Potential Causes For Red Discoloration In The Mouth's Soft Tissues

Posted on: 20 July 2015

Red discoloration in the soft tissues of your mouth can have a variety of causes that range from so minor no treatment is required to a potential sign of oral cancer. So it's important to visit your dentist as soon as possible when a red patch or sore appears on your soft tissue. Here are a few of the potential causes and the treatments dentists can provide.

Canker Sores

Do you have sores on your soft tissue that have a red discoloration around the rim? These are likely canker sores, which are entirely different from cold sores, which appear on the lips and are a symptom of herpes.

The cause of canker sores is unknown, but having an immunological condition will make you more prone to recurrences. Canker sores don't require treatment and should clear up in a matter of days. You can take an over-the-counter pain reliever while you wait. Avoid eating any acidic foods that can further irritate the sores.

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth occurs when an infection takes hold in the root of the tooth between the tooth itself and the gums. This infection can cause the gums to swell or to simply become quite red.

Your dentist will give you an antibiotic to clear up the infection. If the gum is simply red, the redness will go away on its own as the infection leaves. Red and swollen gums might require draining to remove any infected material.

It's important to catch an abscessed tooth early so that the infected material doesn't open a fistula, or a pathway through the jawbone or soft tissue, which can spread the infectious material throughout your body.


Do you have a red patch on the inside of your cheek that feels a bit like velvet to the touch? You likely have erythroplakia, which is a precancerous condition. Not every case of erythroplakia turns into cancer, but over half of all cases become squamous cell carcinoma. Tobacco and alcohol abuse increase the risk of developing the patch.

There's no treatment required for erythroplakia if it isn't causing pain. Your dentist and general doctor will want to monitor the patch to make sure it isn't progressing. Surgery might be scheduled if the patch is causing discomfort.

Note that there's a similar condition that presents with both red and white patches. This is called erythroleukoplakia, and while it is also a precancerous condition requiring monitoring, there's less risk of this developing into cancer than with erythroplakia. If you have a concern about a mouth sore of any kind, contact a dentist like Claremont Dental Institute.