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The Ugly Truth About Canker Sores

What are Canker Sores?

Many people have canker sores on occasion, but most don’t really know what causes them. Canker sores, otherwise known as mouth ulcers, are normally small lesions that develop in your mouth or at the base of your gums. They can be uncomfortable and can cause challenges with eating, drinking, and talking, are not contagious, and usually go away within a week.

Canker sores result from bacteria, viruses, or fungi, which inflame the lining of the mouth, causing swelling, redness, and ulcer formation. The most common locations for canker sores include the inside of the mouth, on the tongue or lips.

What causes canker sources?

There is no exact cause behind canker sores, however, a few causes have been identified.

  • Minor injury from dental work, hard brushing, sports injury, or accidental bite

  • Dental care products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate

  • Sensitivities to acidic food, such as strawberries, pineapple, or even chocolate or coffee

  • Vitamin deficiency—lack of essential vitamins like B-12, zinc, folate and iron

  • Allergic response to bacteria in the mouth

  • Stress

  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections,

  • Hormonal influxes during menstruation

Types of Canker Sores

It’s a good idea to take a look at the canker sore and decipher what kind of sore it is. Canker sores have three different types:

  • Minor: minor canker sores are small and oval shaped, will not result in scarring, and will heal within 1-2 weeks

  • Major: these canker sores are larger and deeper than minor sores. This type has irregular edges and can take up to 6 weeks to heal

  • Herpetiform: this type of sore is not common. Most often, these sores are located in the posterior mouth, will have irregular edges, and may come with more than one sore. This will heal within two weeks, most likely without scarring.

When do I see a dentist?

If you develop any of the following, please call our office at 239-936-0597 to set up an appointment right away:

  • Large canker sores in your mouth

  • New canker sores before the old one heals

  • A canker sore lasting more than 3 weeks

  • Severe issues eating and drinking

  • Sores that don’t hurt

  • Mouth sores that extend to your lips

How can I treat a Canker Sore Myself?

If you don’t have any of the serious conditions or symptoms above, there are a few things you can do to help your mouth heal quicker.

  • Use a topical paste or gel, such as Orajel Ultra Canker Sore gel

  • Placing damp tea bags on your mouth or sore

  • Take nutritional supplements, such as chamomile tea, Echinacea or licorice

  • Using a rinse of saltwater and baking soda

  • Apply ice to canker sore

  • Placing milk of magnesia on the sore

  • Avoid foods that could irritate your mouth, such as citrus (oranges, pineapple) and spicy foods. Try eating whole grain foods and eliminating acidic fruits and vegetables until it clears up

At Shane McDowell, we care about you and your family’s dental health! If you are suffering from long-term, painful canker sores or have any of the severe symptoms listed above, contact our office or email us at to schedule an appointment.

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