We all experience some form of mouth sore periodically throughout our lives. Most of these go away on their own in a relatively short period of time, but others should be evaluated and treated by your dentist. Understanding what type of mouth sore you have can help you decide whether to simply let it heal on its own, or call your dentist. To help you make that decision, we have compiled the following list of some of the most common – and some not-so-common – mouth sores.
- Cold sores or fever blisters: One of the most common forms of mouth sore is the cold sore or fever blister. They usually appear on or near the lips on the outside of the mouth, and look like small clusters of pink or red raised blisters. Cold sores are infected and extremely contagious. Although they usually form around the lips, they may also appear under the chin or the nose.
- Canker sores: Another fairly common type of mouth ailment is the canker sore. Most of the time they form inside the mouth on the inside of the cheek, on the tongue, around the gum line, or in the lip or throat area. Canker sores sometimes appear in clusters and are not contagious.
- Candidiasis or thrush: Candidiasis is a fungal infection that develops inside the mouth or throat and is caused by an overabundance of yeast. Thrush typically appears as white spots on the tongue or inside the mouth. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, a sore throat, and cracking of the skin tissue at the corners of the patient’s mouth (also referred to as “cheilosis”).
- Abscessed tooth: A bacterial infection that spreads to the nerve of a tooth can result in an abscess. An abscessed tooth can lead to symptoms that extend far beyond an extremely sore tooth and surrounding gum tissue, including sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks, a fever and swollen lymph nodes.
- Burning mouth: People with burning mouth syndrome often endure it for months or years on end. Symptoms include a painful burning sensation that affects the tongue, gums, palate, and inside of the cheeks and throat.
- Leukoplakia: If you notice a white or gray area on your tongue, on the floor of your mouth, or inside your cheek, you may be experiencing leukoplakia. Although somewhat unsightly and alarming looking, leukoplakia is usually not painful or contagious.
- Sialadenitis: This bacterial infection typically occurs inside the mouth and prevents the normal flow of saliva. Sialadenitis creates symptoms that include a tender and swollen salivary gland, as well as fever and chills if the infection spreads.
If you experience any type of mouth sore that doesn’t heal on its own within a few days, or one that is accompanied by other symptoms such as a fever, it’s important to contact your dentist right away. Most of the time, these conditions can be resolved relatively quickly with the proper medication.