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Canker sores are small round sores or ulcers that form on the mucous membranes inside the mouth, on the roof of the mouth or on the tongue. These mouth sores are usually white, yellowish or greyish in colour with a bright red outer edge, and are often painful and uncomfortable. They should not be confused with herpes, which is usually located on the outside of the mouth, on the lips.

Why do mouth ulcers occur?

20% of the population will have mouth sores at some point in their lives. They are common in both children and adults, although they are more common in teenagers, young adults and women. In some cases, there may be a hereditary predisposition to suffer from them.

The reasons for mouth ulcers are varied and not always easy to establish, ranging from infections caused by various microorganisms, including some sexually transmitted diseases, to immune system problems. People undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy often develop mouth ulcers.

Mouth sores can originate from wounds in the mucous membrane of the mouth caused by biting or by continuous rubbing from dentures, prostheses or braces. Stress, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies and sensitivity to certain chemicals can act as triggers for them.

How to treat mouth sores?

In most cases, mouth sores disappear on their own after a few days and are not a cause for concern unless they grow too large or are accompanied by other symptoms. To avoid worsening the pain they cause, it is recommended that you avoid very hot, acidic or spicy foods, as well as alcohol.

If they do not disappear after two to three weeks, if they recur, or if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, headache, diarrhoea or a rash, you should consult a doctor, dentist or pharmacist.

How to prevent canker sores in the mouth and on the tongue?

Proper oral hygiene is essential to prevent canker sores. Brush your teeth three times a day with a medium bristle toothbrush, clean between your teeth once a day using floss or interdental brushes, and finish your oral hygiene routine with an alcohol-free mouthwash.

An annual visit to the dentist to check that everything is in order and to have a dental cleaning if necessary will help keep your mouth and teeth healthy.

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