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Treating Somatitis (Mouth Pain and Inflammation)

What is stomatitis? Stomatitis is a general term for any inflammation of the mouth. The inflammation can involve any of the mouth’s structures, including lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, throat, or roof/floor of the mouth.

What are the symptoms of stomatitis? Pain and soreness that often interferes with common daily activities such as eating, sleeping, and talking are all common symptoms. Depending on the type of stomatitis that is creating the inflammation, symptoms can last from 5-10 days, tend to recur, and are even at times associated with cold or flu-like symptoms.

What causes stomatitis? The causes of stomatitis vary greatly. Three of the most common types are canker sores, cold sores (also known as “fever blisters”), and an irritation of the mouth formed by a specific catalyst.

Canker sores: As long as canker sores have existed, scientists have wondered what exactly causes them. There are many theories, but no real consensus. Some of the things research has shown to likely cause canker sores include:

- A temporarily compromised immune system caused by a cold or other illness - Vitamin B12 deficiency - Hormonal changes - Manual irritation of the soft tissues of the mouth, such as biting one’s cheek - Certain medications - Citrus fruits - Lack of sleep - Poor nutrition - Stress - Chocolate - Cheese - Potatoes

Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious. Those who often find themselves with a canker sore likely also have a genetic predisposition to developing them.

Cold sores (fever blisters):

Many people confuse cold sores and canker sores, but they definitely are not the same thing. While canker sores are uncomfortable to deal with, they are not contagious and will go away given enough time and irritation-free days. Cold sores, on the other hand, are highly contagious from the time of rupture until the sore is completely healed. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1. The first exposure is generally in childhood, and appears as a cold or flu-like illness. The virus then stays in the body in a dormant state before later becoming reactivated by certain conditions such as stress, exposure to sunlight, hormonal changes, or a compromised immune system. The virus can not only spread to others’ mouths, but also to other parts of the body, if so exposed. Cold sores generally don’t last more than two weeks.

Mouth irritation:

Can be caused by many different variables, including:

- Chewing tobacco - Being afflicted with certain autoimmune diseases affecting the mucosal lining of the mouth, such as lupus, Crohn’s disease, or Behcet’s disease - Receiving radiation as part of cancer treatment - Biting your cheek, tongue, or lip - Wearing braces or another type of dental apparatus, or having a sharp, broken tooth - Burning one’s mouth from hot food or drinks - Having gum disease (gingivitis) or other mouth infection - Taking certain drugs such as chemotherapeutic agents, antibiotics, medications used for rheumatoid arthritis, or epilepsy medications - Having hypersensitivities to certain agents, such as foods or medicines

Is there relief for stomatitis?

Generally, treatment for stomatitis focuses more on pain relief and making the patient comfortable than on a curative. Cold sores, as they are caused by the herpes virus, have no known cure. And besides removing the source of irritation or narrowing down the cause of recurring canker sores, they cannot generally be healed any faster than nature’s own pace.

Some ways to ease the discomfort of canker sores and general mouth irritation include:

- Avoiding hot beverages - Using a pain reliever like acetaminophen - Rinsing with salt water - Increasing fluid intake - Applying a hydrogen peroxide solution - Applying Blistex or Campho-Phenique topically - Topical steroid perparations such as triamcinolone dental paste - Lidex gel, anti-inflammatory amlexanox paste, or chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash can all be used if the discomfort is severe, along with anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisone.

Cold sores are best treated with topical ice application, and use of an antiviral agent such as 5% acyclovir ointment directly on the sore.

If you develop a mouth sore or other irritation that doesn’t resolve within two weeks, give Dr. Kotre’s Ann Arbor dental office a call at 734-677-2156. Although most sores are uncomfortable, but benign, a small percentage aren’t so harmless. It’s important to see your health care professional if the sore is not healing properly within a reasonable amount of time.

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