Canker Sores: What They Are and What to Do about Them

You might notice during the winter months that you have that telltale burning and tingling in your mouth that indicates a canker sore — possibly caused by the types of foods and drinks that you indulge in during the holidays and cold weather. Spicy foods and foods high in acid (such as that warm and tasty apple cider) provide the perfect atmosphere for the development of these painful lesions.

What Is a Canker Sore?

Small, shallow, painful lesions that develop on your gums or the soft tissues of your mouth are apthous ulcers, commonly known as canker sores. Typically, these lesions are round or oval and have a red border with a white or yellow center. There are three types:

  • Minor canker sores are the most common and usually heal without scarring in one to two weeks.
  • Major canker sores tend to be larger and deeper, may be extremely painful, and could create scarring and take longer to heal.
  • Herpetiform canker sores are uncommon, pinpoint sized, and usually develop later in life.

What Causes Canker Sores?

Canker sores can be caused by everything from a minor injury to your mouth caused by vigorous brushing to stress. Some additional causes could be:

  • A lack of vitamin B-12, zinc, folate or iron in your diet
  • An allergic response to bacteria in the mouth
  • Hormonal shifts
  • Helicobacter pylori, which is the same bacteria that causes peptic ulcers
  • Food sensitivities
  • A disease or condition such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, etc.

Treating Canker Sores

To naturally treat your minor canker sores, try rinsing your mouth with salt water or baking soda dissolved in water. Avoid spicy, acidic and abrasive foods, and use toothpaste and mouthwash that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate.  You can also try dabbing milk of magnesia on the canker sore several times a day.

If you have several canker sores, your doctor or dentist may suggest nutritional supplements or prescribe a mouth rinse that contains dexamethasone to reduce pain and inflammation or lidocaine to reduce pain. Other topical over-the-counter and prescription products that can help include benzocaine, fluocinonide and hydrogen peroxide. Severe canker sores may require oral medications or cautery, which burns, sears or destroys the tissue.

If you have unusually large canker sores, severe pain, or canker sores that are spreading or last longer than three weeks, contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904 and schedule an appointment. There is no need to suffer when we can help with the pain.

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