Canker sores can cause a great deal of pain and are one of the most common oral sores that people experience. They are medically known as aphthous ulcers and they can appear on the inside of the lips, cheeks, tongue and gums. Although they tend to disappear by themselves in a week or two, the time that they are present is made miserable since they can be painful and make eating and talking unpleasant.
Canker sores are not contagious, but they are most certainly annoying. When they are beginning you may notice a tingling, stinging or burning sensation on the site. They generally pop before they disappear completely and leave a whitish or yellowish shallow wound before fully healing. Most people will develop them when their immune systems are a little run down, and although they are generally harmless, some people also experience low-grade fever or lethargy alongside the canker sores.
Doctors have not been able to agree on definite causes of the condition, but here are some of the reasons it is thought that they appear:
Many people in the medical profession believe that canker sores appear when your immune system has been compromised. It is thought that stress can also be a big factor in leading to canker sores developing inside the mouth. When your immune system is not in peak condition, it may be that your body attacks healthy cells in the mouth and the result is a blister.
Certain Dental Products
SLS, which is a foaming agent commonly used in commercial dental products, may cause canker sores since it is an irritant. Some people seem to be more sensitive to SLS than others. Try to avoid buying dental products that contain this ingredient to be on the safe side.
Sometimes if you experience some trauma to the soft tissue inside the mouth, it may lead to canker sores. Abrasions from braces or dentures, accidentally biting your cheek or burning your mouth with hot foods may also lead to these sores.
Other Proposed Causes
Here are some other potential causes of mouth ulcers:
- Lack of vitamin B12, zinc or folic acid in your diet
- Food sensitivities towards certain foods such as chocolate, coffee, pineapple, strawberries, eggs or cheese
- Certain bacteria present in your mouth
- Hormonal changes in women during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause
- Certain medical conditions such as celiac disease, Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis.
Generally, you do not need to take medications in order to treat canker sores; they tend to go away by themselves. However, they can be sore, inflamed and even painful, and you may wish to seek out a treatment for the condition to make it more comfortable for you when you eat or talk. There are some medicated topical gels that you can use to reduce the pain and inflammation of the sores.
Who Develops Canker Sores?
Just about everyone will experience canker sores at some point during their lives. It is thought, however, that women tend to experience them more often than men, since hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle may prompt their appearance. Some people with certain medical conditions find themselves more likely to develop canker sores than other people. Such conditions may include diabetes and Crohns disease. If your immune system is not as strong as it could be due to diet, stress or medical conditions, you might find that you develop these mouth ulcers reasonably often.
Although they are sometimes confused with cold sores or fever blisters, canker sores are not contagious.
How Do I Tell If I Have Canker Sores?
Just before a canker sore appears you might notice some burning, tingling or stinging around the site. If you look in the mirror you might see a whitish or greyish sore with red outlines. The sores can be very painful and inflamed and at times people also experience some fever or fatigue.
The sores can be very tiny or they can grow to become about the size of a pea. These ulcers usually clear up on their own within a week or two without leaving any scars. However, if you are worried about them or the pain is causing you distress, then you should visit your doctor or pharmacist for advice about what treatment to use.
How Can I Prevent Canker Sores?
There are a few different things that you can do in order to prevent canker sores from appearing:
- Avoid foods that can irritate your mouth such as spicy foods, acidic vegetables, and citrus fruits.
- Remove all leftover food particles from your mouth by brushing and flossing your teeth daily.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid any mouth injury.
- Prevent dry mouth by drinking plenty of water.
Treatments For Canker Sores
There are various ways in which you can treat canker sores and reduce the pain, soreness and discomfort associated with them. If possible it is best to know what the underlying cause of the condition is in order to be able to choose the most effective form of treatment and to prevent them from recurring. However, there are a number of tips that can help you to ensure your oral health is best looked after and minimize the chances of developing these sores.
Oral Hygiene Routine
Make sure that you are following a good oral hygiene routine at home in order to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth that can cause infections or sores. This should include brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing and using a mouthwash.
Some people brush their teeth too vigorously or use toothbrushes with hard bristles, which can damage sensitive gum tissue. Make sure that you are brushing gently, using the right technique. If you are not confident with how to do this, you should ask your dentist. And use products that are free from alcohol and sodium lauryl sulphate.
You can get some medications that can be applied topically to the canker sore in order to relieve pain and inflammation. It is best to talk to your pharmacist about which medication might be appropriate for you.
In addition to the topical gels available through your pharmacist, there are some medicated mouthwashes that may be able to relieve discomfort from canker sores and can even prevent them from occurring again.
Rinsing your mouth out with a saltwater solution two or three times each day can help to reduce the pain and inflammation of mouth ulcers. You can make this rinse by placing a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water and stirring. Simply swill it around in your mouth for a minute or so and then spit it out. Alternatively, you can make a mouthwash with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water mixed together. This has antiseptic properties, which can help to get rid of the mouth ulcers more quickly.
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