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Mouth ulcers

  • Definition
    • Mouth ulcers are sores or open lesions in the mouth.

  • Alternative Names
    • Oral ulcer; Stomatitis - ulcerative; Ulcer - mouth

  • Causes
  • Symptoms
    • Symptoms will vary, based on the cause of the mouth ulcer. Symptoms may include:

      • Open sores in the mouth
      • Pain or discomfort in the mouth
  • Exams and Tests
    • Most of the time, a health care provider or dentist will look the ulcer and where it is in the mouth to make the diagnosis. You may need blood tests or a biopsy of the ulcer may be needed to confirm the cause.

  • Treatment
    • The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.

      • The underlying cause of the ulcer should be treated if it is known.
      • Gently cleaning your mouth and teeth may help relieve your symptoms.
      • Medicines that you rub directly on the ulcer such as antihistamines, antacids, and corticosteroids may help soothe discomfort.
      • Avoid hot or spicy foods until the ulcer is healed.
  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • The outcome varies depending on the cause of the ulcer. Many mouth ulcers are harmless and heal without treatment.

      Some types of cancer may first appear as a mouth ulcer that does not heal.

  • Possible Complications
    • Complications may include:

      • Cellulitis of the mouth, from secondary bacterial infection of ulcers
      • Dental infections (tooth abscesses)
      • Oral cancer
      • Spread of contagious disorders to other people
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your health care provider if:

      • A mouth ulcer does not go away after 3 weeks.
      • You have mouth ulcers return often, or if new symptoms develop.
  • Prevention
    • To help prevent mouth ulcers and complications from them:

      • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day.
      • Get regular dental cleanings and checkups.
  • References
    • Daniels TE. Diseases of the mouth and salivary glands. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 433.

      Mirowski GW, Mark LA. Oral disease and oral-cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 22.