Stomatitis or Mouth Ulcers

Dr Tanya Unni

While we ponder over how spoken words can create magic or turn relationships sore, this is the time to discuss about factors that make our mouth sore…. Mouth ulcers or Stomatitis.

Stomatitis is a sore or inflammation inside the mouth. The sore can be in the cheeks, gums, inside of the lips, or on the tongue. Though it is not a serious medical condition, it creates a lot of trouble and irritation for the patient.

Stomatitis can be herpes stomatitis or cold sore, and aphthous stomatitis or canker sore.

While Herpes stomatitis is caused by a virus infection, Aphthous stomatitis is caused by problems with oral hygiene or damage to mucous membranes.

Identifying the type of sore is important for knowing how to treat and prevent the spread of the disease.

Virus Infection

Herpes stomatitis is caused by herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) virus. The condition is more common among children. The first outbreak is usually the most severe. HSV can easily spread from one child to another. While you are having a cold sore outbreak, avoid sharing utensils with others. People who have been exposed to this virus will be prone to cold sores even when they grow up.


The disease starts with blisters in the mouth. Then these blisters form ulcers. Some people will have high fever before the blisters appear. After the ulcers are formed, swallowing and drinking may become difficult. Some experience swelling in gums and pain. Usually, they last for a week.

About 90% of the population carries HSV-1 virus. So avoiding contact with infected people is the  only thing we can do to prevent the disease. There’s no treatment for herpes stomatitis, medication can only help to reduce symptoms. You must consult a doctor if the sores tend to recur. If the herpes infection spreads to the eye, it is an emergency and can lead to blindness.

Lifestyle Sore

Aphthous stomatitis is not caused by virus and is not contagious. But there are chances of canker sore being hereditary. They cause acute pain. Usually canker sores heal within two weeks. It’s more common in young people, especially women and those between 10 and 19 years of age. The following are the major factors for canker sore:

  • Accidental cheek bite or other injuries
  • Sharp tooth surfaces or dental braces constantly hurting parts of mouth
  • Food allergy to strawberries, citrus fruits, coffee, chocolate, eggs, cheese, or nuts
  • Allergic response to certain bacteria in the mouth
  • Deficiency in vitamin B-12, folic acid, iron, or zinc
  • Clogged nasal passages force breathing through the mouth, thus causing dry tissues
  • Weakened immune system
  • Certain medications
  • Stress
  • Certain infections
  • Autoimmune diseases that attack cells in the mouth


We can see that lifestyle changes and certain precautions can help prevent Aphthous Stomatitis. Proper oral hygiene is important. Nutritional supplements like B vitamins (folate, B-6, B-12) may help. Foods high in these vitamins can also help. Some foods high in B vitamins include:

  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • beets
  • calf’s liver
  • lentils
  • asparagus


Keep a check on the kind of food that triggers outbreaks of canker sore. Take care not to speak while eating, as this increases the chance of biting the cheek. If it is caused by infections, specialized treatment may be required. Using gentle tooth brush and availing good dental care at regular intervals can help prevent stomatitis.

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