Fix Canker Sores
Aphthous ulcers, or canker sores, are small lesions that form on the soft tissues in the mouth or at the base of the gums. Whereas cold sores occur on the surface of the lips and are contagious, canker sores are not though they can cause pain and difficulties eating and talking.
Canker Sore Causes
While the exact cause of canker sores remains unknown, researchers suspect that the following are possible triggers:
- Trauma to the mouth from dental work, overaggressive brushing, sports injury, or accidentally biting the cheek
- Mouth rinses and toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulfate
- Sensitivity to foods like coffee, chocolate, eggs, strawberries, nuts, and acidic or spicy foods
- Zinc, folate, iron, or vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Allergic reaction to certain bacteria in the mouth
- Helicobacter pylori (bacteria that causes peptic ulcer)
- Hormonal shifts
Certain diseases and conditions may also contribute to canker sore formation including:
- Celiac disease – intestinal disorder caused by gluten sensitivity
- Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Bahcet’s disease – disorder causing inflammation throughout the body and mouth
- Immune system suppressing conditions like HIV/AIDS
When to See a Doctor
Canker sores do not require tests for diagnosis as a dentist or doctor can identify them through a visual exam. Within a week or two, most canker sores heal on their own without requiring treatment. Should patients experience any of the following, they should consult their doctor as soon as possible for treatment:
- Canker sores that are unusually large
- Recurring sores and/or frequent outbreaks
- Persistent sores that last two or more weeks
- Sores that extend into the lips (vermilion border)
- Pain that cannot be managed with self-care remedies
- Severe difficulty drinking or eating
- High fever in conjunction with canker sores
How are Canker Sores Treated?
If canker sores are particularly painful, large, frequent, or persistent, several treatment options exist including:
- Mouth Rinses: A doctor may prescribe a mouth rinse to combat severe canker sores. Rinses containing the steroid dexamethasone can be prescribed to combat pain and inflammation while rinses containing lidocaine can be used to reduce pain.
- Topical Products: Prescription and over-the-counter products can help expedite healing and reduce pain. Applying these liquids, gels, pastes, or creams as soon as individual sores appear is recommended. Active ingredients found in some of the products include:
- Fluocinonide (Vanos, Lidex)
- Benzocaine (Orabase, Kank-A, Zilactin-B, Anbesol)
- Hyrdogen Peroxide (Peroxyl, Orajel Antiseptic Rinse)
- Oral Medications: Medications like sucralfate (Carafate), an intestinal ulcer treatment, and colchicine, a gout treatment, that are not specifically for canker sores may help clear up sores. Oral steroids can also be used to treat canker sores but because if their potential for serious side effects, are usually a last resort.
- Cautery of Sores: Uses chemicals or an instrument to sear or burn the tissue. The topical solution debacterol, for example, is designed to treat canker sores and can help expedite healing time.
- Nutritional Supplements: If a vitamin deficiency is the suspected cause of canker sores, nutritional supplements like zinc, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, or folate may be used.