Mouth Ulcers: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Mouth Ulcers?

Mouth ulcers are painful round or oval sores that appear in the mouth, often in the inside of the cheeks. Mouth ulcers are also known as apthous ulcers. They can be painful when eating, drinking or brushing teeth. Mouth ulcers cannot be spread from one person to other people.
The major types of mouth ulcers are:
  • Minor ulcers: They are around 2-8mm in diameter and usually clear up in 10 days to two weeks
  • Major ulcers: They are bigger and deeper. This may take several days to heal and may leave a scar in the mouth
  • Herpetiform ulcers: This type of ulcers is a cluster of dozens of smaller sores with the size of pin heads

Recovery Time

  • Pain from a mouth ulcer in generally lessens in few days
  • Sores usually heal in about a week or two        


  • Oral examination
  • Blood tests in case of (vitamin deficiency ,anemia ,leukemia ,HIV  infection , Stress)
  • Microbiological swabs
  • Urinalysis in case of (diabetes)   

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1. What are mouth ulcers?
A mouth ulcer also called as apthous ulcer is a round or oval sore which is white or yellow in color surrounded by an inflamed red ring. The first sign you have a mouth ulcer is a tingling or burning sensation in your mouth followed by the ulcer itself.

Q2.  What are the symptoms of mouth ulcer?
  • Painful sores inside the mouth, on the tongue, soft palate, inside the cheek
  • Sore in your mouth that are round or white or grey in color with a red edge or border
  • In severe mouth ulcers attack, one may also experience
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
Q3. Are all mouth ulcers painful?
The syphilitic chancre is typically painless and therefore easily missed. Regional lymphadenopathy is invariably associated. Confirmation is achieved using appropriate bacterial and serologic tests.
Similar-appearing, though less painful, lesions may occur in reactive arthritis (formerly known as Reiters syndrome) and systemic lupus erythematous.

Q4. Can cancer cause mouth ulcers?
Cancer of the mouth can first appear as a mouth ulcer. The ulcers caused by mouth cancer are usually single and last a long time without any obvious local cause (for example a sharp tooth). Any ulcer that lasts longer than three weeks should be looked at by your dentist. Ulcers caused by cancer usually appear on or under the tongue, but may occasionally appear somewhere else in the mouth. Cancer of the mouth is usually associated with heavy smoking and drinking. Doing both together greatly increases the risk.

Q5. Can I catch mouth ulcers by kissing?
Mouth ulcers cannot be caught by kissing or sharing drinks and utensils as they are not caused by an infection.

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