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What You Need to Know About Canker Sores

September 06, 2011

Canker sores are a common form of mouth ulcers that develop as small lesions on the soft tissue of your mouth such as the inner surface of the cheeks, on or under your tongue, soft palate, and the base of the gums. Canker sores tend to be painful and appear white or yellow surrounded by a bright red area. The first symptom is generally a bump or group of bumps that usually tingling or cause a burning sensation. Less common symptoms include fever, general discomfort or swollen lymph nodes. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not associated with the herpes virus infection and usually do not occur on the surface of the lips. Most importantly, canker sores are not contagious.

Although there are no known causes, canker sores are often hereditary and have been linked to a weakness in the body's immune system. Emotional stress, vitamin or mineral deficiencies such as iron, folic acid or vitamin B-12 can trigger a canker sore. Other onsets are hormonal changes, food allergies, and menstrual periods. Canker sores more often occur in women than men and generally between the ages of 10-40.

Canker sores can also develop after injury to the soft tissue. Some common offenders include dental work, aggressive tooth brushing or biting the tongue and cheek. If you have braces or other dental appliances, ask your dentist about orthodontic waxes to cover sharp edges. Your dentist can usually diagnoses the type of mouth sores based on its appearance and location.

Most canker sores heal on their own in a week or two and treatment is usually not necessary. However, there are over-the-counter products that help soothe the painful area, such as Ulcerease antiseptic. Ulcerease is highly recommended by dentists to soothe and cleanse sores because of its alcohol free formula. Ulcerease can be used as a rinse or applied directly to the sore. There are also several home remedies such as Milk of Magnesia or the mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water applied with a cotton swab on the the canker sore three or four times a day. This process can help soothe the area and may also help with the healing process. Another home remedy is to mix half Milk of Magnesia and half Benadryl liquid, (allergy medicine). Swish this mixture in your mouth for about one minute then spit it out.

Watching what you eat is also beneficial in preventing and healing canker sores. Avoid eating spicy foods or certain spices, salty foods and acidic fruits such as pineapple, grapefruit and oranges. Choose healthy foods to help prevent nutritional deficiencies, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eating yogurt that contains acidophilus may also help ward off canker sores.

Check with your doctor or dentist if you have unusually large or painful sores that don't seem to heal or persisting sores lasting three or more weeks. Sores that extend into the lips, cause high fever or difficulty eating or drinking should also be tended to by a doctor or dentist.

It is important to follow good oral hygiene habits. Regular brushing after every meal and flossing once a day can keep your mouth clean of foods that might trigger a sore. Routine dental cleanings and examinations are always recommended. Use a soft brush, such as Dr.Collins Perio toothbrush, to help prevent irritation to delicate mouth tissues and avoid toothpaste and mouth rinses that contain sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). The entire line of Squigle toothpastes are called “mouth-friendly” because their formula does not contain SLS or any harsh ingredients.