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Stomatitis

Stomatitis, a non-specific term for an inflamed and sore mouth, can disrupt a person's ability to eat, talk or sleep. Stomatitis can occur anywhere within the mouth, including the inside of the cheeks, gums, tongue, lips and palate.

Types of stomatitis

The following are some common causes of stomatitis:

Mouth ulcer or aphthous ulcer. A single pale or yellow ulcer with a red outer ring or a cluster of such ulcers in the mouth, usually on the cheeks, tongue or inside the lip.

Herpetic sores. These are blisters filled with fluid that are commonly found on the lips, and rarely on the gums or the roof of the mouth. They are caused by herpes virus infection and later crust over with a scab and are usually associated with tingling, tenderness or burning before the actual sores appear on or around the lips.

Mouth irritation. The irritation can be caused by:

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

Symptoms of stomatitis

Here are symptoms of two common forms of stomatitis:

Mouth ulcers:

  • Sores can be painful
  • Usually last five to 10 days
  • Tend to recur
  • Generally not associated with fever

Herpetic sores:

  • Usually painful
  • Usually gone in seven to 10 days
  • Sometimes associated with cold or flu-like symptoms

Causes of stomatitis

Here are causes of two common forms of stomatitis:

Mouth ulcers

Nobody knows what exactly causes mouth ulcers, but many factors may contribute to their development such as certain medicines, trauma to the mouth, poor nutrition, stress, bacteria or viruses, lack of sleep, sudden weight loss and certain foods such as potatoes, citrus fruits, coffee, chocolate, cheese and nuts.

Mouth ulcers may also be related to a temporarily reduced immune system because of a cold or flu, hormonal changes, mechanical irritation or low levels of vitamin B12 or folate. Even biting the inside of the cheek or chewing a sharp piece of food can trigger a mouth ulcer.

Mouth ulcers may result from a genetic predisposition; they are not contagious.

About 20% of people in the UK will have mouth ulcers at some point during their lifetime - women more often than men.

Cold sores:

Cold sores are contagious as they are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), usually HSV type 1. The initial infection often occurs before adulthood and may be confused with a cold or the flu. Once the person is infected with the virus, it stays in the body, becoming dormant and reactivated by such conditions as stress, fever, trauma, hormonal changes (such as menstruation) and exposure to sunlight.

When lesions reappear, they tend to form in the same location. Unlike mouth ulcers, cold sores are contagious. They are most contagious from the time the blister ruptures to the time it has completely healed. In addition to spreading to other people, the virus can also spread to another body part of the affected person such as the eyes or genitalia.

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