What Are Canker Sores?

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Have you ever had a small, painful sore in your mouth or base of the gums? This is called a canker sore, or “aphthous ulcer”. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious, they stay inside the mouth, and usually goes away within a few days or weeks. They can show up on the inside of the lips, cheeks, tongue, gums and palate. It usually looks pale white or yellow, surrounded by a red outer ring. They may show up as a single sore or a group of them. Scientists don’t really know what causes these sores, although a combination of factors is thought to contribute to their outbreak. Women seem to get them more than men, and it often runs in families.

Even before they show up you might feel a burning or tingling. It takes 2-3 days for them to form and erupt. They hurt for 3-10 days and usually go away after 2 weeks. What contributes to this outbreak? No one knows exactly, but it is thought that a combination of factors contributes to outbreaks, even in the same person. Possible factors include the following:

–Emotional stress and hormonal changes.
–Allergic reaction to certain bacteria in the mouth.
–A compromised immune system (cold or flu, HIV/AIDS).
–Using toothpastes or mouthwashes with sodium lauryl sulfate.
–A vitamin or mineral deficiency (vitamin B-12, folate, iron, zinc).
–Minor injury to your mouth (dental work, brushing too hard, biting the cheek).
–Food sensitivities (chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, spicy or acidic foods).

While you can’t prevent canker sores, you can treat the symptoms. To make them hurt less, stick with plain, bland, non-spicy foods. Rinse your mouth with warm water and use over-the-counter creams or ointments on the sores. You may be prescribed mouth rinse with steroid dexamethasone. Large canker sores can be treated with steroid creams. You should see your dentist for your canker sores if they are large, if you are getting more sores than you used to, and more often, and if you are also experiencing other symptoms like rashes, fever, diarrhea or joint pain. If you are low on vitamins and minerals, you may be prescribed vitamin B-6, B-12, folate, iron, or zinc.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. North Point Dental Group is here for you! 541-754-4017.