Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers)-Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What are canker sores?
Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small painful ulcers that develop inside the mouth. These sores form on the tongue, at the base of the gums, and inside of the lips and cheeks. Canker sores are white or yellow in color and surrounded by a bright red area. They are neither cancerous not contagious. Canker sores are a common form of mouth ulcers. Canker sores are not the same as a fever blisters or cold sores. Most canker sores heal on their own without any treatment.
What causes canker sores?
What exactly causes canker sores is not known. It is thought they may occur due to viral infections, tissue injury, or stress. Certain foods may also trigger canker sores. Certain immune disorders may also cause canker sores.
Canker sores can also be brought on by:
- Cleaning the teeth too roughly
- Biting the tongue or cheek
- Mouth injury from dental work
The following things can also trigger canker sores:
- Lack of certain vitamins and minerals in the diet, such as iron, folic acid, or vitamin B-12
- Hormonal changes
- Food allergies
- Emotional stress
What are the symptoms of canker sores?
Mostly, canker sores occur on the inner surface of the cheeks and lips, tongue, the upper surface of the mouth, and the base of the gums.
The following are the common symptoms:
- One or more painful, red spots or bumps that develop into an open ulcer
- White or yellow center
- Small size (mostly one-third inch or 1 cm)
- Gray color as healing starts
The following are the less common symptoms:
- Swollen lymph nodes
How are canker sores diagnosed?
Your doctor can easily diagnose a canker sore by looking at the sore. If canker sores persist or continue to return, the doctor may do some tests to look for other causes, such as erythema multiforme, drug allergies, herpes infection, and bullous lichen planus.
How are canker sores treated?
Mostly, the canker sores go away without any treatment. Pain often goes away in 7 to 10 days. It can take 1 to 3 weeks for a canker sore to completely heal. The doctor may ask you not to eat hot or spicy foods, which can cause pain. He/she may recommend using OTC medicines to ease the pain.
Your doctor may recommend the following self-care measures:
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss your teeth every day. Also, get routine dental check-ups.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water or mild, over-the-counter mouthwashes.
- Apply a mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water directly to the sore using a cotton swab. Follow by dabbing a small amount of Milk of Magnesia on the canker sore afterward. Repeat these steps 3 to 4 times a day.
- Rinse your mouth with a mixture of half Milk of Magnesia and half Benadryl liquid allergy medicine. Swish mixture in the mouth for about 1 minute and then spit out.
Your doctor may prescribe the following medicines if the canker sores are severe:
- Chlorhexidine mouthwash
- Oral corticosteroids or corticosteroids to be placed on the sore
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.