What are canker sores?
Canker sores are small lesions that show up on the soft tissues in the mouth. Sometimes they also show up at the base of the gums. They are also called aphthous ulcers. These lesions are swallow. You may confuse them with cold sores, but canker sores do not show up on the surface of the lips and they do not spread from one to another. These sores may be painful and they may cause problems with your daily activities like eating and talking.
In normal conditions, most of the sores go away within a week or two by themselves. But if the canker sores are present even after that, you should consult a dentist.
Symptoms of canker sores
Most of these sores are oval or round in shape. They have a red border and a white or yellow centre. They generally show up inside your mouth. The places where they show up include under the tongue, inside the lips, inside of the cheeks, base of the gum and soft palate.
You may have a burning or tingling sensation one or two days before they show up.
Types of canker sores
There are different types of canker sores which include minor, major and herpetiform sores.
Minor canker sores
- These are the most common type of canker sores
- They are small
- They are oval in shape
- They generally heal within one or two weeks
- They do not cause scarring
Major canker sores
- They are not very common
- They are large and deep
- The edges of the sores are irregular
- They may need up to 6 weeks for healing
- They result in extensive scarring
Herpetiform canker sores
- These sores are seen later in life
- They are of pinpoint size
- The sores have irregular edges
- They show up in clusters of 10 to 100
- They heal in 1 to 2 weeks
- They do not cause scarring
Causes of canker sores
Drs and researchers are not sure about the exact cause of canker sores, but they suspect that different factors result in the problem in humans. Some of the possible triggers that result in canker sores are-
- Any minor injury to the mouth resulting from dental work, brushing, accidents, acidic or spicy foods or even due to an accidental cheek bite.
- Sensitivity to different foods, including chocolates, eggs, coffee, nuts, strawberries, highly acidic foods like pineapple or cheese etc.
- Toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulphate
- An allergic response to some specific bacteria present in the mouth
- A diet that does not include vitamin B-12, folate or folic acid, iron and zinc
- Helicobacter pylori
- Emotional stress
- Hormonal shift
Canker sores may also appear due to some diseases and conditions including
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Problematic immune system
- Behcet’s disease
Treatment and medicines
In general, treatment of canker sores is not necessary if it is minor canker sores. It will automatically disappear after a week or two. In case of large and persistent and painful canker sores, you may need medical care. There are different treatment options available, which include-
A mouth rinse that contains steroid dexamethasone will help you to reduce pain and inflammation. The doctors may also prescribe oral suspensions that contain the antibiotic tetracycline to reduce the healing time and pain.
Prescription and over-the-counter pastes that contain active ingredients like benzocaine (Anbesol), amlexanox (Aphthasol) and fluocinonide (Lidex, Vanos) can help you to reduce the pain and improve the healing process.
Oral medicines, cautery of sores and nutritional supplements are some other treatment options to speed up the healing process and reduce pain.
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