Tips for Dealing with Canker Sores

Few things are more annoying than a canker sore. And if you have one, you probably want it gone—fast.

While canker sores typically clear up on their own within a week or two, there are some things you can do to try to speed up the healing process or lessen the pain you’re experiencing. Here’s what you should know about dealing with canker sores.

What is a canker sore?

A canker sore is a shallow sore inside the mouth that can make it hard to eat, drink, or even talk. Canker sores are annoying at best, and very painful at worst. They are most commonly found on your tongue, under your tongue, or inside your lips or cheeks.

Are canker sores contagious?

Unlike cold sores, which usually appear outside the mouth and are caused by the herpes simplex virus, canker sores are not contagious.

What causes canker sores?

Canker sores can be caused by any number of things, or a combination of several different factors like:

  • An injury (biting your cheek, a sports injury, etc.)
  • A reaction to an ingredient in your toothpaste or mouthwash
  • A sensitivity/non-allergic reaction to a particular food
  • Bacteria inside the mouth
  • Hormones
  • Stress

Anyone can get a canker sore, but some people are more prone to them. For example, females get them more often than males. People with certain conditions (like Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, or HIV/AIDS) may also get them more often. Finally, there does seem to be some hereditary element (that is, if a family member has them, you’re more likely to have them, too).

Do I need to see my doctor or dentist for a canker sore?

Usually, no. Canker sores typically heal on their own within 1-2 weeks. However, if your canker sore is large, extremely painful (to the point where it interferes with your daily life), lasts for more than 2 weeks, or if you have a fever with your canker sore, it is probably worth a visit to your doctor. If canker sores are a recurring problem for you, talk to your dentist about potential controllable causes (e.g. cheek biting, overly aggressive brushing, etc.).

How can I relieve the pain from a canker sore?

There are several home remedies you can try to relieve the pain from a canker sore:

  • Applying ice to the sore
  • Applying milk of magnesia to the sore
  • Eating cold foods (like yogurt or ice cream)
  • Avoiding spicy foods, which can aggravate the sore
  • Gargling with mouthwash or salt water (which may be more painful at first, but should reduce pain overall)

There are some over-the-counter remedies for canker sores, including benzocaine and hydrogen peroxide products.

If your doctor or dentist deems it necessary, they may prescribe a strong mouth rinse or mouthwash, an antibiotic, or an ointment.

Good oral health care—daily brushing and flossing, and visiting your dentist regularly—may help lessen the probability that you’ll develop a canker sore. But even so, most people have to deal with a canker sore at some point in their life. Use these tips to help you get through the pain, and call your dentist if you notice anything irregular. We at Smile Concepts in Scottsdale are here to help!

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