If you have every experienced canker sores, you know just how painful they can be. Often they can appear for what seems to be no apparent reason. What are canker sores and is there a prevention and treatment for them?
Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are usually small, shallow ulcers that develop on the soft tissues inside your mouth including your tongue. Occasionally, canker sores can be very large with a raised border. They often recur at varying periods and amounts, there may be only one or there may be several of them at the same time. These circular or oblong lesions are white in the centre with a diagnostic red fiery border.
Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, and can occur on the inside or the outside of the mouth. They look like little fluid filled blisters, which then pop and eventually scab over. Canker sores on the other hand, do not have a fluid filled blister initially and have a tell-tale white middle with a fiery red border. Both take about a week from start to finish, although this can vary by a few days. Canker sores do not happen on the outside of the mouth, only on the tissues of the gum, inside of the lips and palate.
Canker sores can be very painful, often making both eating and talking difficult. They usually begin as a red spot or bump. They may produce a tingling or burning sensation before other symptoms appear. Over time they turn into a crater-like ulcer. Pain from a canker sore generally lessens in a few days and the sores usually heal without treatment within a week to ten days. If the pain is unbearable, a topical ointment can be applied to provide temporary relief.
The exact cause of most canker sores is not well understood, and multiple factors may cause sores to appear. In some cases they may be caused by tissue injury to the mouth from things such as vigorous tooth brushing, a sharp tooth surface, biting your cheek or tongue, burning your mouth with hot food, dental work, braces or ill-fitting dentures, or a sports accident. It is also known that genetics plays a role.
Emotional stress is also thought to be a cause, and certain foods — including citrus or acidic fruits or juices can contribute to triggering a canker sore or making an existing problem worse. Other causes may be food sensitivities or allergies, diets low in vitamins B12, zinc, folic acid, or iron, smoking, as well as gastrointestinal tract diseases such as Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
Although there is no cure for canker sores, you may be able to reduce their frequency by:
- Supplementing your diet with a multivitamin. If canker sores keep occurring, talk to your doctor about taking folate and vitamin B-12 and getting tested for other health problems.
- Eat more yogurt and other foods that contain live and active cultures to promote a healthy bacteria level in your mouth and body.
- Avoid foods that irritate your mouth, including citrus fruits, acidic vegetables and spicy foods.
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush after meals and floss daily, which will keep your mouth free of foods that might trigger a sore.
- Chew your food slowly.
- Allow foods and drinks to cool to a comfortable level before you consume them.
- Avoid tobacco.
- See your dentist if you have a sharp or broken tooth or denture.
- Choose toothpastes and mouthwashes that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a soapy additive to toothpaste which has been suggested to trigger cankers in prone individuals in some studies.
Check with your dentist if you have unusually large or painful canker sores or if they are present for longer than two weeks. If you tend to have a lot of canker sores, or they keep coming back, or if unusually large or painful, it is a good idea to see your North Burnaby Dental Group Dentist. Your dentist or doctor can prescribe an antimicrobial mouth rinse, a corticosteroid ointment, or a prescription for an over-the-counter solution to reduce the pain and irritation.
If you have any concerns or questions about your oral health and canker sores, please call us or talk to us the next time you are in for your check up.