccurring can be caused by:

  • Genetic predisposition (so ask your family members whether they experience recurrent ulcers also)
  • Gastrointestinal diseases, including coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease
  • Microbial disease and cutaneous disease
  • Use of prescription or illicit drugs
  • Smoking
  • Lack of vitamin B12 or iron
  • HIV
  • Cancer

Due to the serious nature of these conditions, don’t hesitate to see your doctor if ulcers refuse to leave. Make sure you also see your doctor if your mouth ulcer is accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, ulcers elsewhere, fatigue, and unusual stool.

Treating ordinary ulcers

How about a quick recap?

Firstly, we’ve seen that the vast majority of ulcers are harmless despite being painful, annoying, and problematic – though you don’t need me to tell you that!

Secondly, we’ve seen that there are times when your ulcer warrants medical attention from a professional.

Now let’s think about that first category of ulcers: the ones that resolve themselves within two weeks. How do we treat these ordinary ulcers?

For starters, it makes sense to pursue symptomatic relief. This is a fancy way of saying that you should take steps to minimise the discomfort. These steps could include:

  • Avoiding spicy and intense food
  • Replace your toothpaste if it contains sodium laureth sulphate (consult the label to see what is in the product)
  • Use anti-inflammatory mouthwash or spray designed to alleviate symptoms of mouth ulcers
  • Pain relief medication used as directed on the packaging

You can supplement this with what’s called local treatment – products designed to specifically target the ulcer itself. If the symptomatic relief is focused on increasing your comfort, then local treatment is focused on decreasing the ulcer. When these work hand in hand, magic happens.

One such local treatment is mouth ulcer gel. These products can help to alleviate pain and make an infection less likely, shortening the lifespan of an ulcer and related conditions. A product like Bonjela Mouth Ulcer Gel could be appropriate for you. This almost-colourless, inoffensively flavoured gel is designed to target and treat mouth ulcers and aid in the healing process.

Prevention is the best cure

You’ve no doubt heard the saying prevention is the best cure. Like all cliches, there are about a million instances in which it doesn’t apply. But there is some wisdom here, and there are a handful of small steps that you can take to avoid getting a mouth ulcer. Swap to a gentle, soft-bristled toothbrush, eat a balanced and nutritious diet, quit smoking, and ensure that you are carefully managing any underlying health issues and chronic illnesses.

In short: yes, mouth ulcers seem to come at the worst time imaginable. But in many cases they are temporary and treatable, letting you get on with your life in peace.