Community pharmacist Richard Dunn explains what mouth ulcers are and how to avoid them…
Mouth ulcers are common and can occur from infancy right through to adulthood. Most people suffer from mouth ulcers at some time in their life. They look like little craters in the lining of the mouth with a pale white or cream centre and a red, inflamed edge.
A mouth ulcer is usually caused by accidental damage to the lining of the mouth. This could be from biting the inside of your mouth, orthodontic braces causing irritation, a sharp tooth or broken filling, a burn from hot food or even by your toothbrush if you brush your teeth too hard.
Being low in iron or folic acid, which are found in fruit, vegetables and fish, can also make kids more susceptible to ulcers. Sometimes ulcers appear for no obvious reason at all. The ulcer can be very sensitive and can be painful when eating and drinking or even when talking or yawning.
A common cause of widespread mouth ulcers in toddlers occurs as a result of infection with the same virus that causes cold sores or herpes. This condition is very contagious.
If your child has recurring ulcers or one that takes a long time to heal then you should speak to their GP or dentist to rule out any underlying causes but most mouth ulcers can be treated quite simply with a visit to your pharmacist.
Treatment usually involves relieving pain and protecting the ulcer. Local anesthetic products such as Anbesol Liquid can be applied directly to the ulcer to numb it and have the advantage of being able to be used by all ages. Bonjela Junior Gel is another well-known local anesthetic and antiseptic gel which can be used on babies from three months old.
Newer products such as Iglu and Bonjela Complete Plus have a dual effect. As well as the pain killing ingredient they also protect the ulcer by forming a protective film over it. Both also help to speed up the healing of the ulcer. Iglu gel can be used in children over seven years old whilst Bonjela Complete cannot be used on anyone under 16.
Prevention of mouth ulcers is usually a matter of avoiding what tends to cause them. For example if they are due to injury from a toothbrush then you should try brushing more carefully or using a softer brush. Consult your dentist if necessary especially if a sharp tooth could be the problem.
A healthy balanced diet will help to prevent vitamin deficiencies and your pharmacist may be able to recommend suitable vitamin and mineral products if you are feeling run down.