Mouth sores are very common and tend to be harmless. However, mouth pimples can also indicate a chronic condition that needs prompt medical attention. Talk to your doctor if you suspect your mouth sore is a sign of something serious.
Got a pimple, blister, ulcer, or sore in your mouth? In most cases, mouth sores aren’t a major cause for concern. But since they can indicate a more serious health condition – like oral cancer or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) – it’s important to understand your specific symptoms.
Here’s a detailed overview of the different causes of mouth sores, plus the best treatments for all.
Mouth sores are, er, sores in your mouth! These lesions can take many guises, from tiny blisters to large open sores, practically painless to seriously uncomfortable.
You can develop a mouth sore anywhere on the soft tissues of your mouth, including the:
- roof of your mouth
- floor of your mouth
- inside of the cheeks
Some types of mouth sores, like canker sores, disappear on their own within a couple of weeks. Others, like candidiasis, aren’t particularly alarming but might indicate an underlying health concern.
At the far end of the mouth sore severity spectrum is oral cancer. No, it’s not a likely culprit, but if your mouth sore won’t leave you alone, go see your doctor and find out why.
Mouth ulcers and sores have a load of possible causes. Some are due to a short-term cause like:
- Canker sores, which are random mouth ulcers with many triggers
- Cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus
- Trauma caused by physical damage like biting your tongue or abrasions from braces
- Allergies or reactions to ingredients in food, toothpaste, or medications
- Stress due to your lifestyle, job, or relationship woes
- Infectious mononucleosis (mono, an infection by the Epstein-Barr virus
- Oral thrush, a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida yeast
- Hand, foot, and mouth disease caused by the Coxsackie virus
- Leukoplakia, or white patches caused by repeated injury or irritation
On the flip side, your mouth sore could be due to a long-term cause, like:
- Celiac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks you when you eat gluten.
- Nutritional deficiencies shortfalls in vitamins and minerals like iron, folate, vitamin B6 and B12
- HIV/AIDS can weaken your immune system
- Oral cancer is fairly rare and can cause mouth sores.
- Pemphigus vulgaris is a rare long-term condition where your immune system attacks healthy cells, causing blisters on the skin and mouth
As you can see, there are oodles of causes. So if your mouth zit won’t go away, it’s time to book an appointment with your doctor and find out what’s up.
Mouth sores may look and feel different depending on the underlying cause. Here’s what to look out for:
- Pain. They may be seriously painful, slightly uncomfortable, or completely painless.
- Color. They can appear in a rainbow of colors, from the same as the surrounding tissue to white or yellow and gray to red or purple.
- Size. They can range in size from a tiny dot to several centimeters wide.
- Texture. Smooth, raised, bumpy, lumpy, velvety, or like a raspberry. There are multiple variations.
- Location. They can appear on any part of the mouth, from the inner cheeks and tongue to the lips and gums and the roof or floor of the mouth.
- Sensation. You may feel tingling, burning, or itching at the sore’s location.
If your mouth sores are small, round, open, and seriously painful, canker may be the culprit. These white, yellow, or pale pink lesions aren’t contagious, but they can make it tricky to eat or speak.
Possible causes of canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, can range from stress to genetics. Other contributing factors include minor injuries, certain foods or drinks, and allergic reactions.
Most minor canker sores go away on their own and heal within a couple of weeks. In the meantime, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and numbing gels can help with the discomfort and avoid irritating alcohol-based mouthwash.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for a cold sore. But the good news is that it will probably go away on its own within two weeks after appearing. While you wait, ice packs, OTC pain relievers, and antiviral creams can ease symptoms and speed recovery.
An oral mucocele is a harmless and painless mucus-filled cyst that’s typically smooth and round. They can crop up if you bite your lip or inner cheek, or if the skin experiences some other minor trauma. The injury can damage or block a salivary gland, so saliva builds up and forms a cyst.
You usually don’t need treatment because these mouth sores go away on their own. by themselves. But your doc can remove any that cause discomfort.
Not all mouth sores involve soft tissue. Torus palatinus is a harmless, bony overgrowth that can show up on the roof of your mouth. It can be a single, large bump or a few small ones clustered together.
You shouldn’t experience pain or other symptoms with most minor torus, so treatment is usually unnecessary. But if it’s large or causing discomfort, your doc can remove it with a small procedure.
Experts are unsure why some folks develop torus palatinus, but it may involve your family history.
Candidiasis, or oral thrush, is a yeast infection that often affects newborns and peeps with an underlying condition that weakens their immune systems. Symptoms may include creamy white patches inside the mouth, difficulty swallowing, soreness, and a red rash on the tongue and roof of the mouth.
If you have oral thrush, there’s a good chance it won’t go away on its own. If you develop candidiasis, your doctor can prescribe antifungal meds for 7 to 14 days.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is caused by coxsackievirus. This charmingly named virus shows up unannounced and wreaks havoc in your mouth by producing painful blisters and red bumps, not to mention fever and body aches. As you may guess by the name, HFMD can affect your hands and feet too.
This virus is more common in young kids but can affect anyone. If you’re suffering, you’ll be glad to know HFMD tends to go away in a week, but rest, fluids, and pain relievers can help relieve the symptoms.
Epstein pearls are common in newborns. These small, harmless cysts usually go away within a few weeks without causing any problems.
If you spot these on your baby, don’t fret. Just monitor them and check in with your healthcare team if you have any questions or concerns.
Hyperdontia is the technical term for having additional teeth. If you notice a painful bump on the roof of your mouth or behind your other teeth, it might be an extra player trying to wrestle to the surface.
Depending on where they are and how many, some teeth may need to be removed because they can interfere with your bite. Consult with your dentist to figure out a plan.
When mouth sores look like bumps or warts with a bumpy, cauliflower-like texture, it could be squamous papilloma. The culprit here is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts.
These growths are non-cancerous and painless. And although they’re fugly, they often go away without treatment. But remember folks, these
Rarely, what looks like a sore or zit inside your mouth turns out to be oral or mouth cancer. Symptoms can include white, gray, or bright red sores or bumps that are oddly shaped, may bleed, and don’t heal. They can appear anywhere inside the mouth, including the lips, cheeks, gums, or tongue. The sores may be painful.
A condition called leukoplakia increases your risk of oral cancer. These thickened, white patches can’t be scraped off. It seems that chronic irritation from tobacco is the main culprit in its development.
If you suspect oral cancer, see your doc stat. Early detection is key for successful treatment and outlook. Surgery is often the first treatment for these cancers and may be followed by radiation or chemotherapy.
Any mouth ulcers, sores, or bumps that don’t improve within a couple of weeks deserve an evaluation by your healthcare provider. Likewise, if you notice the lesions worsening, with increased swelling, bleeding, or changes to skin texture or color, make that appointment pronto.
Bumps and sores inside your mouth are usually harmless, but your doc can take a look, assess the situation, and recommend the best course of action. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Lumps, bumps, and sores inside your mouth might be related to a virus, fungal infection, injury, or something else. Usually, they don’t require extensive treatment and often go away on their own.
But if they persist or worsen, or you’re concerned, see your healthcare provider. They can evaluate the situation and offer guidance on the best treatment plan.