Canker Sores or Mouth Ulcers
Author: Terry E.
Published: 2009-03-29 : (Rev. 2018-10-11)
Synopsis and Key Points:
A canker sore or aphthous ulcers are small painful sores that form on the inside of your lips cheeks and even on your tongue.
If you've had the unpleasant experience of getting a canker sore then you know the pain it can produce. So, what causes canker sores, and is there any help in prevention of canker sores? Let's take a quick look at the basics and get your questions answered.
What Is A Canker Sore?
A canker sore, or aphthous ulcers as they are also known as, are small painful sores that form on the inside of your lips, cheeks, and even on your tongue. Don't confuse a canker sore with a fever blister or a cold sore, which is a virus and forms on the outside of your mouth in most all cases. Unlike cold sores which is the herpes virus, a canker sore is a bacterial infection, and not contagious.
Canker sores can occur with any age group, but most commonly affect people between the ages of 10-40. It seems to hit teenagers and women in their 20's the most for whatever unknown reason. Medical science still has no idea what causes canker sores to form, but many times it is from stress and eating habits.
They typically vary in size from a couple millimeters in width to more than 10 millimeters in width. (For Americans, think 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch.) They tend to be very painful, especially when irritated through contact with a toothbrush and acidic foods. Often they take weeks to heal. Fortunately, they are not contagious.
For whatever reason, canker sores seem to be more common in women than men. About 10% or more of the population suffers from them on a regular basis. If your parents or siblings have them, you are more likely to have them, too. So there's probably some genetic reason for susceptibility, but nobody knows what it is yet.
What Should You Do When One Forms?
How to get rid of canker sore is the question everyone asks when one of these painful white sores pops out on the inside of your cheek or lip.
If you do nothing to treat a canker sore that has formed, they will go away generally in 1-3 weeks on their own. During this time it can be painful if you happen to drink juices, or drinks that contain a lot of acid in them. The same with foods. Even brushing your teeth can give you a jolt. The pain can send you through the roof!
The good news is that there are some canker sore medications that you can get over the counter and apply to reduce the pain and discomfort. Oragel, Anbesol, or a number of other brands all will provide some much needed relief.
In addition, there are a number of very good all natural cures.
Hydrogen Peroxide - Pour out a cap-full and rinse it in your mouth and against your lip for a few seconds, then spit it out. You can also mix it with a little water if you need to, but the peroxide works very well in eliminating bacteria.
See our list of home remedies for getting rid of canker sores
Should I Seek Medical Attention?
In most all cases there is no need to seek medical attention for a canker sore, but with that said, if you have a very large sore, or it lasts for more than two weeks, you may want to see your health care professional.
If you begin feeling sick, or can't eat or drink, absolutely get in touch with your doctor.
Are There Prescription Medications Available?
Yes, there are quite a few prescription medications that your health care professional can prescribe to help as a canker sore treatment.
Prescription medications like Peridex, Aphthasol, and Tetracycline can provide the help you're looking for.
Is There Any Way To Prevent Canker Sores From Forming?
Try to avoid using toothpaste with SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate).
Be sure to floss your teeth daily.
Drink plenty of water and keep spicy foods out of your diet. This is especially true if you are prone to recurring canker sores.
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