Reviewed by
Dirna Grobbelaar, Oral Hygiene Advisor
Updated on January 17, 2024

WHAT ARE MOUTH ULCERS?

Mouth ulcers, also known as aphthae or canker sores, are usually small, shallow lesions on the lining of the mouth, which exposes sensitive nerve endings. Mouth ulcers occur inside the mouth, unlike cold sores or fever blisters which appear on the outside.

Mouth ulcers can be extremely painful, particularly when eating, drinking or talking; anybody who has ever had one understands a tiny mouth ulcer can be a big pain. Most people will experience a mouth ulcer at some point in their life either caused by a minor injury or recurring ulcers (aphthous stomatitis).

TREATMENT FOR MOUTH ULCERS

Mouth ulcers are not contagious and usually clear up by themselves in a few days without treatment. Consult your doctor or dentist if your ulcer does not heal within three weeks.

The mainstay of management is relieving pain and discomfort and helping the mouth ulcer heal more quickly.

For rapid pain relief use over-the-counter medication; Aloclair, which contains soothing Aloe vera, works almost immediately, forming a protective barrier over the exposed nerve endings, giving almost immediate relief.

Avoid irritating the ulcer with acidic, spicy, salty or crunchy foods. When drinking, use a straw (ideally eco-friendly) to bypass the ulcer; be careful with very hot drinks though as you can burn the back of your throat. Avoid alcohol – and tobacco – both can dry out and irritate the lining of the mouth.

Most mouth ulcers will last 10 days to 14 days at most. Consult your doctor if it lasts much longer, or if you experience a fever or very large mouth ulcers.

3 TIPS TO MANAGE MOUTH ULCERS

(1) Avoid very hot, spicy, salty or acidic foods and drinks

(2) Use Aloclair to form a protective barrier over the ulcer and speed up the healing

(3) Maintain a good oral hygiene routine using non-foaming toothpaste, a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and an alcohol-free mouth rinse

TYPES OF MOUTH ULCERS

There are two types of mouth ulcer:

Once-off ulcers, usually caused by a sensitivity or minor injury.

Recurring mouth ulcers (aphthous stomatitis): these ulcers affect about 1 in 5 people, often first appearing during childhood or adolescence. In many cases the cause or trigger is unknown. It may be hormonal changes, stress, allergies, sensitivities, or simply when the immune system is low.

CAUSES OF MOUTH ULCERS

Once off mouth ulcers can be caused by a sensitivity to food, drink or medication, but are usually caused by a minor injury such as:

  • accidentally biting the cheek
  • burning the mouth, for example with hot food or drinks
  • poorly-fitting dentures
  • orthodontic braces

Oddly, stopping smoking can cause short-term mouth ulcers. People with dry mouth (xerostomia) are also more likely to develop ulcers.

Some people find eating acidic fruit (like pineapples, tomatoes or oranges) can cause mouth ulcers. Others, particularly children, can develop ulcers because of common viruses like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, the Coxsackie virus and Herpes Simplex (Herpetic Gingivostomatitis).

Women are more likely to experience recurring ulcers which can occur during hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause.

Genetics seem to play a role – if your parents have had recurring mouth ulcers, then there is a 90% chance you will too.

Stress is a common trigger for mouth ulcers. They can also be a sign of conditions like coeliac disease or nutritional deficiencies (e.g. vitamin B12 which is common in vegans, zinc, iron or folic acid).

Unlike cold sores, mouth ulcers are not contagious.

MOUTH ULCERS AND ORAL HYGIENE

Maintaining a good oral care routine when you have a mouth ulcer is important; it helps to prevent a secondary infection and speed up healing. It may be uncomfortable, so use a very soft toothbrush and look for a non-foaming toothpaste like all-natural Olgani. Finish off by rinsing the mouth twice a day, with salt water or an alcohol-free mouthwash likeDentyl Dual Action or one which contains chlorhexidine and CPC.

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The information provided on this website is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical advice or used as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, oral hygienist or another healthcare provider regarding your oral health or other medical conditions. Reliance on information provided on this website is solely at your own risk.

RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS

Alocair+ Spray 15ml

R167,00
Aloclair+ assists with pain relief and promotes healing from the pain of mouth ulcers, as well as minor sores and injuries inside the mouth caused by burns, bites or newly-fitted dentures or orthodontic braces. Aloclair+ forms a protective film over sensitive nerve endings, speeding up healing and making eating, drinking and talking less painful.  Product benefits
  • Rapid relief
  • Long-lasting 
  • Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) forms a protective barrier over the ulcer
  • Eating, drinking and talking become more comfortable
  • Helps speed up healing
  • Contains anti-inflammatory Aloe vera and soothing hyaluronic acid
  • Quick, hygienic and easy to apply 
  • Alcohol-free, non-stinging, gentle
  • Ideal for multiple sores and those in hard to reach places like the back of the mouth
Aloclair+ is also available in a gel; Aloclair+ Gel is ideal for individual, localised ulcers. Suitable for
  • Adults, children and babies from 2 months old
  • People with newly fitted orthodontic braces 
  • Denture wearers
  • People undergoing treatment for cancer
We’ve gathered expert information on how to manage mouth ulcers, as well as causes and symptoms – read more here. Or speak to your dentist, doctor or pharmacist for expert advice.

Aloclair+ Gel 8ml

R113,00
Aloclair+ assists with pain relief and promotes healing from the pain of mouth ulcers, as well as minor sores and injuries inside the mouth caused by burns, bites or newly-fitted dentures or orthodontic braces. Aloclair+ forms a protective film over sensitive nerve endings, speeding up healing and making eating, drinking and talking less painful.  Product benefits
  • Rapid relief 
  • Long-lasting 
  • Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) forms a protective barrier over the ulcer
  • Makes eating, drinking and talking more comfortable
  • Helps speed up healing
  • Contains anti-inflammatory Aloe vera and soothing hyaluronic acid
  • Quick, hygienic and easy to apply 
  • Alcohol-free, non-stinging, gentle
  • Ideal for individual and localised ulcers
Suitable for
  • Adults, children and babies from 2 months old
  • People with newly fitted orthodontic braces
  • Denture wearers
  • People undergoing treatment for cancer
We’ve gathered expert information on how to manage mouth ulcers, as well as causes and symptoms – read more here. Or speak to your dentist, doctor or pharmacist for expert advice.

Thryve Mouth Salts 100g

R40,00
Thryve mouth salts helps neutralise acids in the throat and maintain a healthy pH balance, preventing unwanted bacteria from accumulating and causing infections. Controls and helps treat
  • Bad breath
  • Sore throats
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Bleeding and swollen gums
Mouth Health = Body Health
  • Natural antibacterial
  • Cleanses and removes plaque
  • Promotes fresh breath
  • Rebuilds gum health
  • Treats inflammation and gingivitis
  • Helps bring brightness back to your teeth – gently

Olgani Probiom Toothpaste 75ml

R179,00
Olgani Probiom toothpaste and tooth powder are the latest innovation from Olgani Naturals, manufacturers of ‘uncompromisingly natural’, premium oral care. The all-natural toothpaste contains live probiotics, prebiotics and a carefully selected range of active, edible ingredients for a healthy mouth and body. It is South Africa’s first toothpaste formulated with probiotics, for a healthy oral microbiome and total wellness. Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria with well-known health benefits for the immune system and digestion. Research over the past decade has demonstrated their oral health benefits – helping prevent cavities, gum disease, fungal infections and bad breath (aka halitosis). People with healthy teeth and gums have been shown to have a robust, balanced oral microbiota. New Olgani Probiom toothpaste with lemongrass and peppermint is formulated with a multitude of healthy natural ingredients, including:
  • Probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus casei - shown to have significant oral health benefits
  • Prebiotics inulin and xanthan gum – to nourish healthy bacteria
  • Bentonite – a nourishing volcanic clay with detoxifying properties
  • Chlorella – nutrient-rich freshwater algae chlorella is said to assist with heavy metal chelation and detoxification as well as boost the immune system
  • French green clay – a mineral-rich, detoxifying natural clay with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, that may support gum tissue and help remineralise and strengthen tooth enamel
  • Fulvic acid – a source of trace minerals, prebiotics and probiotics that supports the absorption of nutrients and has potential anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties
  • Green tea – a potent antioxidant that has several oral health benefits
  • Lemongrass – antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory with demonstrated oral health benefits
  • Peppermint – refreshing peppermint has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antibacterial properties and has been shown to help freshen breath
  • Wintergreen – with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties
It does not contain fluoride, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) or other foaming agents, glycerine, sorbitol or sweeteners, titanium dioxide or any artificial preservatives, taste enhancers or additives. It is vegan and cruelty-free.