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Mouth ulcers

Oral ulcer; Stomatitis - ulcerative; Ulcer - mouth

Mouth ulcers are sores or open lesions in the mouth.

Images

Oral thrush
Canker sore (aphthous ulcer)
Lichen planus on the oral mucosa
Mouth sores

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Causes

Mouth ulcers are caused by many disorders. These include:

A skin sore caused by histoplasmosis may also appear as a mouth ulcer.

Symptoms

Symptoms will vary, based on the cause of the mouth ulcer. Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Most of the time, a health care provider or dentist will look at the ulcer and where it is in the mouth to make the diagnosis. You may need blood tests or a biopsy of the ulcer may be needed to confirm the cause.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome varies depending on the cause of the ulcer. Many mouth ulcers are harmless and heal without treatment.

Some types of cancer may first appear as a mouth ulcer that does not heal.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

Prevention

To help prevent mouth ulcers and complications from them:

Related Information

Mouth sores
Canker sore
Leukoplakia
Gingivostomatitis
Oral cancer
Lichen planus
Cellulitis
Ulcers
Tooth abscess

References

Daniels TE, Jordan RC. Diseases of the mouth and salivary glands. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 425.

Hupp WS. Diseases of the mouth. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2019. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:969-975.

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Disorders of the mucous membranes. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 34.

Mirowski GW, Leblanc J, Mark LA. Oral disease and oral-cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 24.

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Review Date: 2/7/2019  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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