What are the Causes of Gum Sores?

Have you ever had an experience with gum soreness that involves either pain, bleeding or swelling? Many of us have had at least one or more times where such gum soreness occurs in the mouth.  

So what are the causes?  

The answer is that there are several reasons for gum sores. The following lists are the most common causes.


Gingivitis is a gum disease where the gum tissue is inflamed due to plaque accumulation.  This can cause bleeding and swelling of the gum tissue near the teeth in single to multiple locations in the mouth.  

It can present with or without pain.  Most often the gums look red, swollen and bleeding upon touching or flossing.

Treatment – professional dental cleaning and check-up by the dentist. Brushing and flossing are not enough to eliminate the sore and inflammation. Keeping up with regular dental cleaning every 4 months will keep Gingivitis at bay.


Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease than gingivitis. 

This often lead to attachment loss, meaning there is also bone and soft tissue loss. Bleeding upon flossing is common and mobility of the teeth often present if untreated.  

Many patients do not feel the pain until there is a significant infection. Periodontitis is now known to be present in many patients with heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease. 

Periodontal Disease can only be treated in a dentist’s office.

Treatment – Professional Deep cleaning and/or periodontal(gum) surgery and having periodontal maintenance every 3-4 months.  Patients may need pharmacological treatment with Arrestin.

Canker Sore

Canker Sores are also known as Aphthous ulcers and they present on the mucosa of the mouth.  The causes of the sore are idiopathic, but most often they are believed to occur during stressful times when the body’s immune system may be compromised.  The canker sore lesion can last about 7-14 days and many patients report pain.   

Treatment – there is no medication that will heal canker sores but some analgesic ointment can help.

Cold Sore

Cold sores are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus and the sores are usually on the border of the lip.  When the vesicles rupture, they can be infectious and can spread to other areas or to another person.  

Usually, it is self-limiting and disappears within 7-14 days. This is the one that can be treated. If you get the right medication early enough, you can likely avoid an outbreak that lasts up to 2 weeks. If you’ve had this before, you know how it starts. 

Traumatic Ulcers

Ulcers can occur from eating hot food, (most often from hot drinks, soup or pizza) or sharp food(like fish bones or the sharp edge of the crackers)   Any trauma to the soft tissue in the mouth can lead to ulceration and also pain. To avoid such ulcerations, it’s best to be careful when eating.

Treatment:  There is no real treatment from these ulcers.  The best thing to do is to let the area heal on its own and mucosa generally heals much faster than the skin.  If the lesion does not go away in 2 weeks, it would be advisable to see a dentist for evaluation.

Oral Cancers


Oral cancers represent 10 highest occurring cancers in the United States. 

Not all oral cancers appear as ulcer-like lesions. However, if an ulcer that does not heal for longer than 2 weeks, especially on the tongue, cheek, and roof of the mouth, should be consulted by a dentist. 

Oral cancers are especially prevalent in smokers and heavy drinkers. As early diagnosis will possibly treat cancer to complete remission, any ulcers that do not disappear should be considered seriously.

If you or your loved ones have any mouth sores that need attention, please contact us for consultation.  Dr. Stella Oh and Dr. Estafan can diagnose and help you heal from the mouth sores appropriately.  

Typically, antiviral medication needs to be taken within 12 hours of initial symptoms, so call right away if you feel the tingling in the corner of your lip. 

Dr. Oh or Dr. Estafan can prescribe it electronically to get it as fast as possible.