What Are Mouth Lesions?

Medically Reviewed on 1/12/2021

Mouth lesions are the abnormal patches, sores, or altered texture of the mouth lining.
Mouth lesions are the abnormal patches, sores, or altered texture of the mouth lining.

Mouth lesions are the abnormal patches, sores, or altered texture of the mouth lining. The various mouth lesions include cuts, lumps, bumps, or ulcers (firm white patches over the mouth, lips, gums, and throat).

What are the signs and symptoms of mouth lesions?

Pain is a common symptom of mouth lesions. Some patches may appear as ulcers or red or white patches in the mouth. They may also bleed in severe cases.

Canker sores or aphthous ulcers are the common mouth sores that often recur. These are painful ulcers that are found mostly in patients with compromised immunity or during periods of stress and infection.

Cold sores are the mouth lesions found in herpes simplex virus infection. These are also called fever blisters; they spread through personal contacts, such as kissing. They are tiny, fluid-filled blisters occurring in groups on and around your lips. The blisters break leaving a scab that stays for several days before disappearing.

What causes mouth lesions?

Mouth lesions can be caused by a variety of causes. These include:

How are mouth lesions treated?

Most often, you can treat mouth lesions at home by following simple tips. 

  • Apply ice or cloth dipped in cold water for a soothing effect.
  • Apply milk of magnesia on canker sores two to three times a day.
  • Make a do it yourself (DIY) baking soda solution in water and use it as a mouth rinse.
  • Try switching to a soft brush.
  • If you use a toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate, find one without it. This common ingredient in most tubes of toothpaste is known to trigger mouth ulcers.

Medications used in the treatment of mouth lesions include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate pain.
  • Medicated lip ointments/gels: The over the counter cold sore ointment Abreva (docosanol) may shorten the healing time of a cold sore. Gels, such as Orajel, Orabase (benzocaine), and lidocaine (an anesthetic) can be used to relieve pain or discomfort in canker sores.
  • In case of infections, doctors may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication. An antiseptic mouthwash is also helpful.


Sore Throat or Strep Throat? How to Tell the Difference See Slideshow

What is laser vaporization of mouth lesions?

Laser vaporization uses beams of light energy of a particular wavelength (laser technique) to treat mouth lesions. Not only does it help decrease the pain and speed up the healing, but also reduces the risk of scarring from mouth lesions. Lasers work by modifying the nerve conduction in the lesions; it vaporizes the tissue around the sore and sterilizes the affected area.

Oral lesions treated with laser surgery include aphthous ulcers and overgrowths, such as lymphangiomas, hemangiomas, and verrucous carcinomas.

How to prevent mouth lesions?

You may try the following to prevent mouth lesions:

  • When you have a cold sore or see it coming, avoid close contact, such as kissing.
  • Do not share personal items, such as toothbrushes, lip balms, razors, drinking glasses.
  • Do not touch your mouth or lips often. Wash your hands if you happen to do so.
  • If you tend to get mouth sores over lips, apply a lip balm with sunscreen every time you venture out in sunlight (sunlight can trigger sores).
  • Have lots of fruits and vegetables to get your daily intake of vitamins and minerals.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/12/2021
Weinberg MA, Segelnick SL. Management of Common Oral Sores. Medscape, US Pharmacist. 2013;38(6):43-48. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807035

Poduval J. Laser Vaporization of Mouth Lesions. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1890867-overview#