Oral care & mouth ulcers
Mouth ulcers are usually a small problem that can be a big pain, making eating, drinking or even talking uncomfortable.
About three-quarters of people will experience mouth ulcers at some point. They are often caused by a minor injury (e.g. biting the cheek accidentally) or can be recurring ‘aphthous’ ulcers, which often first appear in childhood and adolescence. Allergies can trigger mouth ulcers and babies and young children often develop them as a result of common viruses including Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, the Coksackie Virus and Herpes Simplex (Herpetic Gingivostomatitis).
Our oral hygiene expert Dirna Grobbelaar says that whilst ulcers can be uncomfortable, they should not be a cause for too much concern. “Mouth ulcers are not contagious and usually clear up by themselves in a few days.”
She does, however, warn against neglecting one’s oral care routine. “Mouth ulcers expose sensitive nerve endings which can make cleaning your mouth uncomfortable. However, maintaining good oral hygiene at this time can promote quicker healing and will keep your teeth and gums healthy.
“After eating and before going to bed, rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash such as GUM Paroex to help prevent the ulcer becoming infected. Continue to brush your teeth correctly twice a day, using a soft-bristled or child’s toothbrush if necessary. If your toothpaste stings try a non-foaming toothpaste like GUM Paroex Gel or all-natural Olgani Herbal Toothpaste.
“Avoid acidic, spicy or salty foods and drinks, which may burn. Drinking with a straw may help, but be careful that hot drinks do not burn the throat.”
There are various products available at pharmacies to relieve the pain of mouth ulcers. Grobbelaar recommends Aloclair gel or spray. “Aloclair forms a barrier over the sensitive nerve endings to give immediate pain relief. The protective coating helps reduce irritation and prevent food or bacteria infecting the ulcer. This allows the ulcer to heal faster. The spray and gel are easy to apply and contain soothing Aloe Vera.”
Most mouth ulcers will last up to 10 days before clearing up naturally. If an ulcer does not heal within two to three weeks consult your doctor or dentist – oral cancer rates are on the rise globally and predicted to treble in the next generation. An ulcer can be an early indicator and it is important to rule this out.