Based on how excruciating they can be, canker sores are something we all want to try to avoid. Unfortunately, despite how careful you might be in regard to your oral health, canker sores are sometimes unavoidable. In this article, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician, explains what canker sores are, as well as offers information on home remedies to help you find relief from these annoying and painful lesions.
Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small, painful sores that can be found anywhere inside of the mouth – such as the lips, gums, tongue, or throat. They often appear as a small white or yellow oval-shaped ulcer and will sometimes have a red border surrounding them. If you have canker sore, you may find it difficult to eat, drink, or even speak.
As for what causes canker sores, there are many reasons. You can develop canker sores as a result of a viral infection, injury to the mouth, biting of the tongue or cheek, vigorous tooth-brushing, food allergies, and even stress. If you get repeated canker sores, this may also be an indicator that you have certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid. Other times, the cause of canker sores is simply unknown. Pain from a canker sore typically subsides after approximately one week, although canker sores can take anywhere from 10 to 15 days to fully heal on their own. Fortunately, there are certain home remedies that you can try to help relieve yourself from the pain as well as speed up the healing process.
The first thing to do if you develop a canker sore is to remember not to poke it or try to pop it in any way. Not only will this make the pain worse, but it also puts you at risk of developing an infection. In most cases, canker sores simply have to take their course, and there isn’t anything you can do, specifically, to get rid of them immediately. That being said, when it comes to relieving pain, dentists and physicians often recommend applying Orajel to the affected area. This will numb the mouth and give you temporary relief. If you’re concerned about getting an infection, rinsing the mouth with mouthwash can work as a great antibacterial agent as well as reduce inflammation and numb the area. However, make sure the mouthwash you’re using is non-alcohol based as well as void of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, as this particular ingredient has been known to cause mouth sores in some individuals. Baking soda has also been used as an effective home remedial treatment against canker sores for decades. Simply mix baking soda with a small amount of water to create a paste, applying it to the affected area at least three times per day. Alternatively, you can also gargle or rinse the mouth with water and baking soda. Baking soda has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will give you relief, as well as restore the pH balance in your mouth. While certain acidic fruits have been known to cause canker sores, kiwi isn’t one of them. In fact, eating kiwis regularly, every day, for at least a few months, can be helpful. Kiwis are rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which give the immune system a boost and eliminate repetitive canker sores. Ice is another great way to find immediate relief from canker sores, and acts as a numbing agent as well as dries up the sore.
If you’ve tried some or all of the aforementioned home remedies but find your canker sore just isn’t wanting to go away and is instead deciding to be stubborn, you should see a dentist or a physician. There are certain oral pastes that doctors can prescribe to reduce the symptoms of canker sores. In some cases, you may also need to be referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist for evaluation should the canker sores worsen or persist.