Canker sores – Causes and treatments

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcer, are one of the most common types of mouth ulcers. They are open and painful sores that often occur on the inside of the lips or cheeks with yellow-white sores that are surrounded by inflamed soft tissue. Though canker sores only cause tingling pain, they can be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes, fever, and the feeling of being unwell in some cases. These sores are not contagious and don’t spread to the adjacent tissues either. They often take between one to three weeks to heal without any treatment; however, the pain caused by them often subsides in 7 to 10 days. Also, certain serious conditions of canker sores take up to six weeks to heal completely.

Cause of canker sores

Doctors have not yet found the exact cause of simple and complex canker sores as they have multiple triggers. Sometimes, it can be caused due to unhealthy stress or tissue injury. In some cases, simple canker sores can also be triggered by some foods that include citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables like lemons, oranges, apples, figs, strawberries. Additionally, a sharp tooth surface post a dental appliance like braces or ill-fitted dentures can also lead to canker sores.

Complex canker sores have different causes as opposed to simple canker sores. They are caused by some underlying health condition like an impaired immune system. Complex canker sores can also be the result of a deficiency of vitamin B-12, folic acid, iron, or zinc. Furthermore, some gastrointestinal tract diseases such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease can also cause complex canker sores.

Treating canker sores

The treatment is not always required to cure canker sores as they often subside in just a few days or weeks. However, there are creams and medicine that can expedite the process of healing. Some treatment options are mentioned below:

Mouth rinses and topical products
In case of many canker sores, doctors may prescribe a few over-the-counter mouth rinses that contain a steroid called dexamethasone, which reduces inflammation and the pain caused by the sores. Some topical products with healing ingredients are mentioned here:

  • Benzocaine
  • Fluocinonide
  • Hydrogen peroxide

There are several other products that can be used to cure sores that are available in the medical stores. One can consult their doctor for advice on using other products.

Oral medications
If canker sores are complex or severe and are not responding to topical medication, orals medications can be used to treat them. One can take a prescription for oral medicines in the case of complex canker sores.

Nutritional supplements
Along with some topical products or oral medications, in some cases, doctors may also advise the patient to consume some nutritional supplements to fill the nutrition void. These supplements are of folic acid, vitamin B-12, B-6, or zinc, as they are some of the important nutrients the body requires to stay healthy.

Lifestyle and home remedies
Doctors also often ask patients to make a conscious effort to maintain oral hygiene and improve their diet, which may otherwise be causing the canker sores. For home remedies, patients can dab a small amount of magnesia milk on the sores a couple of times in a day to treat them. Additionally, they can also apply ice cubes on the sores to reduce the pain and avoid eating abrasive, spicy, and acidic food altogether to help the healing process.