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Mouth Ulcers in Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 13 Dec 2022

In this guide, we’ll look at what causes mouth ulcers to appear during pregnancy, consider the most common symptoms of mouth ulcers, and explore the treatments and self-help techniques that can be used to ease the pain and discomfort caused by mouth blisters.

What are mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers are small, often-painful sores that appear inside the mouth, most commonly on the inside of the cheeks and lips, and occasionally on the tongue. Mouth ulcers are often caused by errant bites, cuts, burns from foods or drinks, or excess stress or fatigue, but they can also be symptoms of the hormonal imbalances triggered during pregnancy.

While they can be uncomfortable and or even painful, mouth ulcers are usually nothing to worry about. In most cases, they’ll clear up on their own within a week or two, plus there are various effective treatments and remedies that can speed up the healing process. If your mouth ulcers persist for more than 3 weeks (or they keep returning) you should speak to your GP or dentist.

Can pregnancy cause mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers can be triggered by hormonal changes in the body, so though pregnancy is not a direct cause of mouth ulcers, it can make them more likely to appear. While pregnant, a woman's immune system tends to be lower than normal, leaving her more susceptible to ailments such as the flu, the common cold, and mouth ulcers.

Are mouth ulcers common in pregnancy?

Due to hormonal changes and reduced immune-system strength, women can commonly develop mouth ulcers during pregnancy. Mouth ulcers are generally harmless and not contagious, thankfully, though they’re often accompanied by pain and discomfort. Since mouth ulcers in pregnant women can be managed and treated easily, there’s no need to worry about them.

What causes mouth ulcers during pregnancy?

Sudden hormonal shifts (which are entirely normal during pregnancy) can alter the chemical composition of the body, leading to the growth of mouth ulcers. With that said, there are other reasons why mouth ulcers can appear during pregnancy. Mouth ulcers are also common during periods, as they compromise immune system strength in a similar way.

The following things can prompt the appearance of mouth ulcers:

  • Experiencing stress or anxiety
  • Having dietary issues (e.g. lacking vitamins like B12 or minerals such as iron or zinc)
  • Getting insufficient sleep
  • Giving up smoking (mouth ulcers may develop in people who have recently quit)

Most commonly, though, mouth ulcers are caused simply by damage or irritation to the inside of the mouth. Look out for the following:

  • Accidental bites to the inside of the mouth or cheek
  • Badly-fitting dentures, braces, fillings, or sharp or broken teeth
  • Cuts or burns caused by food or drink (e.g. very hot drinks or hard foods)

Symptoms of mouth ulcers during pregnancy

Mouth ulcers are sometimes-painful sores that appear inside the mouth, but they can be tougher to notice when they’re not consistently painful. Look out for these symptoms:

  • Itchiness inside the mouth
  • A burning sensation inside the mouth (often on the tongue)
  • Bad breath
  • Pain and difficulty when eating or drinking
  • A fever (this is a rare symptom)

These symptoms will not always present themselves, but you should speak to your GP if you’re worried about any unusual symptoms accompanying or indicating mouth ulcers.

Treatments for mouth ulcers during pregnancy

While mouth ulcers will usually disappear on their own, there are a number of effective treatments and home remedies for mouth ulcers you can use to ease the pain and discomfort they cause and help them clear up quicker.

Orajel Extra Strength Toothache Gel
Orajel Extra Strength Toothache Gel
See Treatment

Can I use mouth ulcer gel when pregnant?

Most mouth ulcer gels are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy (or while breastfeeding, for that matter), but it’s always best to check with your doctor before using a gel treatment for mouth ulcers. While Orajel Toothache Gel is formulated to ease dental pain, it can also provide temporary relief from the pain caused by mouth ulcers in pregnancy.

Other effective over-the-counter mouth ulcer treatments include:

  • Anbesol Liquid, a topical treatment that provides relief from oral pain caused by mouth ulcers
  • Difflam Rinse or Spray, both of which provide effective short-term relief from sore mouth and throat conditions
  • Corsodyl Mouthwash, is a mint-flavoured mouthwash designed to treat oral ailments such as mouth ulcers, oral thrush and gum disease

To speed up the healing process and reduce the chance of your mouth ulcer(s) returning, you can also make some changes to your habits. You may find that a combination of an effective over-the-counter mouth ulcer treatment and a revision of your habits will provide you with the best defence against mouth ulcers during pregnancy.

The following self-help measures can help clear up mouth ulcers:

  • Avoiding any hard, sharp or crunchy foods (as well as anything too spicy)
  • Drinking cold drinks through straws
  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet
  • Taking supplements such as vitamin D12, iron and zinc
  • Booking regular appointments with your dentist

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What Causes Mouth Ulcers & How To Treat Them

Scott McDougall
Written by Scott McDougall

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