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canker sores

What are Canker Sores and What Can I Do about Them?
Jun 20, 2018

smile balloon Dental Care Center

With more than 3 million cases reported per year, it is possible that you have had a canker sore. While these sores are irritating, most are nothing to prompt worry. Still, there are some things you can do to prevent more of them.

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores have long been thought of as an illness, but some researchers say they are more like a sign that the bacteria in your mouth is off-balance. They typically appear small and round with a whitish-yellow center and pinkish-red border. These sores usually appear inside of the mouth on the cheeks, lips, gums, or under the tongue. There are three types of canker sores: minor, major, and herpetiform.

Minor sores are the smallest, ovular-shaped, and most common. “Major” refers to larger sores with irregular borders, which can cause a lot of pain, while herpetiform sores are formed by a cluster of sores and develop later in life. (These latter sores are not caused by or connected in any way to the herpes virus.)

You might feel a canker sore before you see it, experiencing tingling or burning in the area where the sore will appear. Once the lesions are visible, symptoms can include discomfort, tingling, burning or extreme pain, if they are major sores.

Depending on the sore’s severity, you may have a scar in the area for awhile, and some take several weeks to heal fully.

How to Treat Canker Sores

Canker sores have a variety of causes, and usually clear up quickly without treatment. But you can keep the area clean with over-the-counter topical ointments. These include:

  • Benzocaine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide rinses
  • Fluocinonide

If you experience increased oral discomfort resulting from the sores, you can also supplement with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to manage the pain. However, if the pain becomes unbearable, visit your doctor or dentist.

You Can Prevent Canker Sores — Sometimes

There are many approaches you can take to prevent their annoying presence, but a lot depends on what’s causing your sores. Causes vary by the person, so consider the following:

  • If you believe your canker sores are stress-related, you may want to try meditation and other stress-management techniques.
  • Avoid nutritional deficiencies, which may result in canker sores. Overly salty or acidic foods can also lead to these ulcers.  
  • Regular brushing and flossing can also protect your mouth and maintain good dental hygiene.
  • Make a note of allergies; some people experience canker sores related to allergens.

If you have a canker sore, do not worry! They resolve themselves quickly and do not leave you with long-term health effects. However, if you are in significant pain, the sores persist, are recurring, or start to spread, seek medical attention.

Do you have a question about your oral health or the dentist? Contact us for help.