Are you tired of dealing with painful and unsightly mouth ulcers? It can be frustrating to have your daily routine disrupted by these pesky sores. 

But did you know that not all mouth ulcers are created equal?  From canker sores to cold sores, each type has its own unique characteristics and causes. 

mouth uler types

Understanding the differences between them is key to finding effective treatment options. So, let's explore the varieties of mouth ulcers.

Types of Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers come in many shapes and sizes. The most common type of mouth ulcer is the canker sore. 

1. Canker Sores

Canker sores are small, shallow ulcers that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth, such as your gums, cheeks, or tongue. 

They’re usually red or white and can be painful. Canker sores usually go away on their own within a week or two.

2. Cold Sores

Cold sores are another type of mouth ulcer. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and usually appear as blisters on the lips, nose, or chin. 

Cold sores are highly contagious and can be passed from person to person through close contacts, such as kissing or sharing eating utensils. Cold sores typically go away within a week or two without treatment.

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Less Common Types of Mouth Ulcers Include:

1. Hairy Leukoplakia: 

This type of mouth ulcer is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and appears as white, hairy patches on the tongue. Hairy leukoplakia is more common in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS.

2. Oral Thrush: 

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that causes white, patchy lesions on the tongue and inside of the cheeks. It’s more common in infants and people with weakened immune systems.

3. Geographic Tongue: 

Geographic tongue is a condition that causes red patches.

4. Canker Sores:

Canker sores are one of the most common types of mouth ulcers, and are typically small, round, and white or yellow in color. 

They can occur on the tongue, gums, inner cheeks, or anywhere else inside the mouth. Canker sores are not contagious like cold sores, but they can be painful and often re-occur.

There are a few things that can trigger canker sores, such as stress, hormones, certain foods (like citrus fruits or tomatoes), and toothpaste or mouthwash that contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). If you get canker sores frequently, you may want to avoid these triggers.

Canker sores usually heal on their own within a week or two. However, if they are large or extremely painful, your doctor may prescribe a topical cream or ointment to help speed up the healing process. 

5. Cold Sores:

Cold sores, or fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus is highly contagious and is usually passed through close contact with someone who has an active cold sore. 

Cold sores typically appear as fluid-filled blisters on the lips or around the mouth. They can be painful and often re-occur in the same location. Canker sores are small ulcers that form on the inside of the mouth. 

They are not contagious like cold sores but can be quite painful. Canker sores are often caused by stress, trauma to the mouth, or certain foods and medications. 

If you have a mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal within two weeks or keeps coming back, it’s important to see your dentist or doctor to rule out any other underlying conditions.

6. Herpangina:

Herpangina is a viral infection that primarily affects young children. The hallmark of herpangina is the development of small, painful blisters on the back of the throat. 

These blisters can make it difficult for children to eat or drink and may lead to dehydration. In most cases, herpangina resolves on its own within a week. However, severe cases may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and pain relief. 

7. Oral Thrush:

Oral thrush is a common mouth infection that is caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus. White spots on the tongue and inside of the cheeks, as well as redness and pain, are signs of oral thrush. 

Anyone can develop oral thrush, but newborns, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are more likely to do so. Antifungal drugs are part of the treatment for oral thrush.

Risk Factors of Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers can be caused by a number of things, including allergies and infections. The canker sore, which results from a rupture in the mucous membrane, is the most typical type of mouth ulcer. 

Canker sores typically have a red border, a white or yellow centre, and are small and rounded in shape. They frequently happen in groups and can be painful.

Another type of mouth ulcer brought on by the herpes simplex virus are cold sores. Cold sores frequently take the form of painful blisters on the lips, chin, or cheeks. 

Cold sores, as opposed to canker sores, are communicable and spread from person to person by intimate contact.

Certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids, can also cause mouth ulcers. 

Allergies to food or other substances may also trigger the development of mouth ulcers. 

In some cases, underlying medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease may be the cause of mouth ulcers. 

Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers are small sores that can occur on the inside of your cheeks, gums, or lips. They can also appear on the roof of your mouth. 

Mouth ulcers are usually round or oval and have a white or yellowish center with a red border. They can vary in size, but most are about 1/2 inch or less.

Mouth ulcers are often painful and can make it difficult to eat or drink. You may also have a burning sensation when you brush your teeth. Other symptoms of mouth ulcers include:

  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Treatments for Mouth Ulcers

There are a variety of treatments available for mouth ulcers, depending on the type and severity of the ulcer. 

For canker sores, over-the-counter topical medications can be effective in reducing pain and promoting healing. 

These include gels or ointments containing corticosteroids, lidocaine, or other anti-inflammatory agents. 

Home remedies such as salt water rinses, baking soda paste, or tea tree oil applied directly to the sore can also help to soothe symptoms and promote healing. For more severe canker sores, prescription oral medications may be necessary. 

Cold sores are usually treated with antiviral medications taken by mouth or applied directly to the sore. 

These can help to reduce the duration and severity of an outbreak. Over-the-counter topical creams or ointments can also be used to relieve pain and speed healing.

Mouth ulcers caused by underlying medical conditions may require treatment from a healthcare professional. 

Ulcers associated with Crohn’s disease, for example, may be treated with medications that suppress the immune system or reduce inflammation. 

Mouth ulcers caused by cancer treatments such as radiation therapy may improve with oral mucositis products that coat and protect the mucous membranes. 

How to Prevent Mouth Ulcers?

Most mouth ulcers are minor and heal on their own within a week or two. However, some mouth ulcers can be large and painful, making it difficult to eat or drink. 

There are several things you can do to prevent mouth ulcers:

  • Avoid spicy, acidic, or hard foods that can irritate your mouth.
  • Brush your teeth gently with a soft toothbrush and floss daily.
  • Avoid tobacco products.
  • Use a lip balm or cream to protect your lips from the sun and wind.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

As you can see, there are many different types of mouth ulcers that can affect your oral health. It is important to be aware of the different kinds and to seek medical advice if needed.

Knowing the difference between cold sores, canker sores, and other types of mouth ulcers will help you better understand how to treat them and prevent further outbreaks. 

While some may require more specialized treatment than others, with the right knowledge and a few preventive measures each type of ulcer is manageable.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Types Of Mouth Ulcers are there?

There are three main types of mouth ulcers:

Minor ulcers: These are the most frequent type of oral lesions and normally have a diameter of 2 to 8 mm. They often have an oval or spherical form with a white or golden centre and a crimson border. Minor ulcers typically heal without leaving scars in 7–10 days.

Major ulcers: Major ulcers, often referred to as Sutton's disease, are less frequent than minor ulcers and are typically larger and deeper. They may be excruciatingly painful and take weeks to recover. After healing, large ulcers may leave scars.

Herpetiform ulcers: These ulcers are tiny and frequent, and they can occur in groups of up to 100. They are typically brought on by an infection with the herpes simplex virus and are less frequent than minor and severe ulcers.

It's important to keep in mind that some mouth sores, such canker and cold sores, which are caused by viral diseases, can easily be mistaken for mouth ulcers. 

Therefore, it's always better to speak with a healthcare provider if you have any worries about a sore or ulcer in your mouth.

What is the most common oral ulcer?

The minor ulcer, also known as recurrent aphthous stomatitis or canker sore, is the most typical type of oral ulcer. They often have a round or oval form, a white or yellowish centre, and a crimson border. Their diameter ranges from 2 to 8 mm. 

Minor ulcers can be brought on by a number of things, such as stress, oral injuries, and specific meals. They are not contagious. Although they can be uncomfortable, they often go away on their own and do not leave scars within 7 to 10 days.

It's essential to speak with a healthcare provider if you frequently get mouth ulcers so they can perform a more thorough evaluation and discuss your treatment choices.

Are mouth ulcers STD?

No, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) do not often cause mouth ulcers. The majority of mouth ulcers are brought on by non-infectious causes such oral trauma, stress, hormonal changes, eating particular foods, or vitamin shortages. 

Mouth ulcers can, however, be caused by some infectious diseases that are not STDs, such as the herpes simplex virus (HSV) or the human papillomavirus (HPV). 

If you have any concerns regarding sores or ulcers in your mouth or genital region, it is always preferable to speak with a medical expert.

Are Mouth Ulcers Hard Or Soft?

Depending on the type and severity of the ulcer, the texture of the mouth can change. Minor ulcers are often soft and shallow, with a red border surrounding a white or yellowish centre. 

Major ulcers, on the other hand, can be either soft or hard depending on the stage of growth and are deeper and larger than minor ulcers. Major ulcers may initially feel soft and delicate, but as they develop they may harden and become more painful.

It's also crucial to be aware that some mouth sores, including cold sores, which are brought on by the herpes simplex virus and can resemble small, fluid-filled blisters, might be mistaken for mouth ulcers. 

If you have any concerns about a sore or ulcer in your mouth, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What Does Ulcer Look Like In Your Mouth?

Depending on the type and severity, mouth ulcers can have a variety of appearances, but they typically have a round or oval sore with a white or yellowish centre and a red border. The following are some symptoms of mouth ulcers:


The diameter of a mouth ulcer might be anything between a few millimetres and a centimetre or more.


They can have an unusual shape, but are typically round or oval.


The ulcer's centre is frequently white or yellowish, while its border is typically red or pink.

Mouth ulcers normally have a shallow, soft texture, but if they are larger or more serious, they may have a deeper, firmer texture.


Mouth ulcers can occur on the inside of the cheeks, lips, tongue, gums, or roof of the mouth.

It's important to note that several other illnesses, such as cold sores (caused by the herpes simplex virus), canker sores, and oral thrush (a fungal infection), can result in sores or lesions in the mouth. 

It's advisable to get professional medical advice if you have any worries about a sore or lesion in your mouth in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and the best course of action.

How Many Mouth Ulcers Are Normal?

It's common to experience mouth ulcers occasionally, especially small ones. Mouth ulcers are a common occurrence and typically do not require medical attention. 

However, from person to person, mouth ulcer frequency and severity might differ greatly. In contrast to others, who may experience mouth ulcers regularly or even persistently, other persons may only experience a handful in their lifetime.

It's probably nothing to worry about if you only have a single mouth ulcer that goes away within a week or two. A healthcare provider should be consulted for an assessment if you have several mouth ulcers, they are painful or persistent, or if they are any of these things.

Some underlying health conditions, such as nutritional deficiencies, autoimmune disorders, or viral infections, can cause recurrent or severe mouth ulcers.

How Do Ulcers In Mouth Form?

When the soft tissues of the mouth are injured or damaged, such as when biting the cheek or tongue or using a toothbrush with rough bristles, mouth ulcers can develop. 

Stress, hormonal shifts, particular diets, vitamin deficiencies, and underlying medical disorders like Crohn's disease or HIV might also contribute to them. 

The development of an ulcer or sore can be brought on by inflammation brought on by irritants, germs, or viruses.

What Not To Do If You Have A Mouth Ulcer?

If you have a mouth ulcer, there are several things you should avoid doing to prevent further irritation and promote healing. Here are some things not to do if you have a mouth ulcer:

Don't touch or pick at the ulcer:

This can cause further damage to the delicate tissues in the mouth and delay healing.

Don't eat spicy or acidic foods: 

These can be irritating to the ulcer and cause pain and discomfort.

Don't use tobacco products: 

Smoking or chewing tobacco can worsen the ulcer and increase the risk of complications.

Don't use alcohol-based mouthwashes: 

These can be irritating to the ulcer and delay healing.

Don't brush your teeth too vigorously: 

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle brushing techniques to avoid further damage to the mouth.

Don't ignore the ulcer: 

If the ulcer is large, painful, or persists for more than two weeks, it's important to seek medical attention as it may indicate an underlying health issue.

It's important to take care of your oral hygiene and avoid irritating the ulcer to promote healing. If you have any concerns about a mouth ulcer, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.