Canker sores (also called aphthous ulcers or aphthous stomatitis) are commonly found, small and painful ulcers that form inside the mouth, usually occurring on the tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, or lips, and the throat.
What Causes Canker Sores?
- Mouth injuries, including biting the inside of the lip, vigorous tooth brushing, or braces rubbing against the cheek
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a common ingredient in toothpastes and mouthwashes
- Nutritional deficiencies including low vitamin B12, iron, folate, or zinc
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle
- Immune system problems
- Sensitivity to chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, or spicy or acidic foods
- Certain medical conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- A weakened immune system such as HIV/AIDS
- Certain medications
What Are Symptoms of Canker Sores?
Canker sores are oral ulcers with a characteristic appearance:
- Round or oval shape
- Red rim
- Yellow colored fluid in center
- Size varies from smaller than 1 mm to larger than 1 cm
- Lesions usually start as a pinpoint-sized bump and develop into an ulcer over 1 to 2 days, reaching their largest size in 3 to 4 days before beginning to heal
They may have a burning or tingling feeling as they develop, and are often painful once the ulcer forms.
How Do I Get Rid of Canker Sores?
Canker sores usually go away on their own within 2 weeks. The goal of treatment for canker sores is to relieve pain, speed healing, and decrease their recurrence.
Treatment for canker sores includes:
- Pain medicines
- Topical anesthetics
- Topical corticosteroids for mild to moderate canker sores
- Topical antibiotics (mouth rinses, gels, or pastes) to control secondary infection
- Vitamins and dietary supplements if there are diagnosed nutritional deficiencies (e.g., vitamin B12, folate, iron, zinc)
- Proper oral hygiene
- Avoid behaviors that can injure the mouth
- Don’t bite the inside of the lips or cheeks
- Avoid foods that trigger sores
- Reduce sharp or rough edges on braces and dental restorations
For severe cases of canker sores that do not respond to traditional therapies, treatments may include:
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