What are the causes and treatments for persistent mouth sores?

Symptom Database

Persistent mouth sores, also known as chronic mouth ulcers or recurring oral lesions, can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition to deal with. These stubborn mouth blisters can last for weeks or even months, causing pain and discomfort while interfering with daily activities such as eating and speaking. Understanding the causes and exploring the available treatments for persistent mouth sores is essential for finding relief and improving oral health.

Causes of Persistent Mouth Sores

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of persistent mouth sores. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for effective treatment. Here are some common causes:

1. Trauma or Injury

Accidental bites, burns from hot food or drinks, or even aggressive tooth brushing can lead to the formation of mouth sores. These sores are usually short-lived and heal on their own within a week or two.

2. Viral Infections

Viruses such as herpes simplex virus (HSV) can cause recurring oral lesions. Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are a common example of viral mouth sores. These sores typically appear on the lips or around the mouth and can be triggered by stress, illness, or sun exposure.

3. Autoimmune Disorders

Conditions like Behcet’s disease, lupus, or pemphigus can cause persistent mouth sores. These disorders occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body, including the tissues in the mouth.

4. Nutritional Deficiencies

A lack of essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, iron, or folate, can lead to the development of mouth sores. Ensuring a balanced diet and addressing any nutritional deficiencies can help prevent and treat these ulcers.

5. Allergic Reactions

Some individuals may experience mouth sores as a result of an allergic reaction to certain foods, medications, or oral care products. Identifying and avoiding the allergen is crucial in managing and preventing these sores.

Treatments for Persistent Mouth Sores

While persistent mouth sores can be challenging to treat, there are various options available to alleviate symptoms and promote healing. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Here are some common treatments:

1. Topical Medications

Over-the-counter or prescription topical medications, such as gels or ointments containing corticosteroids or anesthetics, can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation associated with mouth sores. These medications help to numb the area and promote healing.

2. Antiviral Medications

If the mouth sores are caused by a viral infection, antiviral medications may be prescribed to reduce the duration and severity of outbreaks. These medications work by inhibiting the replication of the virus.

3. Immune-Modulating Drugs

In cases where persistent mouth sores are associated with autoimmune disorders, immune-modulating drugs may be prescribed to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. These medications help manage the underlying condition and prevent further ulceration.

4. Nutritional Supplements

If nutritional deficiencies are contributing to mouth sores, supplements may be recommended to address the specific deficiencies. This can include vitamin B12 injections, iron supplements, or folic acid supplements. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is also essential for overall oral health.

5. Oral Hygiene Practices

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial in preventing and managing mouth sores. Regular brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush, using a mild mouthwash, and avoiding harsh or abrasive oral care products can help reduce irritation and promote healing.

6. Stress Management

Stress can trigger or worsen mouth sores in some individuals. Finding effective stress management techniques, such as exercise, meditation, or counseling, can help reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.

7. Avoiding Triggers

If certain foods, medications, or oral care products are causing allergic reactions and resulting in mouth sores, it’s important to identify and avoid these triggers. Keeping a diary to track potential triggers can be helpful in pinpointing the cause.


Persistent mouth sores can significantly impact one’s quality of life, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, relief is possible. Identifying the underlying cause of the sores and implementing appropriate treatments, such as topical medications, antiviral drugs, or immune-modulating medications, can help manage symptoms and promote healing. Additionally, maintaining good oral hygiene, addressing nutritional deficiencies, and managing stress can contribute to preventing future outbreaks. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance in managing persistent mouth sores.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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