Canker Sores 101

Canker sores can be really irritating, especially when they make eating and talking painful.  You can have really great dental health and still find yourself plagued by canker sores often. What gives? Cankers don’t only have something to do with how well you are taking care of your oral health. There are other factors you can control that will either lead to a higher chance of canker sores or a lower risk for them. Here is all you need to know about the cause, prevention and treatment of canker sores!

Cankers: What Are They?

Did you know that canker sores are the most common type of all mouth sores? More than 3 million people in the U.S. get cankers each year. Patients can generally diagnose themselves with a canker sore and most are treatable at home if they don’t grow too large. They are actually considered to be tiny ulcers in the mouth. 

Canker sores can be 1/3rd to ½ of an inch in diameter in your mouth. These are sores that are located along the inside of the cheeks and lips, inside the mouth. However, they can appear around the teeth on gum tissue and even on the tongue. They don’t appear on the outside of the lips like other sores do. 

Cankers tend to be uncomfortable and even painful. You may feel pain with a canker simply resting on a part of your gums that touches the teeth. For large sores, you may have pain eating and talking. Often, these sores are very round and small, but they can grow large, especially around areas of the mouth that have been injured. For example, you might accidentally bite the inside of your cheek and that simple cut may turn into a white, round canker sore due to bacteria exposure. Other times, these sores just pop up overnight. 

Why Do Canker Sores Happen? 

Most canker sores will clear up on their own within a few days up to a couple of weeks. If you have persistent sores that don’t go away and it’s already been 2 weeks, consider calling the dentist. It may be a different type of sore or one that needs additional dental help to go away properly. 

Studies show that common causes of cankers include: 

  • Injury to the soft tissues of the mouth such as cuts, scrapes, bites, dental work, healing stitches, etc.
  • Vigorous tooth brushing that irritates the gums and surrounding tissues.
  • Braces or dentures that catch on the soft gum tissues.
  • Acidic foods and drinks. Ones that are especially acidic are citrus fruits and drinks, sodas and sparkling waters. 
  • Medications and antibiotics, which may even state the likelihood of cankers on the label. 
  • Dental work that is healing. 
  • Recent illness or other infection.
  • Sports accidents that have caused injury to the mouth.

No matter the cause of your canker sore, there are at-home and in-office dental remedies you can try to make your sore go away faster. 

Soothing Your Mouth Sores Faster

Most canker sores will heal on their own in 1-2 weeks. You will know yours is healing if it stops hurting as much as the days go by, even if you can still visibly see the sore. If you only seem to get canker sores when you have been stressed, finding methods to de-stress may help with prevention. Studies show that stress itself physically contributes to the manifestation of cankers in many patients. Find a de-stressing activity you can do each day to avoid cankers if this seems to be the cause of yours. 

Mouth pastes, medications and oral rinses seem to be the most effective methods for relieving canker sores. Here are some tips for relieving your cankers: 

  • Do frequent salt water rinses throughout the day. Salt is a natural healer and helps speed up recovery of oral tissues after dental work or dental injury. Warm a cup of water enough to dissolve an ample amount of salt until the mixture tastes very salty. Go through several rounds of swishing the solution in your mouth for 20-30 seconds while it is still warm. The more you do this, the quicker your canker will heal
  • Avoid mouthwash and abrasive chemicals when you have a sore. These will irritate mouth sores even more. 
  • Ask about medications and pastes. When you get large canker sores or ones that don’t go away, seek dental help. You may need medication or pastes to get the infected area to heal. 
  • Make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition. Vitamin deficiencies in folate, B-12, iron and more can cause you frequent mouth sores. Take a vitamin supplement if you need to. 
  • Take care of your dental health. The cleaner your mouth is through brushing and flossing habits, the less likely you are to develop infection and sores when you have a dental injury or have had dental work. 

Seeing a Dentist for Help

If you have an oral health issue, your dentist can help you! Dentists have had 10 or more years of training that focuses solely on the health of the teeth, gums and face. Sores–especially canker sores–are incredibly common issues that patients deal with. Sores can happen after a soft tissue injury in the mouth, or they can happen simply from stress, your food choices and the other common reasons we’ve listed. You may only get one sore here or there, or you may get them often enough that dental or medical intervention is needed.

If you have a canker sore that is large, such as a dime-sized canker sore, make sure to call our office. Large sores can easily become infected, take longer to heal or can spread to more sores. Very small cankers may be able to heal on their own in just a few days. Speed up the process with our mouth sore remedies. When you’re still plagued by too many canker sores or are getting them more frequently than you think is normal, give our office a call. We can provide you with the special rinses, medications, and dental health changes to help you avoid canker sores in the future. Call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425!