What Are Canker Sores?
An aphthous ulcer or a canker sore is usually a painful and open mouth ulcer or sore. It is the most common type of mouth lesion.
Certain people often happen to notice them on the inside of their cheeks or lips. They are usually surrounded by red, inflamed soft tissue – filled with white or yellow pus.
The symptoms of canker sores include:
- A small white or yellow oval-shaped ulcer in your mouth
- A painful red area in your mouth
- A tingling sensation in your mouth
In some cases, other symptoms might also be present, including:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A fever
- Not feeling well
Canker sores are not known to be contagious. They naturally heal or get better within a span of 1 to 3 weeks, and the pain usually subsides within 7 to 10 days. However, serious canker sores might even take up to 6 weeks to subside or get better.
How to Treat a Canker Sore?
Canker sores can usually eventually heal with additional medical attention. Besides that, there are multiple beneficial lifestyle changes that you can adhere to treat the lesion caused by a canker sore.
The first and the most basic habit, for instance, is to thoroughly brush and floss your teeth twice every day to prevent any bacterial infection and to maintain a proper dental health and oral hygiene regimen. It is also advisable that you try to avoid spicy food to avoid unnecessary pain and trouble and to speed up the healing process.
Pain might often get out of hand. You can try to subside and lessen the discomfort by gargling with mouthwash or lukewarm saltwater. It might possibly get a tad bit uncomfortable at first, will help you seek relief from the pain.
Some of the over-the-counter medications or topical products can enable the process of healing the canker sores and providing relief. These medications or topical products include:
- Benzocaine (Orabase, Zilactin-B, Kank-A)
- Hydrogen peroxide rinses (Peroxyl, Orajel)
- Fluocinonide (Vanos)
Your general physician or dental health expert might also prescribe:
An antibacterial or antimicrobial mouth-washing liquid, such as Listerine or other mouth-washing liquids includes chlorhexidine (Peridex, Periogard) and hydrogen peroxide.
Antibiotic drugs like mouthwashes or pills that contain doxycycline (Monodox, Adoxa, Vibramycin). They are prescribed usually for recurrent, or returning, canker sores.
A corticosteroid ointment, such as hydrocortisone hemi succinate or beclomethasone
Topical anesthetics, such as benzocaine.
A medically prescribed mouthwash, especially the types that contain dexamethasone or lidocaine for healing inflammation and subside the pain
There are primarily two main types of canker sores:
Simple Canker Sores.
These might appear and reappear three or four times every year and stay up to a week.
Complex Canker Sores.
These are comparatively uncommon kinds and tend to occur more often in people who have previously had them or have a family history.
Are Canker Sores An STI?
No, canker sores are not like herpes or any other type of sexually transmitted infection or STI. Truth be told, they are not even communicable or contagious. So, the good news is you cannot spread or catch them through kissing or any form of sexual contact.
Who Gets Canker Sores?
Anybody, under the sun, can develop canker sores. But they are commonly seen among teenagers, young adults, or people in their 20s. Women and people assigned female by birth (AFAB) are more susceptible to getting canker sores as compared to men and people assigned male by birth (AMAB). Medical experts seem to believe that it could possibly be because of hormonal changes.
How Common Is This Condition?
Canker sores are fairly common among people as we have already discussed. About 20% of the population in the U.S. have experienced canker sores at least once in their lifetime.
Canker sores can manifest through several symptoms, which might vary based on the type of lesion.
Minor Canker Sores
Minor or less severe canker sores and lesions are some of the most common types of canker sores. Having said that, they might be painful in nature, but they subside and usually heal on their own without any additional medical attention and without leaving any marks behind around 1 to two weeks after their appearance.
- Some of the most common and prominent symptoms that can be directly linked with minor canker sores include:
- Small, oval-shaped bumps inside the mouth
- A tingling or burning sensation
- Pain when eating, drinking, or speaking
Major Canker Sores
Major canker sores are less common than minor canker sores and can also cause more severe symptoms. They can take up to 4 weeks to heal and may cause scarring.
Symptoms of major canker sores include:
- Large, round bumps or swellings inside the mouth
- Tingling, burning, or inflammation with visible redness
- Severe pain or discomfort
- Difficulty eating, drinking, or speaking
Herpetiform Canker Sores
Herpetiform canker sores are very rare and uncommon. Among the very few people who develop canker sores in general, only about 5% of them struggle with this type of lesion.
In the rarest of rare cases, they can merge together and form a cluster-like situation. Should this occur, it can easily take up to several weeks to subside and heal, and might also heighten the possibility of leaving a scar behind.
There are some possible tell-tale signs of herpetiform canker sores. These signs and symptoms include:
Small, pinhead-sized bumps inside the mouth, could shape up form in clusters
Tingling or burning in the mouth or general discomfort
Pain, which may be worse when chewing, drinking, or talking
Home Remedies for Canker Sores
Applying ice or tiny amounts of milk of magnesia to your sores can help relieve pain, and promote and speed up the healing process.
Rinsing your mouth with a mixture of warm water and baking soda (1 teaspoon per 1/2 cup of water) can also help with the pain to subside and heal.
Honey has been scientifically proven to be effective in treating canker sores as well.
Causes And Risk Factors
Your risk of developing canker sores increases if you happen to have a family history of these lesions. Canker sores are known to have umpteen reasons and causes to develop; however, the most common ones include:
- Viral infection
- Hormonal fluctuation
- Food allergy
- Menstrual cycle
- Vitamin or mineral deficiency
- Immune system problem
- Mouth injury or trauma
- Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.
- Dental appliances, such as braces or ill-fitting dentures.
A deficiency in certain vitamins, including categories like B3 or niacin, B9 or folic acid, and B12 or cobalamin, can lead you to get canker sores. Zinc, iron, or calcium deficiencies can also trigger, enhance and worsen canker sores.
In some of the cases, the original cause of a canker sore could not the effectively determined.
Complex canker sores may develop in people with immune system conditions, including:
Canker Sores Vs. Cold Sores
There are certain noticeable similarities between cold sores and canker sores as well. However, as opposed to cancer sores, cold sores can ever appear on the outside of your mouth i.e., your face. Cold sores can even tend to appear as blisters, not inflamed sores, and transition into being sores after the blisters pop open.
The primary villains behind the causation of cold sores are the herpes simplex virus. This virus is pre-existent in your body and can be triggered by stress, exhaustion, and even sunburn. Cold sores can tend to appear on your lips, nose, and even your eyes.
How A Canker Sore Is Diagnosed?
Your doctor will have to examine the sore or lesion before reaching a conclusive diagnosis.
They may recommend some specific blood tests or happen to require a biopsy of the area if there is a visibly severe outbreak of the sores, or if they think that you might have a:
- Vitamin or mineral deficiency
- Hormonal disorder or imbalance
- Problem with your immune system
- Severe breakout
A cancerous or malignant lesion, oftentimes might as a canker sore, but it is going to need urgent medical attention to heal and get better. Some of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer are similar to those of canker sores, including symptoms like painful and uncomfortable ulcers, and swelling in or around your neck.
But oral cancer can often be indicated and differentiated from canker sores by some unique tell-tale symptoms, including:
- Bleeding from your mouth or gums
- Loose or wobbly teeth
- Trouble swallowing
If you happen to experience any of these above-mentioned symptoms along with the ones for canker sores, seek for immediate medical attention to rule out oral cancer as a cause for all the additional inconveniences.
Complications Of Canker Sores
If your canker sore doesn’t seem to subside, heal or resolve in a few weeks span, you might have to go through some more serious consequences and complications. These complications might include:
- Discomfort or pain while talking, brushing your teeth, or eating
- Fatigue, severe exhaustion, or physical sluggishness
- Sores spreading outside of your mouth
- Lesions are unusually large.
- Last longer than two weeks.
See a doctor or a health care provider if your canker sore or lesion is causing excruciating pain or is interfering with your day-to-day activities concerning your mouth, and no home remedies and working as they should.
It is recommended that you do this even if the complications have developed within just 7 to 14 days of the appearance of the sores and lesions.
Microbial or bacterial infections can spread and can be followed by more serious issues or ailments, so it is crucial to control or stop a probable bacterial cause of a canker sore at the earliest.
Tips and Ways to Prevent Canker Sores
You can prevent the occasional recurrence of a canker sore outbreak by steering clear of those food items that might have previously triggered an outbreak. These often include food items that are salty, spicy, or acidic in nature. Also, it is recommended that you avoid food items that trigger allergy symptoms such as an itchy mouth, a swollen tongue, or hives.
If an appearance of a canker sore is triggered by stress, it is advisable that you try stress reduction methods and self-calming techniques, including meditation, deep breathing, or music therapy.
Practice a good oral health and dental hygiene regimen and use a toothbrush with soft bristles to save your gums and soft tissues from scratches and irritation.
Consult your healthcare provider to determine and understand if you have a specific kind of vitamin or mineral deficiency. They can assist you to draft a suitable diet plan and prescribe individual supplements if you happen to require them.
Contact your healthcare provider or dental health expert if you happen to develop:
- Large sores
- An outbreak of sores
- Excruciating pain
- A high fever
- A rash
- A headache
- High fever and physical sluggishness
Seek immediate medical attention if you are unable to drink or eat or talk, or if your canker sore has not subsided or healed within 3 weeks.
Canker sores and lesions can be pretty inconvenient and painful to deal with and might be triggered by a large variety of factors. In most cases, canker sores eventually heal and subside on their own without any additional medical attention or treatment. There are also some time-tested and easy home remedies available to help them soothe and heal faster, along with multiple other ways to prevent them from appearing in the first place.
Having said that, it is always wise to get in touch with your healthcare expert if your canker sore has not subsided or healed even after a week or two, or if you happen to develop and experience comparatively more severe symptoms and complications.
Canker sores can be extremely irritating and uncomfortable, but usually not dangerous. As opposed to cold sores, canker sores are not caused by infections and cannot be spread or transmitted from person to person. Most people choose to use over-the-counter drugs to soothe and heal canker sores faster. But if you happen to not notice any visible improvement even after using those over-the-counter products, it is a cue for you to get in touch with your healthcare provider or a dental health expert. They can prescribe specific medicines to help you take care of them are getting back to normalcy without much hassle.