5 Facts About Canker Sores

By: Dr. Rebecca Koenigsberg

Canker sores are painful white ulcers inside your mouth that tend to sneak up on you when you’re most vulnerable. Winter flu, times of stress, or just cleaning your teeth a little too roughly can trigger their appearance. How can something so small cause so much discomfort?

1. What are canker sores?

Canker sores, also known as mouth ulcers, are painful open sores inside your mouth. They usually form under your tongue, inside your cheek or lip, at the base of your gum line or even inside your throat. It makes talking, eating or even drinking water very uncomfortable.

The good news is that even though these Aphthous can be extremely painful, they’re not contagious and are rarely serious.  Anyone can develop a canker sore, but women statistically suffer more often than men.

2. What causes canker sores?

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, these ulcers can rear their ugly heads when your body is exhausted or under duress. Some experts believe that immune system problems, bacteria or viruses may be involved. Factors such as stress, allergies, cigarette smoking, iron or other vitamin deficiencies, and heredity may also make one susceptible.

Other culprits include:

    – A minor injury to your mouth from dental work, overzealous brushing, sports mishaps or an accidental cheek bite

– Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing sodium lauryl sulfate

    – Food sensitivities, particularly to chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, and spicy or acidic foods

– A diet lacking in vitamin B-12, zinc, folate (folic acid) or iron

– An allergic response to certain bacteria in your mouth

– Helicobacter pylori, the same bacteria that cause peptic ulcers

– Hormonal shifts during menstruation

3. What’s the difference between a cold sore and canker sore?

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are highly contagious.  They are often confused with  canker sores (Aphthous Ulcers), but they are different. Unlike canker sores, cold sores appear outside the mouth, usually under the nose, around the lips or under the chin. Canker sores occur inside the mouth and aren’t contagious.

One look in the mirror will give you a clue. Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are small clusters of blisters that eventually burst and then crust over. Canker sores are white or grey lesions and don’t blister in the same way. Although they aren’t the same, they do have similar triggers.

4. How long do canker sores last?

Canker sores almost always heal on their own. The pain usually decreases in a few days and the other symptoms will disappear in about a week or two. Most of the time canker sores do not need to be treated. But it’s recommended that you seek treatment from your dentist if you have recurrent canker sores and/or canker sores do not heal after 14 days. Avoid foods that are spicy, salty or acidic, which can irritate canker sores.

5. How to treat a canker sore?

These are treatment options for painful and persistent canker sores that are lingering, making it impossible to eat, drink or even talk:

– Avoid foods that are spicy, salty or acidic, which can irritate canker sores.

– Our Solea Laser can zap a painful canker sore for IMMEDIATE relief. Many studies have shown that treating canker sores with a laser will result in much faster healing time and drastic reduction in pain. Treatment is most effective if you present to your dentist at a very early stage rather than waiting until it’s large and painful.

– To help numb the pain, Gallery57Dental suggests using Oraljel 3X Medicated For Toothache and Gum Gel.

– Rinsing with over-the-counter mouthwash  (with antiseptic properties) or a salt rinse can provide temporary relief.

If you have any questions about this or any other dental issues, feel free to  email us at info@gallery57dental.com or call us at 212.246.8700. Follow Gallery 57 Dental on Facebook here!

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