Physical Traits

Mouth Ulcers – Are They in Your Genes?

Mouth ulcers are common sores found inside your mouth. How likely you are to experience them may be linked to your genetics. Learn more.

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Mouth ulcers are common oral sores that can cause pain, redness, and swelling on the inner lips, gums, tongue, or roof of your mouth. Although nearly ¼ of people will have a mouth ulcer, or other oral health issue, at some point in their life, the likelihood of experiencing these issues may be in your genetics.

There is no doubt that mouth ulcers are more than just a random annoyance. They can be pretty painful and affect your eating habits and daily life, especially if they don’t respond well to treatment.

Understanding how genetics can contribute to mouth ulcers and other oral inflammatory diseases (OIDs) is necessary to understanding your risk of developing them and provide you with helpful information on treatment and prevention techniques. 

Let’s discuss the tie between genetics and mouth ulcers in further detail. 

What are mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers are small sores that form in the small tissue lining of the mouth. They can be found on the gums, lips, cheeks, tongue, and palate. 

It is important to note that mouth ulcers differ from cold sores caused by a virus found outside the mouth. 

Mouth ulcers are typically red around the edges with a yellow, gray, or white center. 

Mouth ulcers can develop for a variety of reasons and can affect anyone at any age. 


Aside from their identifiable appearance, mouth ulcers can cause:


Although the exact cause of mouth ulcers is still unknown, various factors can contribute to their development, including:

Are Mouth Ulcers Contagious?

No, mouth ulcers are not contagious. They cannot spread from mouth to mouth by direct contact from kissing or sharing food.

Mouth Ulcers & Health Conditions

Although they are rarely serious and heal in about one to two weeks, a long-lasting mouth ulcer is sometimes a sign of more severe disease. 

Some conditions that are directly linked to mouth ulcers include:

How Do Genes Increase Your Risk of Developing Mouth Ulcers?

In the last decade, twin, family, candidate gene, and genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have suggested the involvement of many loci, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or genes in OIDs. 

Growing evidence has suggested that genetic factors that regulate immune and inflammatory conditions may play an important role in the occurrence and susceptibility of oral inflammatory diseases like mouth ulcers.

Given that immune-related genetic factors may have a profound effect on the occurrence of OIDs and that the regulation of the immune system is often broad and systematic, it was hypothesized that pleiotropic loci might also affect multiple oral inflammatory traits.

In this study researchers analyzed the summary statistics of genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of the following five dental traits from the UK Biobank1:

Each GWAS comprised over 10,000 cases and over 300,000 controls. 

In the joint analyses, 36 independent loci reached the GWS threshold for the five traits. Among these included a variety single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) along multipl locations—including one SNP that is associated with the regulation of inflammatory response (and could cause more inflammation).2

Multiple studies have investigated the association between the gene the risk of periodontitis (gum disease).  However, no associations were observed between this gene and the traits of bleeding gum and loose teeth, which are also important manifestations of periodontitis. 

Therefore, it is likely that a subgroup of oral inflammatory diseases with this specific gene (IL10) defects may exist.

This study had several limitations similar to other GWASs. 

It was unclear whether significant differences in other factors like behavioral, lifestyle, or environmental factors may have influenced results.

How Do I Know If My Genes Play a Role in Mouth Ulcer Development? 

DNA analysis might be the best way to determine your genetic tendency for mouth ulcers.

A DNA testing kit is simple to use, and your genetic DNA testing results can reveal many answers to the questions you may have about recurring or long-lasting mouth ulcers.

Once you’ve taken an at-home DNA test, you can use your raw DNA file to analyze your genetic profile further. 

Simply sign in to the Genomelink dashboard to upload your DNA file, and our experts will do the rest.

Don’t wait another day; Unlock your full genetic potential today!


2What they found for mouth ulcers was 31 independent loci were identified, which include single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs3024490 in the IL-10 gene, rs7574070 in the STAT4 gene, rs150383292, rs4235479 in the PDE4D gene, rs968155, rs9399953 in the LOC105377923 gene, rs7749390 in the IFNGR1 gene, rs1800973 in the LYZ gene, rs2066844 in the NOD2 gene and rs913678. The IL-10 is strongly involved in the downregulation of the inflammatory response. Thus, low IL-10 levels could lead to more inflammation. 

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