Canker sores, while not super serious, can cause pain and swelling inside your mouth. Because they form on the inside of the mouth or on your tongue and gums, your teeth often rub against them, which can hurt. Though canker sores shouldn’t be a cause for concern, you should check with your doctor or dentist if they become unusually large or swollen.
Even though they shouldn’t take too long to heal, canker sores are a nuisance, especially when you’re trying to eat a meal. Because it can make the area around the sore irritated as well, you may find eating soft foods help during the recovery period.
According to the Mayo Clinic, canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are “small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums.” They are not contagious like cold sores, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to rid yourself of them immediately. Canker sores are round in their shape, and you can identify them by their center color, which will be yellow or white. They are found “on or under your tongue, inside your cheeks or lips, at the base of your gums, or on your soft palate.”
Though they typically aren’t any bigger than a pimple, canker sores can be extremely painful, especially when you’re trying to eat or talk, which makes treatment options crucial. If you get canker sores often, your doctor may recommend a nutritional supplement such as folate (folic acid), zinc, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12. This will help in your nutrition intake and, ultimately, your body’s ability to heal.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic agree that the treatment of canker sores usually isn’t necessary. Typically, canker sores tend to take a week or so to heal if left untreated. Again, if you can avoid irritating the sore and surrounding areas, they may heal quicker. This isn’t easy to do since you likely have to talk and eat during the day, but there are at-home treatments you can do to make the healing process more enjoyable.
Over-the-counter and prescription products may help relieve pain and speed healing when applied directly to the site. Medications like Kank-A®, Zilactin®, or Orajel®, which can numb the area and also provide a protective layer between the sore and anything that comes in contact with it, will help. Advil or Tylenol can also be used as pain management.
We’ve found gargling with warm salt water (a tradition passed down from generations) can also help neutralize the site of the pain. Additionally, foods like honey, baking soda, coconut oil, and yogurt can offer anti-inflammatory properties.
If you have persistent canker sores or sores that won’t heal, make an appointment with your primary care provider. A professional can look at them and decide if there is a reason for concern. Your doctor can also prescribe oral medications or recommend steroid treatments that can address the problem quickly.
A doctor can also perform a cautery, which is a procedure where an instrument or chemical substance is used to burn the sore’s tissue. By chemically cauterizing canker sores, healing time can be reduced to about a week.
Canker sore causes aren’t exact, but experts have outlined possible triggers like vigorous teeth brushing, toothpaste and mouth rinse containing sodium lauryl sulfate, diets that are low in certain vitamins and minerals, a response to certain bacteria, and anxiety.
There are also certain diseases such as lupus, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBS), celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis that have also been linked to a disposition to canker sores. If you are planning on seeing a doctor, it’s good to know how long you’ve had the sores, how often you’ve experienced them in the past, and any new medications you are taking. You should also be able to rate your pain level. This way, your doctor can decide the best course of treatment.
Even though canker sores aren’t cause for big concern, if you can get them taken care of and be pain-free sooner rather than later, that’s always the best option.
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