Mouth rot and inflammation of the mouth - causes, symptoms and treatment

Mouth rot and inflammation of the mouth - causes, symptoms and treatment

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The mouth rot is medically called "aphthous stomatitis" and is triggered by the herpes virus "herpes simplex type 1". However, the term stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth) also refers to various other diseases that damage the oral mucosa. Oral decay affects the oral mucosa and gums.

The most important facts

  • Mouth rot describes an infectious disease of the oral mucosa caused by herpes viruses, stomatitis, on the other hand, is a collective term for various infectious diseases of the oral mucosa.
  • Symptoms include ulcers, high fever, extreme pain and swelling in the mouth, and difficulty in eating.
  • In mouth rot, the symptoms are often treated with pain and antipyretic agents.
  • You can prevent infectious stomatitis by comprehensive oral hygiene.

How is the virus transmitted?

The infection mostly runs through the saliva of already infected people, by using cutlery or through physical contact. Being infected does not necessarily mean getting sick: Around 95% of all people carry the herpes virus. It usually becomes active when our immune system is weakened by other reasons, such as illnesses or psychological stress. Mostly it does not come to mouth rot, but to cold sores on the lip.

The oral mucosa

We refer to the lining of the oral cavity as the oral mucosa, several layers that are partially horny with a moist pink surface. This is divided into different areas: The lining of the oral mucosa comprises the largest part and consists of unhorned squamous epithelium. It is up to 0.5 mm thick, flexible and covers the soft palate, the underside of the tongue, the extensions of the tooth compartments as well as the oral vestibule and floor of the mouth.

The masticatory oral mucosa is horny because it is most involved in the chewing process, about 0.25 mm thick and lies on the hard palate and gums. The specialized oral mucosa is ultimately also cornified and has so-called papillae. It covers the back of the tongue and is responsible for the perception of taste. The tasks of the oral mucosa include the formation and secretion of saliva and the defense against germs.

The most common forms of inflammation of the mouth

The "stomatitis aphtosa" caused by the herpes virus is only one form of the mucous membrane inflammation. Other forms are

  • ulcerative stomatitis - an extremely painful variant,
  • “Stomatitis angularis” - this creates inflamed corners of the mouth,
  • the “stomatitis catarrhalis” - here the oral mucosa widened,
  • “Stomatitis vesiculosa” - it is triggered by rhabdoviruses,
  • the "stomatitis medicamentosa" - an overreaction to medication,
  • the "stomatitis mercurialis" - a mercury poisoning,
  • the “thrush stomatitis candidomycetica” - a Candida infection with yellowish spots in the oral cavity,
  • “Stomatitis gangraenosa” - a severe inflammation that destroys the soft tissues,
  • the “stomatitis mycotica” - is caused by fungi,
  • the "stomatitis allergica" - an allergic reaction,
  • “Stomatitis saturnine” - lead poisoning
  • as well as “stomatitis diphterica” - an inflammation of the oral mucosa and tonsils, which occurs in combination with diphtheria.

Stomatitis - causes

Stomatitis is as diverse as the causes, ranging from infections with viruses, bacteria or fungi (candida) to injuries, allergies and medication. There is often a basic disease that weakens the immune system and allows germs to penetrate unhindered. Bacteria settle especially when the oral mucosa is already damaged.

Typical non-infectious triggers are:

  • poor oral hygiene and subsequently caries, plaque and tartar,
  • Intolerance to antibiotics, oral hygiene products, medication or food,
  • Smoke,
  • Alcohol,
  • poor condition of the oral cavity due to deficiency conditions such as iron or vitamin deficiency,
  • Stimuli such as hard toothbrushes, incorrect brushing, very spicy or very acidic foods,
  • Acid burns,
  • Injuries,
  • Poisoning,
  • Burns,
  • systemic diseases such as intestinal inflammation, diabetes or leukemia,
  • Venereal diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea or AIDS,
  • psychosomatic factors like stress,
  • incorrectly positioned braces and / or dentures,
  • a dry mouth,
  • inflammation of the gums that turns into stomatitis.

Symptoms of stomatitis

Stomatitis is characterized by

  • Swollen and / or reddened gums as well as swollen or reddened oral mucosa,
  • Pain on contact,
  • Aphthae - ulcers on the oral mucosa - whitish with a red border,
  • sour bad breath,
  • sores on the palate, inner cheeks, tongue and inside of the lips,
  • Problems with food and fluid intake,
  • Burning mouth and tingling in the mouth,
  • Bleeding gums,
  • Loss of the top layer of mucous membrane,
  • Death of oral mucosa (necrosis),
  • dry mouth,
  • Bleeding from the oral mucosa,
  • Coating on the mucous membrane,
  • Pain in cheeks, teeth or ears,
  • Numbness,
  • Loss of taste,
  • Mucus,
  • high sensitivity to acidic, hot, cold and hot foods,
  • swollen lymph nodes,
  • Fever,
  • Swallowing problems.

Stomatitis - course

The course of stomatitis depends on the particular form. The following processes are typical for infectious stomatitis. It starts with a general feeling of sickness and chronic exhaustion. This is followed by a fever lasting up to five days, swelling of the lymph nodes on the neck and often swelling of the gums. Initially, the swelling is painless, but later the inside of the mouth becomes inflamed and vesicles form on the palate, tongue and gums, which, depending on the shape, can begin to fester. They burst and form ulcers and painful crusts in the mucous membrane. The gums become inflamed and bleed a little. The intake of food causes great pain and extreme bad breath and increased salivation. Infection with mouth rot takes up to three weeks to heal.


As soon as the first symptoms of stomatitis appear, it is advisable to consult a doctor or a doctor immediately so that the cause can be clarified and the disease can be treated. What you can do in any case: Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, spicy, hard or angular foods.

There are a variety of over-the-counter preparations available in the pharmacy to stop infection, relieve pain, and reduce swelling. Treatment of infectious stomatitis is usually based on relieving symptoms and pain by taking acetaminophen and ibuprofen, both of which reduce pain and keep fever low. To address ulcer pain directly, there are local anesthetics that you can use as a rinse, irrigator, or gel.

Prevent mouth sores

In order to prevent mouth rot and inflammation of the mouth, it is strongly recommended to practice thorough oral hygiene, which should include the following points:

  • Daily systematic brushing of teeth, which also covers peripheral areas,
  • Cleaning the interdental spaces with dental floss,
  • regular mouthwashes,
  • Clean the tongue with a tongue scraper so that there is no tongue coating on which microorganisms can adhere. If there is no scraper at hand, brush the tongue surface thoroughly with the toothbrush.

(Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • German Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases (ed.): DGPI Handbook: Infections in Children and Adolescents, Thieme, 7th completely revised edition, 2018
  • Merck & Co., Inc .: Stomatitis, Oral Mucositis (accessed: June 24, 2019), msdmanuals.com
  • German Society for Oral, Maxillofacial and Facial Surgery (DGMKG) / German Society for Dental, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (DGZMK): S2k guideline Diagnostics and treatment options for aphthae and aphthoid lesions of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa, as of November 2016, Guideline detail view
  • Austrian public health portal: Stomatitis (inflammation of the oral mucosa) (accessed: June 24, 2019), gesundheit.gv.at
  • Altenburg, Andreas / El-Haj, Nadine / Micheli, Christiana; u.a .: Treatment of chronic recurrent oral aphthae, Dtsch Arztebl Int 2014; 111 (40): 665-73; DOI: 10.3238 / arztebl.2014.0665, review

ICD codes for this disease: K12ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

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