Canker sores are usually painful sores inside your mouth. Stress, minor injury, acidic fruits and vegetables, and hot spicy foods could trigger the development of canker sore.

Canker sores are studied to be among the most common types of oral lesions that affect about 20% of people. It has also been seen that women get canker sores more often than men. Canker sore susceptibility might be inherited, and the condition is observed to run in families.

Here we discuss more about canker sores and tip to prevent them.

What is Canker Sore?

Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are shallow, small lesions that develop on the soft tissues inside your mouth or at the base of your gums. Unlike cold sores, canker sores do not occur on the surface of your lips. These sores are not contagious. They can be painful and can make eating and talking difficult.

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Most canker sores go away on their own in a couple of weeks. Check with your doctor if you have unusually large or painful canker sores that do not seem to heal.

These sores are small ulcers that occur in the lining of your mouth. Or you can understand it as a shallow open wound in the mouth. Canker sores start as white to a yellowish ulcer that is surrounded by redness. They are usually tiny, less than 1 mm, but may enlarge to one inch in diameter. 

Canker sores are very painful and often make eating and talking uncomfortable. There are mainly two types of canker sores:

1 Minor sore measure from 3 to 10 mm and are the most common type of canker sore. Lesions usually last 10 to 14 days and heal faster without scarring.

2 Major sores are larger and deeper than minor sores. They often have an irregular border and a diameter of about 10 mm. Major canker sores typically take weeks to months to heal and could leave a scar after healing.

3 Herpetiform sores are characterized by multiple sores that occur in large groups. These are small of 2-3 mm ulcers, but there may be as many as 100 ulcers present simultaneously. They tend to heal without scarring.

What Causes Canker Sore?

The exact cause of most canker sores is unknown. Stress or minor injuries inside your mouth might cause simple canker sores. Some citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables like oranges, lemons, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, strawberries can trigger a canker sore.

If you use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, it could cause sores. Sometimes your sharp tooth surface or dental appliances like braces or ill-fitting dentures might also trigger the sore.

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Some cases of complex canker sores are noticed in patients with diseases of the immune system. These diseases include Behcet’s disease, lupus, inflammatory bowel diseases, and AIDS. 

Patients with nutritional problems also have canker sores. Nutritional problems could include a deficiency in vitamin B-12, folic acid, zinc, or iron.

What are the Symptoms of Canker Sore?

You may have a canker sore if you have the following symptoms:

  • Sores inside your mouth are painful – on your tongue, inside your cheeks, and on the soft palate(the back portion of the roof of your mouth). They can also appear on the base of the gums.  
  • A burning or tingling sensation prior to the appearance of the sores.
  • Sores in your mouth are white, round, or gray, with a red edge or border.

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You may also experience fever, swollen lymph nodes, and physical sluggishness if you have severe attacks. 

Canker Sores vs. Cold Sores

Canker and cold sores are not the same. Although these sores are often confused with each other, they are different. 

Cold sores are called fever blisters or herpes simplex type 1 – are groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are caused by a virus, and are highly contagious. An infection does not cause canker sore and neither are they contagious.

Another significant difference, cold sores appear outside your mouth. They are usually seen under your nose, around your lips, or under your chin. But canker sores show up inside your mouth.

Canker Sore Treatment

If you have pain from a canker sore, it will get better in a few days. The sores will also heal without treatment in about a week or two. Simple over-the-counter products can be taken to ease symptoms.

Treatment for long-lasting, large, or unusually painful sores might help reduce the pain and irritation. These include:

Mouthwashes. Mouthwashes can be effective, especially if your doctor prescribes a rinse that contains a steroid or a painkiller.

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Topical medications. Your doctor might prescribe a topical medication containing a steroid for the inflammation. A prescribed topical analgesic like lidocaine will help to relieve pain. Aphthasol, a prescription ointment known as an “oral paste,” might reduce pain and healing time.

Oral medications. The ulcer drug sucralfate and the gout drug colchicine can also treat canker sores successfully. Or your doctor might give you steroid pills.

Nutritional supplements. In case a nutrient deficiency is causing your canker sores, then you might need supplements.   

Cautery. Dental lasers can be helpful and make you feel better right away. Your doctor can also cauterize sores using chemicals like silver nitrate or debacterol.

Natural or Home Remedies That Cure Canker Sore

In most cases, canker sores heal on their own and do not require any treatment. Moreover, there is nothing specific you need to do to get rid of a canker sore. You can try these home remedies as they can be used to help relieve the pain and inflammation caused by the sore.

If a canker sore has already erupted, these home remedies can help relieve the pain or irritation caused by the sore and speed up the healing. 

Home Remedies

Follow these tips:

1 Apply topical medications directly on the sore. Mouthwashes and oral medications can also relieve pain or inflammation.

2 You can use ice chips to dissolve slowly in your mouth for relief of pain.

3 Sat no to acidic foods such as citrus fruits or spicy foods that could aggravate the sore.

4 If you have a vitamin deficiency, take supplementation as prescribed by your doctor.

5 Use a brush with soft bristles and brush your teeth gently.

6 Use mouthwash and toothpaste that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate.

7 Another easy home remedy is to mix milk of magnesia with Benadryl liquid and use it as a mouth rinse. You can also dab milk of magnesia directly onto the canker sore using a cotton swab.

8 You can also rinse your mouth with salt water or baking soda rinse. Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda in half a cup of water and rinse.  

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9 Other natural remedies you might have heard of are goldenseal mouth rinse, deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) gargled in warm water, and saltwater rinses.

10 Zinc lozenges might also help relief and speed healing time. Never give lozenges to young children, as they might get choked.

11 You can take Vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and lysine orally when lesions first appear and might help speed healing.

12 Use as a mouthwash four to six times daily that contains infused sage and chamomile herbs in water. 

13 The herb Echinacea is also known to help speed healing

14 Celery, carrot, and cantaloupe juices might also be helpful.

Consult your doctor before using any home remedy, as many have not been scientifically tested or proven effective.

Complications of Canker Sores

If you leave your canker sore untreated for a few weeks, you may experience other, more serious complications. These could include discomfort or pain while talking, eating, or brushing your teeth. Moreover, you might feel fatigued, have a fever or have cellulitis. You could also notice the sores spreading outside of your mouth. 

You should visit your doctor if your sore is causing you unbearable pain or if it is interfering with your daily routine. Moreover, if home remedies do not work, your doctor will suggest the best treatment plan. 

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Also, contact your doctor even if these complications happen within a week of the sore developing. If you notice a bacterial infection, it can spread and create more serious issues. So it is important to stop a possible bacterial cause of a canker sore quickly.

Tips to Prevent Canker Sore

There is no known cure for canker sores, but they often come back. You can easily prevent the recurrence of canker sores by avoiding foods that might have previously triggered the outbreak. But you might get them less often if you follow these tips:

  • Avoid foods that irritate your mouth. They could include acidic vegetables, citrus fruits, and spicy foods. You should also avoid foods that cause allergy symptoms, like an itchy mouth, a swollen tongue, or hives.
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush to brush your teeth after meals. Floss daily, which will keep your mouth free of foods that might trigger a sore.
  • If your canker sore pops up due to stress, you should use stress reduction methods and calming techniques. These techniques could include deep breathing and meditation.
  • Practice good oral health and use a soft toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums and soft tissue.
  • Discuss with your doctor to determine if you have any specific mineral or vitamin deficiencies. They can help design a customized diet plan and prescribe supplements if you need them.

Seek medical care if you cannot eat or drink or your canker sore has not healed within three weeks.