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The mouth helps in many important functions — communication, eating and breathing among them. But like other body parts and organs, things can go wrong inside the mouth. When you have sores or inflammation inside your mouth on your tongue, gums, cheeks, and inner lip, that’s called stomatitis. Stomatitis is a common problem many people deal with at some point, and there are different types. Here’s what you need to know about stomatitis, treatment and finding relief from the pain.

Herpes Stomatitis and Treatment

Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) causes herpes stomatitis, commonly known as cold sores. This virus is extremely contagious through saliva and is typically contracted between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. In many cases, a person with HSV-1 doesn’t show any symptoms. When symptoms are present, however, watch for drooling, fever, difficulty swallowing and malaise. The gums may also bleed and become red, swollen and tender.

Your body has no way of expelling the virus that causes the sores. However, the outbreaks aren’t severe, so this stomatitis treatment involves over-the-counter medications for pain relief and fever reduction. Children should also consume plenty of liquids during an outbreak. An outbreak usually subsides in two weeks or sooner. For frequent outbreaks, your doctor can prescribe antiviral medications.

Aphthous Stomatitis and Treatment

Canker sores, known officially as aphthous stomatitis, are round and painful sores in the mouth. They can develop singly or as many as 10 at once. Canker sores are quite common.

Canker sores may run in families, and cankers are not contagious. Scientists don’t fully understand what causes canker sores, but a common belief is that they result from a deficiency in the body’s immune system. Common triggers of the sores include acidic foods, injury to the mouth, emotional stress and changes in hormone levels related to menstruation.

Symptoms include a tingling or burning sensation on the tongue, inner lip or inner cheek. The sores take about two to three days to form, and they may be small or large. Smaller sores go away on their own in a couple of weeks without any scarring. Large sores tend to be painful and can leave scars.

You can’t prevent canker sores, and you can’t treat them. However, you can treat the symptoms, such as the stinging pain. Eating bland foods, rinsing with warm water, and applying pain-relieving gels may ease symptoms. Larger sores might require steroid medications.

Denture Stomatitis and Treatment

This third stomatitis type, also known as thrush, can affect people who wear dentures, have diabetes, take oral steroids or have difficulties keeping their mouths clean. Red areas under the dentures or red sores at the lip corners are signs to watch for.

The condition is due to an overgrowth of candida, a fungus present in all mouths. So to treat thrush, start off by practicing good oral hygiene. That includes regular brushing and rinsing with a mouthwash. If you wear dentures, be sure to clean them after meals. Soak them at night when they’re not in your mouth. Smoking also encourages yeast growth in the mouth.

You might require medication if these oral hygiene habits aren’t enough to treat your thrush. In these cases, talk to your doctor or dentist.

If you have a cold sore, a canker sore or thrush, finding relief from the discomfort is likely a top priority. Home treatment options, such as fever reducers, pain relievers, and oral gels and rinses, may help bring you the relief you need or contact your dentist for further options.