Topic Overview

Mouth sores may make eating and talking painful. The most
common mouth sores are
cold sores and
canker sores. In severe cases of canker sores, a
doctor may prescribe a medicine to ease inflammation and

Other possible causes of mouth sores include:

  • Impetigo. Symptoms may include oozing,
    honey-colored, crusty sores that appear on the face, usually between the upper
    lip and nose. Impetigo is more common in children than adults.
  • Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (Coxsackie
    virus), in children. Ulcers may appear on the inside of the cheeks and on the
    gums and sides of the tongue, usually lasting 2 to 3 days. These symptoms,
    which usually are mild, may also occur with a blister-type rash on the palms of
    the hands and soles of the feet. Although the mouth sores may only last 2 to 3
    days, the illness may last a week.
  • Herpangina (Coxsackie virus). The virus most commonly occurs
    in the summer and autumn. It starts with a high fever, sore throat, headache,
    and a general feeling of illness (malaise). Usually, painful sores (ulcers)
    develop in the back of the mouth, especially the soft palate, within 24 to 48
    hours of the fever. The illness lasts 7 to 10 days.
  • Medicines. Chemotherapy, sulfa drugs, phenytoin (such as
    Dilantin), and gold compounds are a few examples of medicines that can cause
    mouth sores.
  • Inflammation of the gum and mouth tissue (gingivostomatitis), which is common in children. A child who has
    gum sores and a fever or who does not feel well should be evaluated by a health
  • Chickenpox. Chickenpox sores
    in the mouth look different than chickenpox on the body. In the mouth, the
    sores look like raised bumps (papules) and then turn into shallow ulcers. Sores
    on the body crust over after the blister stage, but crusting does not occur in
    the mouth.
  • Injury. Tongue ulcers may result
    from biting, chewing, or burning of the tongue.
  • Piercings. Mouth, tongue, and lip sores can be caused by the
    piercing itself or by irritation from the jewelry used in the
  • Oral cancer, which may develop in
    any part of the oral cavity. Your chances of getting oral cancer are increased
    if you smoke, use smokeless (spit) tobacco, or use alcohol
  • Skin diseases. Blisters in the
    mouth can be caused by
    immune system diseases, such as
    lichen planus, pemphigus vulgaris, pemphigoid,
    lupus, or erythema multiforme.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMay 7, 2017