canker sores what to do

Mouth ulcers are relatively common and can usually be treated at home, but they can also be irritating, especially when reoccurring often. In this article we explain the basics of what mouth ulcers actually are, how to know if you’ve got one, key canker sore treatments and what to do if you have recurrent canker sores.

What causes mouth ulcers?

Also known as canker sores these are little crater-like spots inside the mouth and lips or on the tongue. If they keep on coming back, it might be due one or more of the following factors:

  • Certain food groups: wheat, chocolate, citric acid, spicy foods or those eaten very hot
  • Irritation from foreign objects in the mouth like poorly fitting dentures or braces
  • Hormonal changes e.g. during menstruation or pregnancy
  • Biting one’s own tongue or cheek accidentally
  • Using toothpaste containing a chemical called sodium lauryl sulphate
  • Stress

Recurrent mouth ulcers

Recurrent canker sores come back at frequent intervals, not necessarily in the same spot. Carefully monitor your oral health routine and the foods that you consume, perhaps there you will find a clue as to why canker sores have become recurrent. If they keep returning, it’s probably best to consult your doctor or dentist as they could be caused by underlying health conditions such as:

  • Viral infections like cold sore virus or chickenpox
  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Coeliac disease
  • Weakened immune system result of HIV or lupus
  • Reactive arthritis

Another reason can be some medicines like beta-blockers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

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If canker sores last more than three weeks, are particularly red/painful/large or keep coming back then it’s worth seeking medical advice.

How to treat canker sores quickly

Most of the time canker sores are harmless and don’t require any particular treatment. Avoid anything that might irritate that area (rough food or toothbrush bristles) and simply wait for it to get better. However if they last more than three weeks, are particularly red/painful/large or keep coming back (i.e. recurrent canker sore bouts) then it’s worth seeking medical advice.

Here are a few things you can do at home that may relieve any pain and irritation from mouth ulcers or canker sores:

  1. Apply a protective gel recommended by your pharmacist
  2. Drinking or eating cold or frozen foods, or applying ice directly can numb the area reducing pain and maybe even inflammation.
  3. Avoid foods that might irritate the affected part of your mouth: rough foods like crusty bread or crisps can be problematic, likewise spicy, hot or acidic mouthfuls
  4. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid harming the mouth tissue
  5. Use a mild toothpaste that promotes good bacteria in the mouth and does not contain sodium lauryl sulphate
  6. It’s difficult to get rid of canker sores quickly, but you can help keep them away by ensuring good oral hygiene habits including cleaning your teeth at least twice a day, flossing and using antimicrobial mouthwash. Read more on our article about how to reduce canker sores.

Those are a few top tips, but they are no substitute for seeing a healthcare professional. If you are in any doubt simply visit your doctor or dentist for further advice.

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References

  • The advice in this article does not constitute medical advice, it is solely available for information purposes. We recommend that you consult your dentist if you are experiencing any mouth issues.

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