Canker Sores: A Real Pain in the Mouth

Canker Sores are mouth ulcers that are caused by an adverse reaction to your own immune system.  Canker sores are found only inside the mouth cavity.  Adolescents and young adults seem to suffer the most but 30% of us will experience canker sores at some time in our life.

Risk Factors:

  • Physical trauma to your mouth; biting your cheek, sharp tooth rubbing on your mouth, or getting hit in the face.
  • Using toothpaste or mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
  • Stress.
  • Nutritional deficiencies — lack of B vitamins, iron and folic acid.
  • Food allergies to acidic fruits and vegetables; such as oranges, tomatoes, and pineapples.
  • Fluctuating hormones especially for women.
  • Having a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Heredity — it appears some of us are just genetically predisposed.
  • Some medical conditions such as Behcet’s disease, neutrophil dysfunction, inflammatory bowel, Crohn’s, or HIV-Aids.
  • ·                 Medications such as beta blockers, nicorandil and chemotherapy drugs.

You should seek medical help immediately if you have canker sores accompanied with fever, swollen lymph nodes, lesions that continue beyond several weeks to heal or if you have irritable bowel disease.  If you smoke or chew tobacco you need your doctor to check your sores to see if they are cancerous.

There is no cure for canker sores only treatments to help deal with the sores.


  • Rinse your mouth with salt water to facilitate healing.
  • Apply mouth numbing OTC medications such as Ora Gel or Anbesol.
  • Swish Benadryl like a mouth wash and spit.
  • Dab Milk of Magnesia onto sores.
  • Apply equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water to the sore.
  • Avoid spicy foods which may set your sores on fire.
  • Your Dentist can prescribe an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
  • Your Doctor can prescribe tetracycline which is an antibiotic or Acyclovir an antiviral medicine.

Canker sores commonly reoccur in the population that is predisposed.  Here are some keys to help prevent episodes.


  • Practice good dental hygiene, brush and floss regularly.
  • Use a soft toothbrush.
  • Avoid rough or sharp foods like potato chips.
  • Do not talk while chewing.
  • Take a nutritional supplement that contains B12, iron, and folic acid.
  • Avoid toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS).
  • Avoid mouthwashes with benzydamine hydrochloride.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Avoid stress.

As you age your canker sores usually improve but that is little comfort if when your mouth hurts.  After reviewing the information above you will hopefully gain some insight into what may be causing your sores or some ways to deal with them.  Good luck.


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