Canker Sores: Causes, Home Remedies, Treatments and Prevention

Canker sores – also known as aphthous ulcers or aphthous stomatitis – are small and painful ulcers or sores that occur inside the mouth. Canker sores can form on the inside of the lips or cheeks, but can also occur on the tongue or in the throat. They often appear white, yellow or grey in color with a red, inflamed border. They can cause a tingling or prickling sensation and can be so painful that they impact chewing, swallowing and speaking.

Canker sores are not the same thing as cold sores. Cold sores occur on the exterior of the mouth – usually on the lips – and are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores are often contagious. Canker sores are not contagious.

Causes: Canker sores can be caused by a variety of things including injury to the mouth from vigorous tooth brushing, dental work, braces, sports injury or even dentures. Acidic foods, food allergies, certain vitamin deficiencies (including b12, zinc, folate and iron), hormones, stress, gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s or celiac disease, and some autoimmune diseases can also cause canker sores. Certain medications such as aspirin, NSAIDS, beta blockers, chemotherapy, bronchodilators, antibiotics and other medicines can also cause canker sores. Other conditions such as the common cold, flu, lupus and even oral cancer can cause these painful sores, as well.

Home remedies: Several simple home remedies can ease canker sore pain and speed healing. Application of ice, honey or a small amount of milk of magnesia can ease discomfort. Rinsing with a baking soda and warm water solution may help, as well.

Other treatments: If canker sores are a frequent problem for you, your oral health care provider may offer prescription medication such as an antimicrobial mouth rinse, an antibiotic, a corticosteroid treatment or a prescription mouthwash. Your dentist or orthodontist may also recommend over-the-counter medications such as benzocaine, fluocinonide or a hydrogen peroxide rinse. Consult your oral health care provider for suggestions.

Prevention: In order to effectively prevent canker sores, you need to have an idea of what causes them for you in the first place. If anxiety causes your sores, consider stress reduction methods and calming techniques to help you manage your stress. If certain spicy or acidic foods trigger a reaction, consider reducing the frequency of those items in your diet. If your sores are caused by an underlying health condition, orthodontics, dental issues or other factors, talk to your doctor about how to manage the sores and the discomfort.

In most cases, canker sores will resolve in within about two weeks. An over the counter treatment or prescription may speed healing and provide comfort. In some cases, canker sores are accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, weight loss and an infection in the mouth of throat. If you experience any of these more concerning symptoms, contact your doctor, as this may indicate a more serious health concern.

Dental care doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Whether you’re experiencing canker sores or other dental health issues, don’t be afraid to talk to your oral health care provider to find relief. To learn more about painless dental procedures, visit to find a DentalVibe dentist near you.

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