Mouth Sores


Something an Otolaryngologist can treat for you are Oral Lesions, or mouth sores, which may make it painful to eat and talk. Two common and recurrent oral lesions you may be familiar with are fever blisters (also known as cold sores) and canker sores. Canker sores and fever blisters are somewhat similar, but there are important differences as well.

Fever blisters occur most frequently on the lips are blisters filled with fluid and are usually painful. In addition, they occur on the gums and roof of the mouth, called the hard palate. The pain may precede the appearance of the lesion by a two to four days and the blisters may rupture within hours, then crust over. They will remain visible for about seven to ten days.

Fever blisters result from a herpes simplex virus that becomes active. This virus will remain dormant or latent in people who have the herpes virus and then it is activated by conditions such as stress, fever, trauma, hormonal changes and even exposure to sunlight. When these herpes lesions reappear, they tend to form in the same location.From the time the blister ruptures until the sore is completely healed is the time of greatest risk for spread of infection and is very contagious.Also, the virus can spread to the afflicted person’s eyes and genitalia, as well as to other people.

Treatment consists of coating the lesions with a protective barrier ointment containing an antiviral agent, for example 5% acyclovir ointment. While there is not yet a cure, scientists are trying to develop one, so hopefully fever blisters will be a curable disorder in the future. Some tips to possibly prevent the spreading of Fever Blisters include: try to avoid contact with the mucous membrane, when a lesion is present; do not squeeze, pinch or pick at the blisters; wash your hands carefully before touching your eyes, genital area or another person. Unfortunately, despite all types of precautions, it is possible to transmit the herpes virus even when no blisters are visible.

Canker sores, also called Aphthous Ulcers, are different than fever blisters. They are small, red or white, shallow ulcers occurring on the tongue, soft palate or inside the lips and cheeks; they do not occur in the roof of the mouth or the gums. However, they are also quite painful and usually last five to ten days.

In the United States, approximately 80% of the population between the ages of 10 to 20 and mostly women, get canker sores. The best available evidence suggests that canker sores result from an altered local immune response associated with stress, trauma or irritation. Canker sores are not contagious, since they are not caused by bacteria or viral agents. Treatment is directed toward relieving discomfort and guarding against infection.

Consider consulting one of our physicians at OKLAHOMA OTOLARYNGOLOGY ASSOCIATES if the mouth sore has not healed within two weeks. Fever blisters and Canker Sores offer an easy way for germs and viruses to get into your body, so it is easy for infections to develop.People who consume alcohol, smokers and smokeless tobacco users, chemotherapy or radiation patients, bone marrow or stem cell recipients or patients with weak immune systems should also consider having regular oral screenings by a physician. The first sign of oral cancer is a mouth sore that does not heal.

Our ENT physician will most likely examine your entire head, face, neck, lips, gums and high-risk areas inside the mouth, such as the floor of the mouth, the area under the tongue, the front and sides of the tongue and the roof of the mouth or soft palate. If a suspicious lesion is found, the physician may recommend collecting a sample and obtaining a test of the soft tissue from the oral cavity.

There are other types of oral lesions to be concerned with as well. Leukoplakia is a thick, whitish-color patch that forms on the inside of the cheeks, gums, or tongue. These patches are caused by excess cell growth and are common among tobacco users. They result from irritations such as ill-fitting dentures or the habit of chewing on the inside of the cheek. Leukoplakia can progress to cancer. Candidiasis, which is a fungal infection, when yeast reproduces in large numbers. It is also called moniliasis or oral thrush. This condition is common among denture wearers and most often occurs in people who are very young, elderly and those who have a problem with their immune system. Another oral disease, which is a relatively rare condition caused by the elongation of the taste buds is called Hairy tongue. It can be caused by poor oral hygiene, chronic oral irritation or smoking. The condition when there is a hard bony growth in the center of the roof of the mouth palate is called Torus Palatinus. It commonly occurs in females over the age of 30 and rarely needs treatment. A Torus Palatinus is often seen in patients who suffer from tooth grinding and is occasionally removed for the proper fitting of dentures.

Oral cancer may appear as a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth or a small ulcer that looks like a common canker sore. Other than the lips, the most common areas for oral cancer to develop are around the tongue and the floor of the mouth. The physicians at OKLAHOMA OTOLARYNGOLOGY ASSOCIATES want everyone to know the symptoms which include a lump or mass that can be felt inside the mouth or neck; there may be pain or difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or chewing; any wart-like mass; hoarseness that lasts for more than two weeks; or any numbness in the oral/facial region.

Tips to Prevent Mouth Sores

  • Stop smoking

  • Reduce stress

  • Avoid injury to the mouth caused by hard tooth brushing, eating hard foods, or ill-fitting braces or dentures

  • Chew slowly

  • Practice good dental hygiene, including regular visits to the dentist

  • Eat a well-balanced diet

  • Identify and eliminate food sensitivities

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Follow nutritional guidelines for multivitamin supplements