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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition that affects more than 1 million people in the United States. Ulcerative colitis mouth sores often accompany IBD, making it important for patients with IBD to pay close attention to their oral health.

What Is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease is a general term that refers to the conditions of ulcerative colitis, irritable colon conditions and Crohn’s disease. These diseases have many symptoms that occur mainly in the colon or large intestines, including abdominal pain and diarrhea. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that nausea, headache, gas, fatigue, depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and joint pain are also common symptoms of IBD.

IBD is a disease of the alimentary canal, also known as the digestive tract. The alimentary canal is the channel for food and liquid processing that starts at the mouth and travels down the throat through the pharynx to the esophagus, leading to the stomach and intestine before ending at the rectum. (The Mayo Clinic offers a step-by-step guide to its inner workings.) IBD can affect all parts of the digestive tract at different levels and in different ways.

Many people do not know ulcerative colitis can also affect the oral mucosa (soft tissue, such as the cheeks and gums). The oral lesions IBD causes, called ulcerative canker sores, can result in pain and bad breath. Managing mouth sores as a symptom of IBD can help patients eat more comfortably and better manage their condition.

Ulcerative Colitis Mouth Sores

IBD manifests itself in the mouth as ulcerative colitis mouth sores, or aphthous ulcerations, which can be caused by both the condition itself and the medications that people may take for this condition, says Health Union. These ulcerations occur anywhere inside the mouth on the soft tissues, such as the cheek and gums, and generally last for seven to 10 days. Severe sores can last for several weeks.

Though they might not be as painful as ulcerative colitis mouth sores caused by the disease, people with IBD can also develop mouth sores from nutritional deficiencies. If the pain and symptoms of IBD make it difficult to eat, patients can be at risk for malnutrition. A lack of B vitamins in particular can cause mouth sores and swelling, notes Health Union.

Treatment and Care

To prevent oral lesions avoid any foods that might exacerbate your symptoms. These can vary from person to person, but might include anything acidic like citrus fruits or sharp and crunchy like chips and pretzels. Brushing twice daily and maintaining good oral care may help to keep your mouth clean and free of sores.

If you do notice a sore, try to keep it as clean as possible to avoid infections from food particles or bacteria buildup. Staying well hydrated, avoiding hot liquids and spicy foods and using an antibacterial mouthwash may all help manage the discomfort of sores when they flare up.

People who experience mouth sores related to IBD can visit their dentist to monitor their size and severity. If you have any digestive condition, talk to your dentist and doctor to find a whole body and whole mouth treatment plan that works for you.