What are canker sores? Also called aphthous ulcers, canker sores are round or oval sores that occur in the mouth, usually inside the lip, cheeks, floor of the mouth or on the tongue. They may appear white or red, raw and very tender.
Canker sores are different from cold sores as cold sores are due to a virus, and canker sores may be due to irritation, stress or other underlying reasons. Approximately one out of 10 people have recurrent aphthous ulcers, or canker sores.
- Trauma or irritation
- Stress and anxiety (2)
- Dietary reasons
- Underlying systemic health issues
They are different than cold sores, as canker sores are not caused due to the herpes virus. There may be serious underlying health problems that can cause you to develop frequent canker sores. See “Dangers and Health Risks” for information about underlying health problems that may cause canker sores. Learn more about periodontal disease causes and 100% pure liquid toothpaste at Trusted Health Products.
Canker sores are usually smaller than cold sores, only taking up about three to six millimeters of space. They are round or oval with a red or raw appearance. If you have multiple canker sores or canker sores in the throat, it is most likely due to a virus such as the strain that causes cold sores.
Most aphthous ulcers or canker sores are tender and typically last 10 to 14 days. Canker sores on the tongue, canker sores in your mouth, under the tongue, or on the lips are all normal locations. Concerns arise when the canker sores or aphthous ulcers are frequent, recurring or chronic.
- Gluten intolerance
- Celiac disease (3)
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable Bowel Disease
- Nutritional deficiency
- Behcet’s Syndrome
- Drug induced (Fosamax, beta-blockers, NSAIDS)
If you have a condition such as gluten intolerance, your canker sores may be a natural warning to alert you to alter your diet.
Preventing canker sores is important for people who have problems with developing aphthous ulcers on a frequent basis. The best way to manage and limit your canker sore outbreaks include:
- Addressing nutritional deficiencies (iron, vitamin B, folate). Here are some more things to know about oral health nutrition.
- Using an antimicrobial mouth rinse such as one that contains essential oil to manage bacteria in the mouth
- Addressing dietary needs such as avoiding gluten
- Managing stress and anxiety
- Improving your immune system through diet, exercise and adequate rest
- Avoid trigger foods (gluten, citrus).
- Use an antimicrobial rinse, such as one that contains an essential oil.
- Apply healing essential oils to the area using a cotton swab. (5)
- Apply Aloe Vera gel to the wound. (6)
- Rinse with a solution containing milk of magnesia and liquid antihistamine for topical pain relief. Do not swallow.
- Dab the ulcer with a cotton swab soaked in one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water.
- Rinse with salt water solution and cover canker sore with baking soda.
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- Ferraz EG, Campos Ede J, Sarmento VA, Silva LRThe Oral Manifestations Of Celiac Disease: Information For The Pediatric Dentist.; Pediatr Dent. 2012 Nov-Dec;34(7):485-8.
- Zand N, Fateh M, Ataie-Fashtami L, Djavid GE, Fatemi SM, Shirkavand A.; Promoting Wound Healing In Minor Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis By Non-Thermal, Non-Ablative CO(2) Laser Therapy: A Pilot Study.; Photomed Laser Surg. 2012 Dec;30(12):719-23. doi: 10.1089/pho.2012.3301. Epub 2012 Oct 31.
- Altaei DT.; Topical Lavender Oil For The Treatment Of Recurrent Aphthous Ulceration.; Am J Dent. 2012 Feb;25:39-43.
- Babaee N, Zabihi E, Mohseni S, Moghadamnia AA.; Evaluation Of The Therapeutic Effects Of Aloe Vera Gel On Minor Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis.; Dent Res J (Isfahan). 2012 Jul;9(4):381-5.
- 1Altenburg A, Micheli CK, Maldini C, Mahr A, Puttkammer M, Zouboulis CC.; [Clinical Aspects And Treatment Of Recurrent Aphthous Ulcers
Article Reviewed By Dr. Lara Coseo
Lara T. Coseo, DDS, is a 2004 graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry. She has 13 years of experience practicing general dentistry. She currently serves as a part-time faculty instructor at Texas A&M College of Dentistry and writes dental website content and blog material. Website / LinkedIn