Eating is no fun when you have a mouth ulcer. Every time you take a mouthful of food, you can feel the ulcer. Salad dressings and other vinegary foods can be especially painful. Mouth ulcers are small milk-coloured indentations with a red rim. They commonly appear on the insides of the cheeks and lips and on the gums, tongue and roof of the mouth. They cause a sudden burning or itching sensation. Most mouth ulcers are harmless and will disappear, even without treatment, after a few days or weeks. Sometimes, however, ulcers can be as much as three centimetres in diameter. These are very painful and can take as long as six weeks to clear up.
No one knows why mouth ulcers form, but we are sure at least that it has nothing to with oral hygiene. Some people think they are caused by physical or mental stress. Although they often occur when the immune system is weak, allergies, viral infections and even problems of the digestive system may also be implicated. It is also unclear whether hormones imbalances or certain foodstuffs may be responsible. However, unlike cold sores, which are caused by herpes viruses and appear on the outside of the lips, mouth ulcers are not infectious.
Relieving the pain
Unfortunately there's no way of avoiding mouth ulcers and some people suffer from them repeatedly. However, as soon as you notice one, you can take steps to reduce the pain and speed up the healing process. Pharmacies stock gels which can be used to disinfect the affected area, reduce the pain and form a protective barrier over the ulcer.
Some plant-based remedies are also useful; rinsing the mouth regularly with sage or camomile tea can be effective. Myrrh is also recognised as an effective treatment for inflammation in the mouth. Ideally it should be applied to the affected area in the form of a tincture. You can either buy a myrrh tincture at your pharmacy or make one yourself by marinating some myrrh for a few days in pure alcohol. You can then filter the tincture into a separate container by passing the liquid through a coffee filter or something similar.