Mouth sores are a relatively common condition, and nearly everyone experiences a harmless sore at one point or another. But if your mouth develops canker sores frequently or they persist for more than a few weeks, it could be a symptom of a bigger issue. When in doubt, have any troublesome sores examined by your dentist, who can help walk you through these steps for a quick diagnosis and treatment plan.
Ruling Out Bite Injuries
Most mouth sores are the result of biting your tongue, lips or cheeks and heal up on their own within a few days. You may not even remember the initial bite, especially if you have a habit of grinding your teeth while you sleep. Patients who grind their teeth every night often experience multiple sores, which can quickly become painful and increase your chances of bacterial infection. In order to protect your teeth and mouth, your dentist may suggest methods to relieve your tooth grinding, including stress reduction and orthodontics.
Checking for Sexually Transmitted Infections
The Herpes virus is infamous for creating sores in and around the mouth, typically along the outer lips. Although lesions inside the mouth are rarer, they can still indicate a Herpes infection. Syphilis, another sexually transmitted infection, can also manifest as cankers in the mouth. Testing regularly for STI allows you to seek treatment options as quickly as possible while halting the spread of the disease.
Reducing Stress and Boosting Your Immune System
When you undergo long periods of stress, your body's immune system suffers as well. Unable to keep up with all of the minor injuries and infections it battles on a daily basis, a stressed body is more likely to develop canker sores and other health problems. If you are stressed and experiencing an outbreak of canker sores and ulcers, avoid spicy or acidic foods to prevent further irritation and look into relaxation techniques that can improve your entire quality of life. In extreme cases, immune-boosting medications may be necessary to bring your system back into balance.
Screening for Oral Cancer and Other Diseases
Once you have eliminated other possibilities, your dentist may decide to check your mouth's sores for evidence of oral cancer or other serious diseases. Although they are rare, screening for Crohn's disease, cancer or even lupus can catch each disease early, before it progresses and becomes more difficult to treat. It may be tempting to ignore something as small as a nagging ulcer, but that annoying, painful little spot could be your body sending you an urgent message. Schedule an appointment with a dentist, such as Benjamin D Hull DDS, if a sore persists for more than a couple of weeks, and watch for any new symptoms that may reveal an undiscovered underlying condition.