Canker Sores: All You Need to Know about Symptoms, Treatment

Mouth related injuries are widely spread among both children and adults; however, we have little knowledge about them and can rarely tell one injury from another. This is not the greatest way to keep us healthy and our bodies well-cared for. There are a number of mouth related injuries that might require the professional opinion from a doctor.

On the other hand, not all types of these injuries need to be shown to a doctor. There are ways to recognize them yourself, just by understanding the symptoms and, in doing so, you’ll find it possible to treat them with home remedies. One of the most easily recognisable injuries is a canker sore. This article will further discuss canker sores, what they are, and how to deal with them.

What is a canker sore?

Canker sores are more common than we might think, with about 20-30% of the population affected by this disease. The population most affected by canker sores are mainly women and young adults, who are also in the higher-risk group for many other mouth related complaints.

So, what is a canker sore? In medicine, its official term is an aphthous ulcer or an ulcerated canker. It is an infection that occurs inside the mouth, most commonly on gums, the tongue, or inner lips, and, less commonly, in the back of the mouth, inside of the cheeks, and in the throat. They are easy to detect, as they have a distinct oval shape with white (sometimes gray) coloring on the inside and a red halo around the sore. The disease is not seriously dangerous but can be highly unpleasant. Despite the fact that they are usually small in size (about 2-4 mm), canker sores can be very painful and cause a lot of discomfort.

Nevertheless, if you have canker sores, you still have nothing to worry about. First of all, they are not contagious. Secondly, many people experience them on a daily basis and have no problems curing them, even with homemade remedies. Let’s take a closer look at what causes canker sores, their symptoms, and varieties of treatment.

What causes canker sores?

There are plenty of reasons why people experience canker sores. Let’s look at the most common canker sore causes.

  1. Infections. Various bacterias and viruses are always present in our mouths; however, in some special occasions, they can actually cause damage to the oral mucosa.
  2. Unbalanced nutrition. A nicely balanced diet is key for healthy organisms, whereas the lack of certain vitamins and minerals can lead to various infections, including canker sores.
  3. Noncompliance of hygiene standards. Including washing fruits and vegetables, eating with dirty hands, etc.
  4. Not maintaining oral hygiene standards. Surprisingly, this can include too frequent toothbrushing, especially with the use of toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This chemical can reduce salivation and cause dehydration of the mucosa, which eventually leads to the high sensitivity of the oral epithelium and makes it vulnerable to external factors.
  5. Dental intervention. Using low-quality materials when installing any dentures, or having an unqualified dentist can contribute to this.
  6. Damage to the oral cavity. Any minor violation of the oral mucosa integrity, such as biting of the lips or any other trauma caused by stiff foods, burns, etc., can cause a canker sore.
  7. Medication. Any medication that can reduce salivation, including diuretics, for example.
  8. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  9. Chronic diseases.

What are the symptoms and signs?

Now that we understand the causes of the disease, we should also establish how you can identify the symptoms of a canker sore and not confuse them with any other possible mouth related infections that you may or may not have. So, here are the most obvious symptoms you can identify yourself:

  • The infection remains for at least a week before starting to heal.
  • It first appears white but starts to fade to gray over time.
  • Most commonly affects gums, and occurs on the sides of the tongue, inside lips or cheeks, and in the front of the mouth.
  • Its typical appearance is small, up to a centimeter in diameter, and round shaped with a white-gray center and inflammation around it.
  • It causes pain and discomfort.

When to get a doctor involved

Canker sores are not too serious and should not cause worry, and they may even occur on a daily basis. In most cases, they do not require any medical involvement and can be treated at home with a few simple remedies, which we will discuss later in the text. There are, however, some exceptional cases when a professional opinion from a dentist might be necessary. To make it clear, here are the signs to look out for, that determine whether a doctor’s involvement is required:

  • The inflammation does not heal by itself after a week or longer, and doesn’t seem to disappear.
  • The infection seems to keep getting worse.
  • The disease keeps coming back throughout the year, and has appeared more than three times in the year.
  • The injuries appear in large numbers.
  • It’s accompanied with other side effects such as fever, diarrhea, weight loss, headaches, etc.

In all of these cases, it is highly recommended that you visit a dentist for a consultation. If you have discovered that you have any of these signs, we strongly suggest you visit your dentist or make an appointment with one of our high professional dentists at Rozenberg dental NYC.

Treatment and medications

When it comes to canker sore treatments, there is one rule you should always follow. Before looking for any possible treatment, find the root cause of the infection. This is our most important advice to you. On the other hand, the best solution to make the canker sore disappear is just to wait for it to naturally heal. As we mentioned previously, this normally takes between one to two weeks.

So, before going after the heavy stuff, like antibiotics, etc, try to give it some time. You may speed up the process a little bit by keeping up with rinsing with sea salt, for example. This won’t be a pleasant experience and, in the beginning, the infected area might burn a bit, but salt water will do good for any type of a mouth injury thanks to its ability to increase blood flow to the damaged area in your mucosa and, therefore, reducing inflammation.

Home remedies

Now that we have mentioned the possible methods to treat your canker sores at home, we feel the need to add a few easy DIY recipes to this article. So, before we move on to learning more about how to get rid of cold sores in your mouth, let’s further discuss the prevention methods.

First of all, think about the cause of your canker sore and identify anything you might be doing wrong to encourage or worsen the disease. Keep in mind that only 20-30% of the population suffer from this type of inflammation, so the preventive methods will have a greater value for those who have already experienced the disease previously in life.  

Among the preventative methods, we can highlight a few recommendations:

  • Use SLS-free toothpaste;
  • Keep a balanced diet; and,
  • Take oral probiotics to balance the number of bacteria in your mouth.

Those methods can’t provide a 100% guarantee that canker sores won’t affect you, but they will surely decrease your chances of developing them. Besides, if you are already experiencing one, these suggestions will do good in decreasing any further pain and irritation.

For those who don’t want to wait for the inflammation to heal on its own, we can provide some basic home remedies, which can help quicken the healing process. In most cases, these remedies are specifically designed to quicken the healing process, since any other canker sore medication should be prescribed by your dentist.

Purchase a sensitive toothbrush

Be gentle with your gums and take care of them with a special sensitive toothbrush. Don’t forget to replace it every few months.

Apply some coconut oil on the sore area

But don’t confuse this with essential oils, as they will only irritate the wound.

Try avoiding specific foods

Anything that is sharp, hot, spicy, or stiff will only cause more pain and prolong your suffering. You will be able to fully enjoy those foods after a few days, once your symptoms have disappeared.

Brew a chamomile tea bag

Chamomile components have the power to decrease irritation and relieve pain. Just brew the tea bag and apply it to the inflamed area. There are no limits as to how many times you can repeat the procedure, since chamomile is completely safe for this purpose.