How to Treat Minor Mouth Problems

Sometimes the most minor mouth problems are also the most painful ones: the burn on the roof of your mouth from when you didn’t wait for your dinner to cool off, the cut where you accidentally chomped your cheek, that annoying canker sore that just won’t go away. Here’s what to do the next time you find yourself with one of these small but irritating mouth problems. Canker Sores (aphthous ulcers). Doctors don’t know exactly what causes canker sores, but stress, mouth injuries and spicy foods seem to increase the chance of getting them. Canker sores usually occur in the first few decades of life, tend to reoccur in people who are susceptible to having them and typically last for 7 to 10 days. If you’re experiencing one of these painful spots, you can speak with your dentist about prescription medications that may clear up the sore faster. Over-the-counter medications can also temporarily relieve the discomfort. Alternatively, try a home remedy such as combining one part hydrogen peroxide with one part water. Apply the mixture to the sore area using a clean cotton swab and follow up with a swipe from a swab soaked with milk of magnesia. Repeat several times a day for best results.1 While waiting for a canker sore to heal, avoid hot and spicy foods and smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products.2 If your canker sores are abnormally large, last longer than two weeks, occur frequently, or if you get many all at once, check with your dentist or physician. Symptoms like these could be related to medical conditions such as allergies, vitamin deficiencies, Crohn’s disease or other disorders. Other reasons you may want to consult your physician or dentist: if it’s too painful to eat or if you’re running a fever.1 Burns. You were hungry and couldn’t wait for the pizza to cool, so what should have been delicious, melty mozzarella ended up being a searing chunk of dairy plastered to the roof of your mouth. Hey, we’ve all been there. To soothe your singed tissues, try sipping on water, sucking on chips of ice or chewing sugarless gum to get saliva flowing. Until the burn feels better in a day or two, avoid spicy and/or acidic foods (salsa is a prime candidate).2 Sore Jaw. Do your jaw muscles suddenly feel a little sore or tight? Most common jaw joint and muscle problems are temporary and won’t get worse, so simple treatment will often relieve discomfort. First, switch to eating soft foods and avoid gum chewing and other extreme jaw movements like yawning. Apply an ice pack for 10-minute periods several times during the day and take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain reliever. If you’re aware of any jaw-clenching or tooth-grinding habits, try to put a stop to them immediately. Then, take a few deep breaths and try to relax. A tight jaw is commonly caused by stress. Consult a doctor if you experience jaw pain on a regular basis; chronic pain in the jaw could be a sign of a temporomandibular joint or muscle disorder (TMJ).3


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