Anyone who has ever experienced a mouth ulcer knows that just a little sore in the wrong place can be a big pain. Here’s expert advice from Dirna Grobbelaar, our Oral Hygiene Advisor, to you prevent mouth ulcer misery.
Mouth ulcers only appear inside the mouth, unlike cold sores or fever blisters, which only appear outside, usually on the lips or around the mouth. You’ll find mouth ulcers on the tongue or lining of the mouth, in singles or multiples. They are usually round and reddish.
Causes of Mouth Ulcers
Most people will experience a sore inside the mouth at some point. These are often caused by a minor injury – biting the cheek accidentally, consuming food or drink that’s too hot, poorly-fitting dentures or braces, especially when orthodontics are initially fitted.
Aphthous ulcers are the ones that recur and often first appear in childhood or adolescence. They tend to return during hormonal changes, times of stress or anytime that the immune system is compromised for some reason.
Some people find eating acidic fruit (like pineapples, tomatoes or oranges) can cause mouth ulcers. Babies and young children might develop them because of common viruses like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease and the Coxsackie Virus.
Stress is a very common trigger for ulcers. They can also be a sign of conditions like coeliac disease or nutritional deficiencies (e.g. vitamin B12 which is common in vegans, zinc, iron or folic acid).
Treatment for Mouth Ulcers
Mouth ulcers are not contagious and usually clear up by themselves in a few days. A proper oral hygiene routine to keep the mouth as clean as possible help them heal more quickly. For more on the ideal oral care routine when you have ulcers read this blog article.
There are various over-the-counter medications available that help relieve the discomfort and pain. We recommend Aloclair gel or spray which are easy to apply, even in a young child’s mouth. The soothing Aloclair formula contains aloe vera and helps form a barrier over the exposed nerve endings, giving almost immediate relief.
Mouth ulcers tend to last up to 10 to 14 days. Consult your doctor or dentist if your ulcer does not heal within three weeks. Oral cancer is predicted to treble in the next generation and it’s important to rule it out.
Five tips to manage mouth ulcers
- Avoid very hot, spicy, salty or acidic foods and drink
- Use Aloclair gel or spray to form a protective barrier over the ulcer
- Use a straw when drinking
- Rinse with GUM Paroex, an alcohol-free antiseptic mouthrinse
- Maintain a good oral hygiene routine using antiseptic GUM Paroex gel (instead of a strong, minty toothpaste) with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush
For further advice speak to your doctor, dentist or pharmacist.
We recommend these products to help manage mouth ulcers:
Aloclair Spray (15ml) – RRP R98
Aloclair Gel (8ml) – RRP R80
Sunstar GUM Paroex Mouthrinse (300ml) – RRP R99,95
Sunstar GUM Paroex Gel – RRP R51,95
These products are available from Dis-Chem, selected pharmacies and dentists.
Reindeers are not the only creatures with red noses in winter. People with colds, flu and allergies often experience a chapped nose or lips from constant nose-blowing. Here’s practical advice from our oral care advisor, Dirna Grobbelaar, to help you prevent chafing and protect your skin this winter.
When you frequently blow your nose, the delicate skin around the nose and lips becomes dry and irritated. Small, almost invisible, cracks are formed and these are exacerbated with every wipe. Over time the skin can become inflamed and chapped or chafed.
Start by giving the skin some extra protection immediately, using a barrier cream, moisturiser, petroleum jelly, or a product specifically created to repair the delicate skin such as Letibalm, the only balm specially formulated for the nose, lips and skin in-between. It forms a protective layer on the skin. When you blow, use extra soft tissues or toilet paper. Look for ones infused with aloe vera. Instead of wiping, pat or softly dab dry.
You can help hydrate the skin from the inside. Eat a nourishing diet including fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fats; drink plenty of water, rooibos or herbal teas. Extra fluids can help thin mucus. Loose mucous can mean less nose blowing. A simple nasal saline solution can work wonders to clear stuffiness. If your nose is blocked, gently spray twice a day.
Warm soup and hot drinks are soothing and help relieve congestion. As steam rises it moistens the nasal passage and helps open up a stuffy nose. A steam bath works in the same way. Or use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Damaged and irritated skin is more prone to infections. Wash your hands regularly and keep the skin clean. When it comes to baths and showers, avoid harsh soaps, facial scrubs and very hot water, which can dry out the skin. Reapply moisturiser after bathing, and remember to reapply Letibalm each time you blow your nose.
Eight winter skincare tips for nose and lips:
- Keep the skin well-moisturised.
- Use very soft tissues or toilet paper with aloe vera or calendula.
- Gently pat or blot the nose rather than wipe.
- Apply Letibalm nose and lip repair balm to protect, moisturize and help heal the skin.
- Wash with lukewarm water, avoiding harsh soaps or exfoliators.
- Use a saline spray to keep nasal passages moist.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Drink plenty of water, hot broth or herbal tea.
Letibalm Paediatric (suitable for children 0 to 8 years old) and regular Letibalm (10ml fluid or jar). Available from Dis-Chem, selected Checkers stores and independent pharmacies at a recommended retail price of R70.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, simply means absent or reduced saliva. If your mouth often feels sticky, or a cool glass of water doesn’t take away your thirst, you may be suffering from this common medical condition, which affects an estimated 20% of people; women and the elderly are more at risk.
Dry mouth can be caused by certain diseases, including diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease. However, the most likely culprit is medication – over 400 prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines state dry mouth as a possible side-effect. This includes medication for allergies, asthma, colds, depression, epilepsy, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and urinary incontinence.
If you are thirsting for relief, here are 5 simple strategies to help deal with your dry mouth dilemmas:
- Consult your dentist or doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Follow a meticulous daily oral care routine with regular dental check-ups. With less saliva to keep the mouth clean, dry mouth sufferers are at a much higher risk of tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease.
- Use Sunstar GUM Hydral Moisturising Gel and Spray (available at Dis-Chem and leading pharmacies) to hydrate, soothe and protect.
- Drink plenty of regular water (not carbonated), sipping frequently.
- Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow and provide temporary relief.
During April we are inviting 10 of our Ivohealth fans to be part of a #GUMHydral product review panel. Head over to our Facebook page to apply, or email email@example.com with ‘GUM Hydral – product review panel’ in the subject line.
For more detailed information on dry mouth click here or speak to your dentist, doctor or pharmacist.
Say Ahh: Think Mouth, Think Health
A healthy mouth and a healthy body go hand in hand and this is the key message behind this year’s World Oral Health Day theme ‘Say Ahh: Think Mouth, Think Health’.
Oral diseases affect 3.9 billion people around the world and untreated tooth decay touches 44% of people globally – almost half the world’s population. Understanding the mouth and body connection can help prevent you and your family from being added to these staggering numbers.
It is said the ‘mouth is a mirror to your body’. A look into the mouth can reveal nutritional deficiencies, diseases and unhealthy habits, like smoking. A healthy mouth allows you to speak, smile, eat and drink with confidence, can boost social interaction and self-esteem. An unhealthy mouth can cause discomfort, disease, lost school or work days and lead to social isolation and low self-confidence.
The World Oral Health Day campaign highlights three pillars for good oral health:
Prevention – adopt good oral hygiene habits, eat a healthy diet (one that is low in sugar), limit alcohol-intake and don’t smoke.
Detection – have regular dental check-ups (at least once a year)
Treatment – you should see your dentist immediately if you experience dental problems. On a global level, the Federation for Dental Health is encouraging people around the world to lobby for better access to dental care for all.
To download a brochure, personalise your own WOHD poster or gather more info visit www.worldoralhealthday.org.
Around 80% of children in South Africa have tooth decay before the age of six, which is perhaps not surprising with the combination of extremely high sugar consumption and limited access to dental care. Many people do not have basic oral care tools; it’s not unheard of for a whole family to share one toothbrush.
The Dental Wellness Trust (DWT) is on a mission to improve the oral health of children and vulnerable adults around the world. The registered charity is based in London, but making a difference in South Africa, the UK and around the world.
Dentist Dr Linda Greenwall, who is originally from South Africa, founded the dynamic non-profit in 2011, to provide innovative oral health education programmes and treatment for children and vulnerable adults.
“We believe everyone has the right to access oral healthcare, and enjoy a life of dignity, free from pain,” she says. “Prevention is key. Before we start treating tooth decay we need to teach children correct habits.”
The DWT has worked in Israel, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana. They recently rolled out their Live Smart oral health education programme in Luton, England. “We took what we’ve learnt working with children in South Africa and applied it to the UK,” says Dr Greenwall.
They have been active in South Africa since 2012 and currently work with over 10, 000 pre-school children at 360 schools in low-income areas of Cape Town – Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Delft and Mitchell’s Plain. They have 33 specially trained ‘toothbrushing mamas’ who run the programme at the schools and in their own homes. Live Smart teaches young children the most important hygiene practices for good health – proper hand washing and correct tooth brushing.
“When we started working in South Africa it was shocking to see the enormous levels of decay in very young children. But we have seen how the Live Smart programme makes a difference and it’s so effective that we’re rolling it out in the UK as well as Johannesburg.” DWT is also working to open a dental clinic and education centre in Mfuleni, where volunteer dental professionals from around the world can come to help treat patients who otherwise are unable to easily access care.
At Ivohealth and our sister company Ivodent, we are committed to supporting the Dental Wellness Trust in South Africa.
You can help! Every time someone signs up for our newsletter in February, we will donate a Sunstar GUM children’s toothbrush to the Trust. Simply sign up here www.ivohealth.co.za/contact-us and give a child in need a new brush and a big smile 🙂
For fresh breath and a healthy mouth dental professionals recommend cleaning the tongue every day as part of an effective oral hygiene routine. Here’s how to clean the tongue in 7 simple steps:
- Ideally, use a tool specially designed for cleaning the tongue like the Sunstar GUM Tongue Cleaner. If you don’t have one, use your toothbrush or a metal teaspoon turned upside down.
- Clean your tongue each time you brush your teeth (twice a day), especially if you smoke or suffer from post-nasal drip.
- Gently scrape from as far back as you can without gagging, to the front of the tongue. Breathing out as your clean the back of the tongue helps prevent gagging.
- Rinse the tool between each swipe.
- Gargle with water or an alcohol-free mouthwash.
- Clean the tongue before or after brushing and flossing – whichever you prefer. Cleaning the tongue at night can help prevent ‘morning breath’.
- For extra freshness use a small amount of toothpaste and gently brush the tongue before cleaning.
The Sunstar GUM Tongue Cleaner very cleverly has two edges – one with soft bristles to gently brush the tongue and one with a serrated edge to wipe clean.
WIN! You can win with our February #FreshBreathFix campaign. There are weekly Sunstar GUM hampers and two premium DSLR Lumix cameras up for grabs. Simply follow us on Facebook and look out for the weekly competitions.
GIVE! Giving feels good! We’ve chosen to support the Dental Wellness Trust during February’s #FreshBreathFix campaign. Each time someone signs up for our newsletter (www.ivohealth.co.za/contact-us) we will donate a Sunstar GUM children’s toothbrush on their behalf, to the Dental Wellness Trust’s oral health education programme in Khayelitsha. This programme is teaching 10, 000 pre-school learners how to look after their teeth so they can enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles. Please sign up and support this great initiative.
Rather than getting in a twist about smelly breath, treat your tongue to a fresh breath fix. For when it comes to bad breath, experts agree that the tongue is often the culprit.
“We recommend tongue scraping as part of a regular oral care routine,” says Stella Lamprecht, President of the Oral Hygienists’ Association of South Africa. “The surface of the tongue has tiny grooves where bacteria and plaque can accumulate. Removing the bacteria and debris on the tongue is one of the simplest ways to ensure fresh breath and a healthy mouth. Everyone, from children to older people, should incorporate it into their oral care on a daily basis. Cleaning the tongue at night can help prevent ‘morning’ breath.”
“Ideally use a tool specially designed for the job like the Sunstar GUM Tongue Cleaner,” says Dirna Grobbelaar, Ivohealth’s oral hygiene advisor. “Alternatively, use your toothbrush or a metal teaspoon turned upside down; both are better than not doing it at all. Start as far back as you can without gagging and gently scrape the tongue’s surface. Don’t use much pressure. It shouldn’t be painful or cause injury. Rinse the tool after each swipe and then gargle, using water or an alcohol-free mouthwash like Sunstar GUM Original White mouthrinse or Dentyl Active.
In some cultures, cleaning the tongue has been a tradition since ancient times. For centuries, Indian Ayurvedic medicine has recommended daily scraping for mental, physical and spiritual well-being. More recently research has shown that cleaning the tongue improves breath odour and the sense of taste.
“Brushing correctly, flossing in-between the teeth and cleaning the tongue are the cornerstones of effective oral care,” says Grobbelaar. “If plaque and food debris are not properly removed from the various parts of the mouth they break down and release foul-smelling gases, irritate the gums and potentially cause disease.” For expert oral care advice speak to your dental professional.
WIN! You can win with our February #FreshBreathFix campaign. There are weekly Sunstar GUM hampers and two premium DSLR Lumix cameras up for grabs. Simply follow us on Facebook and look out for the weekly competitions.
GIVE! Giving feels good! We’ve chosen to support the Dental Wellness Trust during February’s #FreshBreathFix campaign. Each time someone signs up for our newsletter we will donate a Sunstar GUM children’s toothbrush on their behalf, to the Dental Wellness Trust’s oral health education programme in Khayelitsha. This programme is teaching 10, 000 pre-school learners how to look after their teeth so they can enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles. Please sign up and support this great initiative.
With the holidays providing many reasons to smile here’s Dirna Grobbelaar’s top tips to help your smile shine:
- Clean your teeth correctly twice a day for a full two minutes each time.
- Clean in-between your teeth every day using floss or one of Sunstar GUM’s interdental tools such as Soft-Picks.
- Go to the oral hygienist for a professional cleaning (ideally every six months).
- Use Sunstar GUM Original White toothpaste, floss and rinse to restore the original whiteness of teeth and prevent further staining.
- Use the Philips Sonicare rechargeable powerbrush – clinically proven to make teeth up to two shades whiter in two weeks.
- Brush, rinse with water or chew sugar-free gum after consuming berries, coke, coffee, tea or red wine. Green tea, white and herbal teas are less likely to stain than black tea.
- Don’t smoke.
The Sunstar GUM Original White range helps restore the original, natural whiteness of the teeth, effectively removing stains and helping prevent their reappearance. With its fortified fluoride content, GUM Original White protects and remineralises tooth enamel, providing maximum protection from decay and giving a smooth finish for enhanced shine.
The Sunstar GUM Original White range incorporates three quality products for a complete oral care routine:
- Sunstar GUM Original White Toothpaste contains fluoride to reinforce tooth enamel, as well as vitamins for healthier gums. It contains low-abrasive micro-silica to gently remove surface stains and a unique StainClear agent to help dissolve stains in hard-to-reach areas.
- Sunstar GUM Original White Floss, made with micronized silica, helps remove stains between teeth and provides effective interdental plaque control.
- Alcohol-free Sunstar GUM Original White Rinse also contains StainClear to help remove stains from in-between the teeth as well as tiny crevices in tooth enamel. Made with fluoride and vitamins Original White Rinse delivers a protective coating over the tooth surface to prevent further staining.
For maximum benefit use the full Original White range and floss, brush and rinse daily.
Whilst blood sugar control may be the most immediate concern for people affected by diabetes, it’s also important to take special care of the mouth, due to a potentially high risk of oral disease. For World Diabetes Day (14 November) our oral hygiene advisor Dirna Grobbelaar, shares expert information on maintaining a healthy mouth, in the event of being diagnosed with diabetes.
Oral health conditions associated with diabetes include gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath and dry mouth. Emerging research suggests a link with poorer glycaemic control in people and advanced gum disease (periodontitis).
The cause of many of these concerns is increased levels of glucose in the saliva which creates an ideal breeding ground for the oral bacteria that cause bad breath, cavities and gum disease. People with diabetes also tend to have a lower resistance to infection and heal more slowly, which can exacerbate gum problems.
The best approach is to prevent these problems with meticulous oral care. Brush correctly for two minutes, at least twice a day. Use a manual or power brush with soft bristles. Daily flossing to clean in-between is important. If you find floss too firm, try an interdental brush or gentle Sunstar GUM Soft-Picks. After eating, or for extra freshness, rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash like Dentyl Active.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is another common side effect and often an early sign prior to a diabetes diagnosis. Because saliva is the body’s natural way of cleaning the mouth, plaque and bacteria build up more quickly in a dry mouth, increasing the likelihood of gum disease, decay and bad breath. Drinking water will give temporary relief and chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow. There are also products especially developed to help produce saliva, such as Sunstar GUM Hydral Moisturising Gel and Moisturising Spray that lubricate, soothe, promote soft tissue repair and create a protective coating in the mouth.
Bleeding gums usually indicate gum disease, which is reversible if treated correctly in the early stages. You might find your gums bleed a little if you start flossing or become more diligent in your oral care routine. However this should only last a day or two, so it’s important to consult your dental professional if your gums bleed for longer. Treatment products like Sunstar GUM’s Paroex mouth rinse and Sunstar GUM Paroex Gel toothpaste are excellent at helping clear up infections.
Work as a team with your dental professionals. Ensure they know that you have diabetes and book a check-up and professional clean at least every six months, or more if necessary. Wishing you healthy smiles!
Your oral care routine may not seem to be a priority if you are battling cancer, but preventing and controlling oral complications during treatment for cancer can help ease the journey.
About a third of people undergoing cancer treatment develop oral problems, including dry mouth (xerostomia), tooth decay, infections and mouth ulcers. Dirna Grobbelaar, our oral hygiene advisor, shares how to prevent and manage these common concerns.
A healthy mouth is less likely to develop oral complications. Ideally have a dental check-up and a professional clean before starting treatment, allowing two weeks or more between treatment and any dental surgery.
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common side effect of radiation and many chemotherapy drugs and other medication. Saliva is the body’s natural way of keeping the mouth clean. Dry mouth encourages plaque and bacteria build up, increasing the likelihood of gum disease, decay and bad breath. Drinking water will give temporary relief and chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow. There are also products especially developed to help produce saliva, such as Sunstar GUM Hydral Moisturising Gel and Moisturising Spray that lubricate, soothe, promote soft tissue repair and create a protective coating in the mouth.
Meticulous oral care is crucial. Brush correctly at least twice a day, using a soft brush that will be gentler on sensitive gums and cleans just as effectively. Dipping the brush in warm water will further soften the bristles. You may feel extremely tired – a quality electric toothbrush, like the Philips Sonicare powerbrush will give a ‘supreme clean’ with minimum effort.
Clean between the teeth daily. If you find floss too firm, try an interdental brush or gentle Sunstar GUM Soft-Picks. After eating, or for extra freshness, rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash like Dentyl Active.
If you experience nausea and vomiting, don’t brush teeth immediately afterwards; stomach acid demineralises enamel and weakens teeth. Initially just rinse your mouth with water or an alcohol-free mouthwash, then wait an hour or so before brushing.
Mouth ulcers (canker sores) expose sensitive nerve endings that can make drinking, eating, talking and cleaning your mouth painful. Don’t neglect your oral hygiene as it can promote quicker healing. Look for products like Aloclair that creates a protective film over the ulcer, for immediate relief.
Should you experience any dental or oral side effects during treatment, chat to a member of your healthcare team – your doctor, nurse or dental professional. Managing symptoms will help alleviate any pain and discomfort – a critical part of your care and recovery.
For further expert advice on looking after your health during cancer treatment, download our ‘Love Your Life, Love Your Oral Care’ booklet or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to request your free copy. Wishing you good health!