So, you’ve noticed a sore on your lip, your tongue, or on the inside of your lips or cheek. It looks like a shallow depression, white or yellow in the middle with red edges. And, it hurts! It may even be painful enough that it hurts to chew or talk.
It sounds like you have a canker sore. You’re not alone – it’s estimated that about 20% of people experience a canker sore or two at least once in their lives.
What is a canker sore?
A canker sore is an ulcer in the soft tissue around the mouth. First, let’s separate it from a cold sore, which looks like one or more red bumps on or around your lips. The differences are important.
• Canker sores – unlike cold sores – are not communicable. Your family can’t catch them from you.
We know what causes cold sores (the herpes simplex virus 1 or HSV-1,) while in contrast, the causes of canker sores are unknown. There are many known triggers.
• Minor trauma to your gums or lips – even from a visit to the dentist’s office;
• Stress and lack of sleep;
• The menstrual cycle in women;
• Braces and other oral appliances;
• Food allergies;
• Foods with a high acidic content;
• Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals such as iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B12.
Canker sores generally go away all by themselves in a week to 10 days. There is a lot that you can do to make yourself feel better.
• Soft and bland foods with no heavy spices will minimize irritation;
• Drink cold beverages rather than hot ones;
• Hold a piece of ice on the canker sore with your tongue for a few minutes to relieve pain temporarily;
• Brush teeth with care to avoid irritating the sore or the area around it;
• Rinse your mouth after brushing with salt water (1 teaspoon salt dissolved into 1 cup of water);
• There are over the counter medications that can help with the pain – apply them with a clean cotton swab each time;
• Aspirin, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help to relieve the pain.
If canker sores and pain persist for more than two weeks, or if canker sores go away only to come back again and again, you should consider making an appointment with your dentist. Please also give your dentist or doctor a call if you experience other symptoms such as fever or difficulty swallowing, as these may indicate a larger problem.
• In some cases, pain medications may be appropriate; some are painted directed on the sore;
• Steroid creams or pastes may help;
• A prescription strength mouthwash, often formulated with hydrogen peroxide, may help as well.
Can you prevent canker sores?
With no clear cut cause and effect, it is difficult to prevent canker sores. The best you can do, when you get a canker sore, is to try and take note of any triggering factors that may be at work. Have you been under a lot of stress? Or perhaps you just ate three delicious oranges without rinsing your mouth with water afterwards? If you can pinpoint the triggers that apply to you, you can avoid them.
Looking for advice on any aspect of your teeth or oral health? You’ll find the answer at Dr. Robert Axelrad’s Dental Office in Brampton, ON.
If you’re looking for a well-regarded and highly skilled dentist in the Brampton area, make an appointment with Dr. Robert Axelrad by calling (905)-791-3867. Visit our website to learn more about our dental services.