Canker Sore Characteristics and Proper Treatment
We’ve all had them at some point or another, those pesky mouth sores that test your pain tolerance while chewing your food. Canker sores (also known as aphthous ulcers) only occur inside the mouth and tend to develop under the tongue, on your cheeks and lips, at the base of your gums or on your soft palate. Unlike cold sores that stem from a virus and are extremely contagious, canker sores cannot spread by sharing food or kissing someone.
Canker sores are extremely common and usually nothing to worry about. In most cases, they aren’t serious and should go away on their own. However, there are two types you should be aware of – minor and major. Minor canker sores are the most common and appear as a small, oval shaped bump with red edges that heal without scarring in one to two weeks. Major canker sores are less common and are larger and deeper and are usually round with defined borders. These types are also extremely painful and may take up to six weeks to heal.
What Causes Canker Sores?
No one knows exactly what causes canker sores, but they have been linked to stress and poor nutrition. Studies have shown that some cases of complex canker sores are caused by an underlying health condition, such as a depreciated immune system as well as a vitamin B-12, folic acid, or iron deficiency. Dental appliances such as braces or ill-fitting dentures can also be canker sore culprits and eating citrus or acidic foods can trigger the problem, if not make it worse.
Appropriate Treatment Measures
Treatment is meant to take the edge off before the canker sore heals. Before you sprinkle a Q-Tip with salt and endure unnecessary agony, try taking over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to alleviate discomfort. You’ll also need to watch what you eat because tart snacks such as potato chips and pretzels can wreak havoc on the open wound.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent canker sores from occurring, but you can prohibit them from getting bigger. Other possible treatment methods include pain-relieving gels and rinsing with warm water. Additionally, some dentists offer laser treatment that offers almost complete relief of the symptoms immediately.
When to See the Doctor
If you have canker sores that keep recurring and/or do not get better after a few weeks, give your dentist a call. People with frequent canker sores should schedule an oral cancer screening to rule out oral cancer. You should also consult your doctor if you experience unusually large canker sores, pain that you can’t control with self-care measures or if you are in pain to the point where it’s preventing you from eating or drinking.