Sores on the Roof of Your Mouth? 4 Common Causes

by Laura C. Jones

Sores on the roof of your mouth aren’t uncommon and can be a result of many non-threatening causes, but at times they could be a sign of a serious underlying complication or disease. So, the best way to deal with these sores is to understand what causes them. This article reviews some of the most common causes of sores on the roof of your mouth.

4 Causes of Sores on the Roof of Your Mouth

Your mouth plays a vital role in allowing you to perform different tasks and live a healthy and comfortable life. So, mouth sores will significantly impact your life, preventing you from performing important tasks like chewing food and brushing teeth. Therefore, you need to be aware of the possible causes of mouth sores and how to prevent them. Here are the main causes of sores on the roof of your mouth.

1. Burns

Sometimes the painful sores on the roof of your mouth are just burns or injuries caused by food that is either too hot or too spicy. This problem is commonly referred to as “pizza palate” because slices of fresh, hot pizza are known to irritate the roof of the mouth. But this doesn’t mean that pizza is the only food that causes mouth sores; any hot or spicy food or drink can cause similar burns.

Fortunately, these sores usually heal by themselves within three to seven days. But you should avoid hot and spicy foods and drinks during this period to allow the sores to heal. Sometimes your doctor will advise you to use a mouth rinse to ease the discomfort and pain caused by the sores.

Some of the most effective mouth rinse options that you can use include warm salt water, over-the-counter, or prescription rinses. But if none of these options work and the roof of your mouth is still sore after seven days, you should see a doctor immediately.

2. Canker Sores

Although canker sores normally occur inside the cheeks and tongue, sometimes they will occur on the roof of the mouth. Also, the cause and etiology of canker sores are unknown, but there are several known triggers, including stress, hormonal changes, immune and nutritional deficiencies, and physical trauma. The main types of canker sores include minor aphthous ulcers, major aphthous ulcers, and herpetiform ulcers.

In most instances, a person will get at least one canker sore per episode, but sometimes you may have up to ten sores at a time. Apart from the major aphthous ulcers, all other types of canker sores are last for about ten days. So, if your canker sores last for more than two weeks, you should see a doctor immediately.

If the sores are causing you severe pain and won’t heal on their own, your doctor may recommend a steroid prescription to help reduce the inflammation. They may also prescribe a topical anesthetic medicine, such as lidocaine for pain relief. You will also be required to eat bland foods to avoid irritating the sores.

3. Cold Sores

cold sores

If your mouth sores do not resolve immediately, they are most likely cold sores. Cold mouth sores are very common, as they are normally caused by the herpes simplex virus found on the lips and hard palate. These sores occur in the form of very painful fluid-filled blisters. After a while, these blisters rupture and crust to become less-painful lesions.

Cold sores normally crust within 4 days from their initial appearance and disappear completely within eight days. Just as with scabs, you should not touch or pick at your cold sores because they are highly contagious, especially before scabbing. The virus remains hidden in your body and will activate when you become stressed, after hormonal changes, or if you experience trauma. If the cold sores don’t disappear by themselves after two weeks, you should see a doctor.

4. Oral Cancer

While most of the sores on the roof of your mouth are harmless, some of them could spell disaster because they could be early signs of oral cancer. The American Dental Association says that there are two main categories of oral cancer: mouth cancer and throat cancer (oropharynx). Mouth sores caused by oral cancer do not heal easily.

So, if the sores on the roof of your mouth do not heal after two weeks, you should see a doctor immediately for further diagnosis. Remember that oral cancer is treatable if caught early. So, you should bring your mouth sores to the attention of your doctor if you are concerned about their cause.

Other Symptoms of Mouth Sores

other symptoms of mouth sores

First of all, it is important to mention that some systemic health problems can cause recurring canker sores. But the connection between your canker sores and other health problems should only be identified by your doctor or dentist. For instance, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is known to cause aphthous ulcers.

Also, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which affect the digestive tract, can cause mouth sores. The gastrointestinal problems caused by celiac disease can easily lead to canker sores. Celiac disease patients are very sensitive to gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and other related products. Their inability to absorb this protein is suspected to cause oral complications.

Also, diseases that affect the immune system are known to cause mouth sores. For instance, people with HIV are likely to develop canker sores and other serious oral complications. These sores will also make it difficult for you to eat, take medication, and talk properly. This can also prevent you from staying well-nourished.

Behcet’s disease and lupus are also linked to mouth sores, especially canker sores. These are autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation throughout the body, including your mouth. In most cases, sores on the roof of your mouth will present redness and pain, especially when eating and drinking.

You might also experience a burning or itchy sensation around the sore. Depending on the size and severity of the sores on the roof of your mouth, they can easily prevent you from eating, drinking, swallowing, talking, or breathing. Sometimes these sores will also develop blisters.

When to See a Doctor

Although most sores on the roof of your mouth will go away by themselves after a few days, some may refuse to heal, prompting you to seek medical attention. You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Mouth sores that are larger than half an inch in diameter
  • Regular outbreaks of mouth sores
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

How Long Does Soreness on the Roof of Your Mouth Take to Heal?

As mentioned above, ordinary sores on the roof of your mouth that are not caused by any serious underlying health problem should go away by themselves within a few days. So, if your sores last for more than two weeks, you should be concerned because they could be a sign of a more serious problem.

What Can You Do to Treat Your Mouth Sores?

what can you do to treat your mouth sores

Although you should just let your mouth sores heal on their own, there are a few important things you need to do to ease the pain and discomfort. For instance, you should rinse your mouth with salt water or baking soda to ease the discomfort.

Sometimes your doctor will recommend you to take some over-the-counter drugs and topical anesthetic medicines to relieve the pain. In severe cases, your doctor will prescribe some antiviral drugs.

If you are dealing with canker or cold mouth sores, you should avoid foods and drinks that could irritate them. Here are some of the foods and drinks you should avoid to allow your mouth sores to heal:

  • Crunchy foods, like chips, crisps, or toast
  • Acidic fruits, like citrus or tomatoes
  • Salty crackers or pretzels
  • Spicy foods or hot pepper
  • Extremely hot drinks, like tea or coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco products

In fact, many foods can irritate your mouth sores. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat anything when you have sores on the roof of your mouth. There is a wide variety of foods and drinks that you can still enjoy without irritating the sores.

For instance, you should go for soft, bland foods and drinks, such as yogurt, pudding, and mashed potatoes. Ask your dentist for advice on the most suitable foods and drinks for you during this period.

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