Important announcement concerning Temple Health and Keystone First. Our provider agreement with Keystone First is scheduled to end on July 31st. Click the link below to learn about your options for continuing care at Temple Health.

Learn More
800-TEMPLE-MED Schedule Appointment

Oral Lesions

What Are Oral Lesions?

Oral lesions are mouth ulcers or sores, which may be painful. They can include abnormal cell growth and rare tongue and hard-palate (roof of mouth) disorders.

Types and causes include:

  • Fever blisters – These contagious, often painful blisters on lips, gums or the roof of your mouth can last five to 10 days. They’re due to herpes simplex virus activated by fever, stress, trauma, hormones or sunlight. They can spread to eyes and genitalia, or to other people.
  • Canker sores – These painful red or white sores on your tongue, mouth, lips and cheeks can be caused by stress, trauma, irritation or diet.
  • Leukoplakia – These are thick, whitish patches on cheeks, gums or tongue that can lead to cancer. They can be caused by tobacco, dental work or cheek-biting.
  • Candidiasis – This is a yeast infection caused by dentures, dry mouth, antibiotics or a weak immune system.
  • Hairy tongue – Poor hygiene, irritation or smoking can cause abnormally long taste buds.
  • Torus palatinus – Teeth-grinding or dentures may cause a bony growth on the roof of your mouth (hard palate).
  • Oral cancer – Symptoms include a white or red patch or chronic mouth, lip or tongue ulcers.


Get regular screenings, and tell your doctor about symptoms, especially non-healing wounds. Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Blisters
  • Ulcers
  • Sores, patches, growths or injuries
  • Hairy tongue
  • Bony growth on roof of mouth

Potentially Cancerous Symptoms

  • Chronic hoarseness
  • White or red patches on cheeks, gums or tongue
  • Tongue or floor-of-mouth ulcer
  • Neck or mouth lump
  • Pain or trouble swallowing, speaking or chewing
  • Numbness
  • Non-healing sore or pain, growths or changes

Treatment Options

Experts recommend oral screenings if you’re a cancer patient or have a weak immune system – especially if you smoke or drink alcohol. Your doctor may take tissue samples.

Treatments include:

  • Canker sores – Topical pastes can help. Manage stress, trauma or irritation, and avoid nuts or acidic foods.
  • Fever blisters – There is no cure, but you can use antiviral ointment. Despite precautions, you can still spread herpes.
  • Leukoplakia – Your doctor may take samples and advise prevention, since leukoplakia can cause cancer. You may also see a dental specialist.
  • Candidiasis – Dry-mouth solutions, medication and diet changes can help.
  • Hairy tongue Stop tobacco-use. Therapy may address dental hygiene and care.
  • Torus palatinus – Your doctor may refer you to a dentist.
  • Oral cancer – You may require surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of oral lesions, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat oral lesions.