Most mouth ulcers get better on their own within 1–2 weeks. Until your ulcer heals:
- use a soft toothbrush to reduce further damage
- rinse your mouth with a warm salt-water mouthwash (see below)
- avoid foods that make the pain worse, such as spicy or acidic food
- avoid chewing gum
- choose softer foods that are less likely to make the ulcer feel worse
- use a straw to drink cool (not hot) liquids so they don’t touch ulcers in the front of your mouth
- take paracetamol for pain relief.
A salt-water mouthwash can be made by dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Using warm water helps the salt to dissolve. Rinse your mouth with the solution then spit it out, don't swallow it. You can do this as often as you like.
Medicines for mouth ulcers
If your mouth ulcer is causing a lot of pain or not healing, there are medicines that can help relieve pain, protect the ulcerated area, reduce inflammation or prevent further infection. The choice of medicine will depend on how much discomfort you are experiencing and the cause of the ulcer. Talk to a pharmacist about the following options:
- Antiseptic mouthwashes (such as chlorhexidine) are used to prevent infection by stopping the build-up of bacteria
- Protective pastes (such as Orabase®) act as a protective covering when applied to the ulcer
- Steroid-containing pastes (such as Kenalog in Orabase® and Oracort®) help to relieve pain, inflammation (redness), discomfort and speed up healing
- Local analgesics (pain relievers applied to the area) come in the form of a mouthwash, spray, gel or ointment and offer pain relief to the area, in and around the ulcer
- Antiviral creams are available if your mouth ulcer is caused by the herpes simplex virus (also called cold sores or fever blisters).
Your GP may prescribe stronger medication to treat severe, recurrent or infected mouth ulcers.
Read more about medicines for mouth ulcers.