Could COVID-19 Cause Oral Ulcers?

Fever, flu-like symptoms, respiratory issues, loss of taste and smell…it seems like the list of COVID-19 symptoms grows every time you look at it. Surprise! Here’s another possible sign of coronavirus: ulcers in your mouth.

Over the summer, Spanish researchers found that a fairly significant portion of COVID-19 patients exhibited mouth sores in some shape or form during their illness. Another study linked coronavirus to oral sores that mimicked “geographic tongue” and typical cold sores in appearance, leading researchers to ask medical doctors to make oral evaluations part of the COVID-19 screening and hospitalization process.

When do Ulcers Pop Up?

Here’s the interesting part: just like the loss of taste and smell occurring at different phases of coronavirus cases, oral ulcers and sores showed up at various times. Some individuals found ulcers to be the first symptom that showed up at all, having them pop up as quickly as two days before any other symptoms. In other cases, it was as long as 24 days after a positive diagnosis before they saw mouth ulcers at all.

Keep in mind, not everyone saw ulcers when they tested positive, but close to about a fourth of them in the Spanish study did (and a majority of them were women.)

Ulcers Linked to Viral Infections

It’s fairly common for viruses to affect our skin and mucous membranes (like the ones inside of our mouths.) For instance, a specific strain of herpes is what causes chicken pox and shingles infections. It’s also the source behind those infamously annoying “cold sores” and “fever blisters” that we see in our mouths from time to time.

2020 showed us that some people with COVID-19 saw random skin rashes. If it can affect your skin, it can also affect your oral mucosa, which is probably why some people see ulcer flare-ups when they’re ill.

We know that ulcers tend to pop up in people who are immunocompromised. So, if your body is trying to fight off some type of an infection (in this case, coronavirus) you could see some “flare ups” inside of your mouth, especially if you have a history of getting ulcers or sores whenever you’re sick.

Treating Ulcers

The best treatment for COVID-19 is still up for debate. But if you’re quarantining at home while symptoms subside, you still need to feel comfortable enough to eat and stay hydrated. If your mouth hurts from ulcers, it can be difficult to get the nutrition you need (and thus impact your recovery time.)

Ultimately, take steps to avoid irritating your mouth. That means avoid acidic foods like orange juice, tomato sauces/soups, or similar items. Soft, cool foods like yogurt and cottage cheese will feel better inside of your mouth and won’t irritate any open sores.

Rinsing with lukewarm saline solution or a homemade saltwater rinse can lift away food debris and help with inflammation. If your mouth is too sore to brush and floss, give yourself some grace. The typical healing time for an ulcer is somewhere around 10-14 days.

If mouth sores are severe, Dr. Huynh can always prescribe a “miracle mouthwash” to help you get out of pain enough to eat normally.

What to do if You See Mouth Sores

If you suddenly experience a flare up of ulcers inside of your mouth, take some extra precautions. It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and schedule a COVID-19 test just to be on the safe side. In the meantime, check yourself for other symptoms of the virus and quarantine until you rule out a positive diagnosis.  At the very least, you ought to contact your personal physician to make them aware of the situation and get their advice. They may recommend self-isolating and watching for any other symptoms to pop up before you go in for a formal coronavirus test.

As of right now, there’s no specific type of mouth sore that is linked to COVID-19. Some look like everyday ulcers, cold sores, or geographic tongue. Others are lumps or bumps on the tongue or roof of your mouth. We’re still in the early stages of understanding the oral-systemic link of this viral disease.

Committed to Your Health and Safety

At Eastport Dental, Dr. Huynh is always available to provide advice and care related to your dental emergency. Even if you’re quarantined at home, you can contact us by phone. For quality dental care in a safe, welcoming environment, you can trust Eastport Dental for all of your family’s needs. Call us today!

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