Canker Sores

Canker sores, also called ‘mouth ulcers’ or ‘aphthous ulcers’, are small sores that occur inside the mouth, especially on the tongue, the inside of the lips, or cheeks. The typical lesion is a small, oval to round ulcer, grayish or yellowish in color with a red border. Depending on the diameter of the lesion, two types of canker sores are diagnosed – minor and major ones. The small canker sores vary between 0.1 and 0.4 inches in size. The major ones are quite large and extremely painful. Usually, one is attacked by a single canker sore, but sometimes the lesions are multiple and form a cluster. Such a condition of multiple, major, or recurring canker sores, is called ‘Aphthous Stomatitis or ‘Suttons’ Disease’. It is important to note that canker sores are not contagious.

Causes of Canker Sores
Canker sores typically attack the young, whites, females, and nonsmokers. Higher socioeconomic status may also increase the risk of getting canker sores. The exact causes of this condition are not discovered yet, but most doctors and researchers suggest a large number of risk factors, both hereditary and environmental. The list of those includes: small oral traumas caused by dental injections and toothbrushes; hormonal changes near the time of the menstrual cycle; overreaction to the Streptococcus bacteria; stress and anxiety; smoking cessation; and some drugs and beta-blockers. Canker sores may be also caused by allergies and various food sensitivities such as sensitivity to gluten. Toothpastes, especially those that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, may also cause the development of canker sores. Deficiency of cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12), iron or folic acid is yet another cause. Finally, canker sores may develop as a result of various infections and disease, such as AIDS, Crohn disease, and other inflammatory bowel diseases. The Behcet Disease is also associated with canker sores.

Interestingly, some vegetables and fruits are also associated with the condition. Among them are pineapples, lemons, tomatoes, figs, oranges, and strawberries. Dental appliances, sharp tooth surfaces, and ill-fitting dentures may also cause canker sores to develop.

Two types can be differentiated: simple and complex canker sores. The simple type appears between 3 and 4 times a year and lasts for about a week. It usually occurs in children and young adults aged 10 to 20. Complex canker sores are not as common and occur in persons who have already had them.

Canker Sores and Medical Treatment
In most cases, canker sores will go away on their own in a few days. Otherwise, you should consult your dentist, physician, or pharmacist and ask for treatment options. Various treatments are available. Silver nitrate and Debacterol are two medications that work in a very similar way. Applied directly to the lesion, Silver nitrate and Debacterol result in rapid relief of pain. They both will heal the canker sore in three to five days. Keep in mind that Debacterol only has to be applied once.

The list of medications which your doctor can prescribe includes: Triamcinolone Acetonide Dental Paste, Viscous lidocaine, Thalidomide, or Vitamin B12, folic acid or iron supplements if they are in insufficient amounts in your blood.

Canker Sores and Home Remedies
Apart from the prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, you can try a number of home-made remedies. For example, you can rinse your mouth with a solution of 1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in a cup of water. If that doesn’t work, you can apply tincture or tea of Mahonia aquifolium root or Spilanthes acmella flower, or Alchemilla vulgaris leaf topically to the lesions. Another option is to mix powder of Myrtus communis leaves with water and apply the mixture to the lesion.


The information provided in this article does not constitute medical advice and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. If you have a health problem you should consult a licensed physician.

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