We do many things daily without much thought or effort, including smiling and chewing. What quickly catches our attention, however, is when pain or soreness rears its ugly head inside our mouths, causing discomfort even with the simplest of actions. That smile may turn into a frown, and any thought of eating those warm or spicy foods comes to a screeching halt.
What can be causing this attention-grabbing discomfort, you ask? One suspected condition is the development of canker sores within the mouth. These tiny sores alert us that something is out of balance and needs our help.
What Exactly Are Canker Sores?
Canker sores are tiny, painful ulcers that spring up in the mouth. They can develop on:
- the tongue,
- inner lining of the cheeks,
- inner lip area,
- gums, or
- back of the mouth, on the soft palate at the roof of the mouth
Each canker sore can appear either gray, yellow, or white and include a red outer rim. These sores can be painful when you attempt to speak, drink, or eat, or may just rub against another part of the mouth leading to continual discomfort.
Common Causes of Canker Sores
Multiple factors may contribute to the appearance of canker sores. These include:
- Acidic foods, juices, and beverages
- Toothpaste formulated with an ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Mouth injuries, including tissue injury from vigorous brushing, new dental work, dental appliances such as braces and dentures, or an accident
- Lack of efficient levels of B12, folate, iron, or zinc in diet
- Nutritional deficiencies, or Cohn’s disease
- Hormonal imbalance
- Excessive stress
- Smoking or oral nicotine
- Various diseases, including gastrointestinal tract diseases and autoimmune diseases
- A cold or flu
- Oral cancer
- Medications such as Antibiotics, Antihypertensives, Beta-blockers, chemotherapy medicines, immunosuppressants, Penicillamine, and various others
14 Ways to Treat Canker Sores
Rarely do canker sores need professional treatment. While they most often heal on their own, you can help them along.
Remedies to try at home for treatment and relief of canker sores include:
- Saltwater Rinse: Although salt may aggravate the pain, a saltwater rinse can help speed up the healing process by drying out the sores. Combine a ½ cup of warm water with a teaspoon of salt. Let salt dissolve completely. Swish around inside your mouth for up to 30 seconds, then spit out. Repeat as needed every few hours.
- Zinc Lozenges: Zinc is known to boost the immune system and fight off bacteria, including that which causes canker sores. Pop a zinc lozenge in your mouth and let it slowly dissolve.
- Baking Soda Rinse: Baking soda helps to reduce inflammation by potentially restoring the pH Balance in your mouth. Combine ½ cup of water with 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Let fully dissolve, then swish around in your mouth for up to 30 seconds before spitting out. Repeat every couple of hours.
- Milk of Magnesia: Dab a small amount of Milk of Magnesia directly on the sore with a cotton swab. Let sit for ten seconds or less, then rinse. Repeat 2-3 times per day. The beneficial ingredient in Milk of Magnesia is magnesium hydroxide, an acid neutralizer. It coats the canker sore, protecting it from irritation and pain.
- Sage Mouthwash: Sage offers anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, astringent, and antiseptic properties. It may even relieve pain. All of these make sage an ideal ingredient for a mouthwash to treat canker sores. Buy one or make your own mouthwash. To do so, steep 1-2 tablespoons of fresh sage leaves in boiling water for five minutes. Strain and cool. Rinse mouth for several minutes, then swallow or spit it out.
- Chamomile: Chamomile is often used to ease pain and heal wounds. For canker sores, use German chamomile, which contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory compounds. Apply a wet chamomile tea bag as a compress directly to the canker sore. Let stand for several minutes. If you prefer, you can use fresh brewed tea as a mouth rinse. You can do either of these 3-4 times per day.
- DGL Mouthwash: Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a herbal licorice extract with anti-inflammatory characteristics. Buy DGL in supplement form to make your own mouthwash. Start by breaking up one 200 milligram capsule and add it to a cup of warm water. Swirl rinse around in your mouth for up to three minutes before spitting out.
- Honey: Honey is nature’s elixir. Apply unpasteurized, unfiltered honey directly on the canker sore up to four times per day for relief and increased healing.
- Coconut Oil: With its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, coconut oil can reduce pain and redness and prevent spreading. Apply generous amounts of the oil onto the canker sore. Reapply as needed throughout the day.
- Hydrogen peroxide and Water rinse: To reduce mouth bacteria and thoroughly clean your canker sore, combine equal parts hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution) and water. Use a cotton swab to apply rinse to the canker sore up to two times a day. You can also rinse your mouth out daily with diluted hydrogen peroxide.
- Echinacea: With its immune-boosting and wound-healing abilities, Echinacea is ideal for treating canker sores. Combine a teaspoon each of warm water and liquid Echinacea. Swish inside your mouth for at least two minutes. Swallow or spit out.
- Yogurt: Eat one cup or more of yogurt per day. Canker sores are potentially caused by bacteria or a condition in the gut, and the probiotic cultures in yogurt may help.
- B-Complex Vitamins: If you know your diet is low in B vitamins, consider taking a B-complex supplement. B-12, as well as other B vitamins, have been shown to help the healing process and even lessen pain associated with canker sores.
- Topical pain medications: Apply benzocaine and lidocaine gels directly on the canker sores. You can also try using canker sore patches, which protect as the healing takes place.
Along with these remedies, avoid acidic foods, gently brush your teeth with soft bristles, and use toothpastes not containing sodium lauryl sulfate.
If any of the following accompany a canker sore, see your dentist as soon as possible.
- Sore remains for three weeks or longer
- Pain continues although you’ve taken pain medication
- Canker sore grows larger or spreads to other areas
- You experience difficulty drinking fluids or eating.
- A fever develops
Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Stiles and His Team Today
When it comes to your dental health, knowing who you can turn to when things are out of balance can make all the difference. Our team here at Stiles Dental Care understands the needs of our patients and strives to provide relief and the highest level of care for any circumstance. Call today to schedule an appointment.