We’ve all had them, you know, those soars that get in your mouth and sting the hack out of you every time you try to get a tooth brush near them or eat the wrong thing. Yes, what I’m taking about are those pesky things called canker sores that we all get from time to time. While the exact cause of most canker sores is unknown. Stress or tissue injury is thought to be the cause of most simple canker sores. Certain foods such as citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables (lemons, oranges, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, and strawberries) can trigger a canker sore or make the problem even worse. Sometimes a sharp tooth surface or dental appliance, such as braces or ill-fitting dentures, might also trigger canker sores. Needless to say, the causes of these pesky sores can be a multitude of potential triggers.
Some cases of complex canker sores are caused by an underlying health condition such as an impaired immune system. While nutritional problems such as vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron deficiency can be the source of complex canker sores as well.
Are Cold Sores and Canker Sores the Same?
No. Although cold sores and canker sores are often confused for one another, they are not the same. Cold sores, also called a fever blister or herpes simplex type 1, are groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are caused by a virus and are extremely contagious. Also, cold sores typically appear outside the mouth, usually under the nose, around the lips, or under the chin. While canker sores occur strictly inside of the mouth.
Symptoms of Canker Sores?
You may have a canker sore if you have:
- A painful sore or sores inside of your mouth on the tongue, soft palate (the back portion of the roof of your mouth), or inside your cheeks
- A tingling or burning sensation prior to the appearance of the sores
- Sores in your mouth that are round, white, or gray in color, with a red edge or border
In severe canker sore attacks, you may also experience:
- Physical sluggishness
- Swollen lymph nodes
How to Treat Canker Sores?
Pain from a canker sore generally diminishes in a few days and the sores usually heal without treatment in about a week or two. If sores are large, painful, or persistent, your dentist may prescribe an antimicrobial mouth rinse, a corticosteroid ointment, or recommend an over-the-counter solution to reduce the pain and irritation.
How to Prevent Canker Sores?
Although there is no cure for canker sores and they recur often, you may be able to reduce their frequency by:
- Avoiding foods that irritate your mouth, including citrus fruits and acidic vegetables and spicy foods
- Avoiding irritation from gum chewing
- Brushing with a soft-bristled brush after meals and flossing daily, which will keep your mouth free of foods that might trigger a sore.
You should call your dentist about canker sores if you have:
- Unusually large sores
- Sores that are spreading
- Sores that last 3 weeks or longer
- Intolerable pain despite avoiding trigger foods and taking over-the-counter pain medication
- Difficulty drinking enough fluids
- A high fever with the appearance of the canker sore(s)