How Should I Treat Oral Sores?

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Oral lesions in the mouth can appear in anyone, anytime. It is not an uncommon occurrence, and has various causes, including infection, inflammation, and even cancer. The most common causes, however, are viral and fungal infections. Following are a few of the most common origins of sores in the mouth, and how to treat them.

Cold Sores or fever blisters

Even though you can’t really get cold sores from fevers or colds, they can trigger them. Cold sores are contagious and viral, so you want to avoid close contact with someone who has them which means not sharing utensils or toothbrushes–which is not recommended anyway–or kissing. Don’t worry, it’s only temporary!


Cold sores are treated relatively easily by using over-the-counter creams or ointments to relieve pain and speed healing. If you get cold sores frequently, you can enlist a doctor’s help by getting a prescription.

Canker Sores

No one can really tell you why you get these lesions. These small, painful blisters are triggered by infection, hormones, hypersensitivity, stress or vitamin deficiency. You might get canker sores on your tongue, inside your cheek, or on the gums.


Canker sores don’t usually last more than a couple of weeks, but if they do linger past that, you can use medications, numbing creams, or have dental laser treatment to remove them.

Black Hairy Tongue

While black hairy tongue looks frightful, it is actually painless, harmless, and temporary. This strange effect happens when the tiny bumps on the tongue (papillae) grow, lengthen, and trap oral bacteria which changes its color. It can be caused by:

  • Lack of saliva production
  • Antibiotic use
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Tobacco use
  • Drinking lots of coffee and tea


Gently brush your tongue twice a day, using a toothbrush or tongue scraper and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep up saliva production. If this does not help, there is medication your doctor can prescribe.

Oral Cancer

You may have oral cancer if you have a sore that never goes away, and is accompanied by:

1) Numbness in the face, mouth, or neck

2) Having trouble chewing, speaking or swallowing

Oral cancer can be caused by a family history of cancer, long-term tobacco use, heavy drinking, overexposure to the sun, and even exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV).


Oral cancer, while scary, is highly treatable and curable, when detected in the early stages. If you are at higher risk, whether you have a family history of cancer, or you smoke, drink, or have been exposed to HPV, you may have your dentist check for oral cancer at your six month cleanings, just to be safe.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like more information, please call our dental team at 847-299-3365 today!