Canker sores, or medically aphthous ulcers, are small shallow lesions found only inside your mouth.  Canker sores are fairly common, 30% of all people will have a canker sore at some point in their life.  Anyone can get a canker sore, however, 10 to 20 year olds are more susceptible to having canker sores.

Canker sores are not contagious.  Canker sores are also not cold sores.  Cold sores (also called fever blisters) appear on the lips and are caused by a virus and are extremely contagious.  Cold sores typically appear outside the mouth.

Cankers sores are white or yellowish ulcers surrounded by red.  Usually small but can be up to an inch in diameter.

The good news, canker sores generally heal on their own in a week or two.  The bad news, they hurt and can make talking, eating or drinking a real pain.


Causes Of Canker Sores:

One of the most common causes of canker sores seems to be stress.

  • Emotional Stress.
  • Dehydration
  • Physical trauma to your mouth.  Accidental cheek biting or getting hit in the mouth.
  • Toothpaste or mouthwash that contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
  • Food allergies:  spicy foods, acidic foods, oranges, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, tomatoes, chocolate or coffee.
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal Shifts
  • Recent bacterial or viral infection. Or a compromised immune system.
  • Medical Conditions – Inflammatory bowel, Crohn’s or HIV
  • Some medications – beta blockers, nicorandil or chemotherapy drugs.


Treatment for Canker Sores:

There is no cure for canker sores only treatments to help with the symptoms.  Canker sores generally heal on their own in 10 days.  If canker sores keep reoccurring it could be a sign of a medical condition and you should see your doctor or dentist to get some professional help.

If you have canker sores accompanied with fever, swollen lymph nodes or lesions that will not heal get medical help!

If you smoke or chew tobacco you need to check these sores for cancer.

  • Rinse your mouth with salt water.
  • Apply mouth numbing OTC medicine like Ora Gel or Anbesol.
  • Swish Benadryl like mouthwash and spit out.
  • Use equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water and apply to the sores.
  • Avoid spicy foods.  A food diary can help you determine any trigger foods.
  • A Dentist can prescribe an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
  • A Doctor can prescribe an antibiotic tetracycline or an antiviral medicine.


Canker Sore Prevention:

Canker sores commonly reoccur in those that are predisposed.

Tips to help prevent episodes:

  • Brush and floss regularly.
  • Use a soft toothbrush.
  • Protect your mouth.  If you wear braces or play sports wear a mouth guard.
  • Avoid sharp food like potato chips.
  • Do not talk while chewing food to help prevent cheek biting.
  • Avoid toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and/or sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS).
  • Avoid mouthwashes with benzydamine hydrochloride.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Improve nutrition.  Eat a healthy well balanced diet.  Supplement B12, zinc, iron and folic acid.


If you have ever experienced a canker sore, then you know how painful they can be.  Once you are out of your 20’s canker sores generally go away.  Hopefully, the above information will help you deal with any canker sores you may experience.


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