Canker sores affect millions of people. For some, they’re an occasional nuisance. For others, they are a nearly constant source of discomfort. But if you’ve ever had a canker sore, you know they hurt.
The precise cause of these irritating mouth ulcers – also called Aphthous Stomatitis – is unknown. But certain factors appear to trigger the onset of canker sores in some people.
Mouth injury / irritation
There are several everyday occurrences that can cause minor injuries to the inside of your mouth. For example, some people subconsciously bite on their lips or the inside of their cheek. Food with sharp edges can cut your mouth or gums. Ill-fitting dentures, or braces that rub against the inside of the cheek or the gum, can abrade the inside of your mouth. Brushing too vigorously can have the same effect. And finally, we’ve all accidentally bitten our tongue or the inside of our lip. All of these injuries can open the door to canker sores by breaking the skin on the mouth’s mucus lining. When this happens, the mouth is much more vulnerable to irritants that can cause canker sores.
Several studies have indicated that canker sores are more common in individuals who are deficient in iron, folic acid and other B vitamins. An improved diet or supplements can eliminate deficiencies; ask your doctor for a nutritional assessment.
Some people get canker sores when they eat certain things; this indicates that they may be allergic to one or more foods. Eliminating the offending food can dramatically decrease canker sore outbreaks. But how do you find out which food provokes the mouth sores? Keep a journal, noting all of the foods you eat and the incidences of canker sores. This will help you identify the culprit.
Some of the most common offenders are chocolate, mustard, nuts, tomatoes, shellfish, and pineapples.
Toothpaste with SLS – Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
A common ingredient in many toothpastes might be linked to an increased incidence of canker sores in some people. A study in Norway linked Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or SLS, to canker sore occurences. If you suspect that you have SLS sensitivity, try switching to an SLS-free toothpaste for awhile, and see if that helps.
Stress can have many negative effects on the body, and canker sores are one of them. Several studies have shown that individuals who lead extremely demanding, stressful lives have a higher incidence of canker sores. During stressful periods, the body’s immune system is affected. Scientists haven’t pinpointed the exact cause of this mind-body connection, but it’s safe to say there are overall health benefits to reap by reducing stress in your life. And you might just lose those annoying canker sores!
Canker sore treatment .............
There are no surefire cures currently available for canker sores; often, you just have to let them "run their course." There are several options for relieving canker sore pain, however. As your dentist which would work best for you.
- Corticosteroids -These are prescription gels or creams that reduce the inflammation caused by canker sores. Ask your dentist if one of these compounds would work for you.
- Anti-bacterial mouthwashes – Only a few mouthwashes on the market have been clinically proven to reduce bacteria; Listerine and medicated mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine gluconate are a few. The latter ingredient can stain teeth, however, so use this only under the advice of your dentist or physician.
- Pain relieving (analgesic) gels – These contain active ingredients benzocaine or Diphennhydramine HCL to relieve pain; some even form a protective film over the canker sore. They are available over the counter. Stronger prescription analgesics are available as well; especially effective are the medications that contain two percent lidocaine. Ask your dentist which would work best for you.
- Aphthasol, recently approved by the FDA, has been shown to reduce canker sore pain and shorten healing time. Again, ask your doctor if this treatment would be appropriate for you.
- Salt-water rinses – While questionable as an effective treatment for canker sores, rinsing with salt water is completely safe and inexpensive, so give it a try. Just mix a teaspoon of salt with a cup of warm water, and gently swish the solution in your mouth for about a minute before you spit it out.
- Herbal "tea" rinses – Naturopathic practitioners believe sage and thyme to be natural antiseptics. Again, this hasn’t been proven, but it’s safe and inexpensive. Steep a few spoonfuls in a cup of hot water, allow it to cool to room temperature, then rinse your mouth with it for about a minute, and spit it out.
- Acemannan hydrogel patch – The Journal of the American Dental Association reported that this treatment reduced the healing time as well as the pain of canker sores. The patch, which contains a form of aloe vera, has received FDA approval and is being sold as the Carrington Patch.
- ORA5 – This is a topical antibacterial compound that utilizes copper sulfate and iodine to cover the ulcerated area, greatly reducing the pain. It is relatively inexpensive (around $6) and is available without a prescription. Ask your doctor or dentist if she recommends this treatment.
Most canker sores heal within two weeks. If yours last beyond that, or if they prevent you from eating or drinking, have them checked out by your doctor.
Sidebar - why do canker sores hurt so much? It's because a sore on your mouths' lining reacts differently than a sore on your skin. Because your mouth is a moist environment, the sore doesn't dry out and scab over. This causes sensitive nerve endings to be constantly exposed to friction, foods and beverages.