Canker Sores: What Are They and What Can You Do About Them?

Although canker sores aren’t contagious or life-threatening, they are painful. Women in their teens and twenties are most likely to suffer form canker sores, which are small, raised blisters on the inside of the mouth. In most cases, canker sores are either bright red in color or cloudy and white, and they are found most often on the inside of the lips and cheeks. Canker sores are particularly painful when they erupt next to teeth, which can grate on the sores and cause even more pain. Doctors don’t yet know the cause of canker sores, but they are thought to be a side effect of stress and poor nutrition. Mild food allergies might also be a factor.

In most cases, canker sores don’t require any formal treatment. There isn’t a medication to make them disappear within hours, and most will stick around for several days and up to two weeks. Since canker sores aren’t usually a threat to your health, the main concern is the pain they cause. It might be difficult to eat, drink and brush your teeth. Sometimes they appear in groups of three or four and sometimes only one will appear at a time.

Depending on your preference, you might want to use an oral pain reliever or a topical ointment to aid in relieving the pain from canker sores. An oral pain reliever might not work as fast, but you won’t have to deal with the taste of an ointment. The topical solution will dissolve directly into the canker sore, providing faster relief and possibly faster healing. Orajel is one such topical ointment that can be purchased in varying strengths for adults, children and babies. If you’re going to take an oral pain reliever, go with either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

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There are also several “alternative” remedies to canker sores, none of which are proven to work but might help ease the pain. One example is lysine supplements, while others say that taking a Vitamin B complex will help heal the canker sores faster. You can try gargling with a sage-and-chamomile mouthwash or you might try zinc lozenges several times each day.

You should know that canker sores aren’t necessarily made worse by different types of foods, but some ingredients will make them hurt worse. Anything spicy can have a negative effect as can citrus and acidic foods. If something makes your canker sore sting, you should probably avoid it until you feel better. Recently, it has come to light that crushed red pepper (like what you would put on your pizza) might help canker sores heal faster and might even help reduce the pain. Eating it with a canker sore, however, might cause you additional pain initially.

There are very few instances in which you would need to see a doctor about canker sores. If you are getting them often (more than one every two weeks), then you might want to see a physician. Likewise, if the sores remain in your mouth longer than two or three weeks, that might be cause for concern. You could simply have sensitive taste buds that react to certain substances (such as strong toothpaste) or you might have a more serious disease or disorder.