Sore mouth

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Luke works alongside dental colleagues and oral medicine experts to manage this difficult condition.

Soreness can occur anywhere in the mouth, including on the roof and floor of the mouth, in the cheek lining, on tongue, on the gums or on the lips.

Soreness can arise from different places and is due to different causes:

  • White patches or rough patches
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Persistent mouth ulcers

In most people, a sore mouth does not turn out to be mouth cancer, but there are cases when this is one of the first symptoms. A loose tooth that has occurred through tooth decay also exhibits the same symptoms as a loose tooth due to a mouth cancer on the jaw line. If in doubt, have your symptoms checked.

It is always better to have regular dental check-ups and consult your GP if you experience any of the above symptoms and they do not heal naturally within three weeks.

If they have any doubt about the cause, they will arrange for a biopsy just to be sure. This means a small sample of the tissue will be taken and analysed for the presence of abnormal cells. If this happens, you should not panic. Having a biopsy does not automatically mean you have cancer, in most cases it is used to rule out cancer as a cause of the problem.

You should also be aware that some symptoms of early mouth cancer cause no pain or discomfort whatsoever, and you may not even notice them. This is why it is important to visit your dentist for regular check-ups, as they will be able to spot any unusual symptoms in your mouth that you have not noticed yourself.

Causes of sore mouth

Poor oral hygiene – if you do not brush your teeth regularly, then you increase the risk of mouth infections, particularly gum disease, which can develop into the symptoms listed above.

  • Leukoplakia – this condition causes white patches on the inside of the mouth, but they are not usually painful or anything to worry about. Leukoplakia is more common in men than women and normally occurs in people over 50. One in a hundred people will develop leukoplakia. In most cases, leukoplakia is controlled by stopping smoking and limiting alcohol intake, however, if you are considered at risk of mouth cancer due to other factors, the white patches may be surgically removed.
  • Oral lichen planus – oral lichen planus accounts for around half of all lichen planus cases. The disease affects women more than men and between 1% and 3% will go on to develop mouth cancer. Lichen planus is not painful, but it can be itchy and irritating. Severe cases can be treated with topical steroid creams, but in most cases it can never fully be cured.
  • Mouth ulcers – most people will get a mouth ulcer from time to time, and around one in five adults and one in ten children suffer from recurring mouth ulcers. Mouth ulcers can be caused by a variety of factors from stress to diet, and you may even develop mouth ulcers when you stop smoking. Mouth ulcers can be treated easily with over the counter remedies, but if your ulcers do not heal naturally in three weeks, you should consult your doctor.

Luke summarises his expertise


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