Mouth Ulcers – Causes and how to treat them.
The oral mucosa is a fascinating structure. Just think for a moment what it must endure… it has been proposed that the force of a human bite is around 270 pounds of pressure; besides that, there are enzymes in the saliva that start to digest (break down) the food from the moment we put in our mouths, and there are more bacteria in our mouths than you can ever imagine. An old infectious disease professor of mine used to say that he much rather gets stab with a dirty knife than bitten by a human.
Despite all this, the integrity of the inside layer that cover our mouth (the mucosa) remains intact most of the time. The oral mucosa also heals extremely fast. Research shows that it is replaced in its entirety as fast as every 3 days.
Mouth ulcers can occur and be caused by certain medical conditions:
- Viral infections (cold sore virus, chickenpox, and hand, foot and mouth disease).
- Vitamin B12 or iron deficiency.
- By inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
- Due to medications used to treat other conditions (Chemotherapy, in some cases, can be one of them).
Mouth ulcers, canker sores, cold sores, or mucositis (different names for the same condition) are one of the most uncomfortable symptoms we must bear and a common complaint of my patients. They are a shallow sore shaped like a crater (ulcer) on your tongue or on the inside of your lip or cheek. They have a red border and a white or yellow center. They may be painful and can make it hard to talk and eat.
Unfortunately, except for the ones caused by certain viruses, we lack therapeutic options in the traditional medical world, and this can be very frustrating for health care practitioners and very painful for patients.
Thankfully there are many demulcents in the natural world, that create an artificial protective layer in our mouths that can help alleviate mouth ulcers. Slippery Elm has long been used as an agent that forms a soothing film over a mucous membrane, possibly relieving pain and inflammation of the tissue. This herb contains high quantities of mucilage that can coat and thickness membranes providing them with soothing effects.
Bee Propolis, a mixture of resin and wax made by honey bees to seal and sterilize their hives, has been shown to be anti-microbial, anti-fungal, a strong anti-oxidant, non-allergenic and can boost the immune system. It may also promote wound healing and may have anesthetic properties.
The use of this demulcents on a regular basis may be beneficial to help protect or heal the natural lining of the mouth specially at times of stress, when the immune system may be weakened, due to viral infections, and also during times when medical care requires the use of strong pharmaceuticals that might weaken the mucosa.
By Dr Mike Cusnir
Dr. Mike Cusnir. Specializing in Hematology/Oncology, Dr. Mike Cusnir has been in practice for more than 15 years. As a graduate of the Fellowship in Hematology/Oncology from the University of Maryland, Greenbaum Cancer Center (Baltimore, Maryland), oncologist Dr. Cusnir brings top notch experience in the scientific filed. Dr. Cusnir is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Medical Oncology and the American Board of Hematology.
Dr. Mike Cusnir’s Committment to Integrative Medicine
Dr. Mike Cusnir is also making integrative medicine a part of his practice by graduating from the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in October of 2012. This fellowship, created by Andrew Weil, MD in 2000, has achieved international recognition as the leading integrative medical education program in the world. He has authored and published multiple peer review articles on the field and he has also presented his research in the most prestigious American and European medical meetings. He has completed the first clinical study of the benefits of miracle fruit for cancer patients whose chemotherapy drugs leave an unpleasant taste in their mouth. His research has gained the attention of major media outlets being featured, among many other, on CNN and The New York Times. You can connect with Dr. Mike Cusnir on Twitter.