Canker Sore

Canker sores are small wounds in the mouth that usually provoke uncomfortable talking and eating. These wounds are also known as aphthous ulcers. Check below canker sores types:

  • Minor canker sores – People usually experience these canker sores type 3-4 times per year. Mostly, they occur in those who are between 10-20 years old. The size of the wound is less than 1 cm (centimeter) and goes away on its own in approximately 7 days.
  • Major canker sores – You can experience this canker sores type quite rarely and the bigger wounds can last roughly 14 days. In most cases, they heal without scarring.
  • Herpetiform canker sores – These rare sores appear as clusters of tiny ulcers and heal in roughly 7 days.

Causes and Risk Factors

Physicians do not know the exact cause of these wounds. They think the following factors can contribute to or even cause canker sores. Examples include:

  • Tissues injury (often occurs due to sharp tooth or dental appliance)
  • Stress
  • Foods such as citrus or acidic vegetables and fruits (for example, strawberries, tomatoes, figs, apples, pineapples, lemons, oranges, and others)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen)
  • Allergic reactions to certain foods or toothpaste
  • Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria that causes peptic ulcers)

In addition, the following factors can provoke complex canker sores. For example:

  • Nutritional problems (including reduced vitamin B12, folic acid, or iron)
  • Gastrointestinal conditions (such as Crohn’s disease)
  • A weakened body’s defense (immune system), HIV infection, lupus, or Behcet’s disease

Approximately 1 in 5 people get these sores regularly. Moreover, women are more likely to develop these wounds maybe due to hormonal differences. Canker sores can also run in families. Consult with your doctor for more details.

What is The Difference Between Canker Sores and Cold Sores?

Many people think these sores are the same but they are not. Cold sores are also known as herpes simplex type 1 or fever blisters. They usually are painful fluid-filled blisters. Moreover, cold sores are generally caused by viruses and are highly contagious. In addition, these sores do not always appear in the mouth but under the nose, around the lips, and under the chin while canker sores occur in the mouth only.


In case you experience the following symptoms, you may have a canker sore. Examples include:

  • Burning or tingling sensation
  • Small sores in the mouth. They can be round, oval, gray, white, or pale yellow with red edges.
  • Painful wounds that happen alone or in clusters in the mouth such as on the tongue, gums, soft palate (back part of the mouth), or inside the cheeks.

In severe cases, these wounds can also cause fever, fatigue (extreme tiredness), swollen lymph nodes, and others.


To diagnose this condition, doctors perform usually a physical examination. However, it is advised to visit your dentist in the following cases. Examples include:

  • If the sores become larger than usual
  • Sores spread
  • The wounds last more than 3 weeks
  • You experience extreme pain while using over-the-counter medications and avoid trigger foods.
  • High body temperature along with canker sores
  • Trouble drinking

In addition, if canker sores appear frequently and last long periods, they may be a symptom of a serious health condition such as skin disorders (such as pemphigus), celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Behcet’s disease, an autoimmune condition, HIV infection, or leukemia (rarely).

In case a physical examination is not enough and your physicians are not sure you have canker sores, they can order you to do some blood tests to check for vitamin deficiency or another underlying condition.


These wounds heal itself usually within 14 days. However, if you experience painful canker sores for more than 3 weeks, you may need treatment. Check below some treatment options:

  • Mouthwashes – Your physician may prescribe a rinse solution that contains a steroid or painkiller.
  • Topical Medicines – People with canker sores usually use topical drugs to reduce inflammation and pain. These medicines contain Lidocaine, Triamcinolone acetonide, or Clobetasol as active ingredients.
  • Oral Drugs – Doctors often prescribe Sucralfate and Colchicine in the canker sores treatment. Furthermore, Colchicine can also be used to treat gout.
  • Nutritional Supplements – In case you experience these wounds due to a vitamin deficiency, your doctor may recommend certain supplements.
  • Cautery – In some cases, physicians use Debacterol or Silver nitrate to cauterize sores. They can also use certain dental lasers that help to get pain relief immediately.

Home Remedies

The following remedies can help to get rid of canker sores faster. For example:

  • Topical products (including creams, pastes, liquids, and gels)
  • Mouth rinses (such as a mix of baking soda and salt)
  • Milk of magnesia

Is It Possible to Prevent Canker Sores?

Unfortunately, canker sores cannot be cured but the following tips can help you to prevent and avoid them. Examples include:

  • Do not eat foods that cause mouth irritation (such as citrus fruits, acidic vegetables, and spicy foods).
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Use a soft-bristled brush to brush your teeth after eating. It is also recommended to floss daily to keep your mouth clean and free from canker sores triggers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the primary causes of canker sores?

These wounds are considered the most common mouth ulcers and they often happen due to emotional stress, vitamin deficiency, menstrual periods, hormonal changes, allergies, trauma, or injuries in the mouth.

Can canker sores be a symptom of a more serious health condition?

Yes, and the common diseases that provoke canker sores include ulcerative colitis, HIV infection, celiac disease, and others. Consult with your doctor for more details.

What is the best medication used in the canker sores treatment?

Physicians usually prescribe the following medications to treat these wounds. For example Carbamate peroxide, Chlorhexidine gluconate, and Silver Nitrate. As per studies, previous medicines help to lessen the pain and speed up canker sores healing. If you have additional questions, ask your healthcare provider.

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