There are many things in life that hurt far more than you expect them to: stubbed toes, paper cuts, ingrown hairs. But all these ailments combined have nothing on the agony caused by mouth ulcers.
It seems ridiculous that something so tiny and well-concealed can inflict such horror, but if you’ve ever suffered from a mouth ulcer even the memory is enough to make your eyes water:
Those nasty little
f***ers sores make it near impossible to talk, eat, sneeze, smile, breathe, or even simply exist without wincing. And oh God, don't even get me started on the unique pain of eating citrus fruits, balsamic vinegar or even chocolate when your mouth being terrorised by ulcers. It's the only time chocolate has ever made me cry.
We can all agree that life is better without mouth ulcers, so here's what you need to know about them.
Um... what are they?
"An ulcer is a lesion characterised by a loss of surface epithelium (the outer layer of skin/gum/mucosa). It usually appears as a whitish to yellow circular or ovular shape often surrounded by a red halo," explains Sydney-based dentist Dr Jenna Cutting.
Ulcers can pop up anywhere in your mouth - your gums, tongue, the roof of your mouth, or inside your lips and cheeks. Regardless of location, they hurt like hell.
What causes ulcers?
Dr Cutting says mouth ulcers can be caused by several factors or events, which fall into four broad categories.
The first is local causes. These can be viral (the cold sore virus and shingles can both trigger mouth ulcers), or related to simple traumas - for instance, accidentally biting your inner cheek, brushing a little too vigorously, or a chemical burn.
There can also be systemic causes, like a reaction to certain drugs, immunosuppression, or gastrointestinal, skin and immune diseases. Certain oral cancers can also manifest as non-healing ulcers on the lower lip.
The fourth major culprit is Recurrent Apthous Stomatitis (RAS), a common condition that causes episodes of mouth ulcers, and is believed to be related to immune process and genetics. There are 3 forms of this condition, the most common being RAS Minor.
"Usually a [RAS Minor] sufferer will have 2-5 ulcers that are less than one centimetre and heal within 10-14 days with no scar - they have a whitish yellow base with a red halos. Generally this will start in childhood/adolescence and recur into adulthood," Dr Cutting explains. Stress, fatigue, physical trauma, nutritional deficiencies and food allergies are common triggers for the ulcer episodes in people with RAS.