Canker Sores


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Canker sores are shallow open sores which form on the inside of your cheeks, lips, on your tongue and at the base of your gums. Canker sores are quite painful and are prone to developing on the soft tissues. Although they are not contagious in the way that cold sores are, canker sores can cause a number of problems with eating and talking.

Symptoms of Canker Sores

Canker sores form in a rounded shape with a red border surrounding a yellow centre. There are several different kinds of canker sores, each with it is own characteristics. The most common type of canker sore is the Minor canker sore. This kind of sore doesn't usually produce any severe symptoms and is typically only half and inch wide. The Major canker sore is a larger type of ulcer which is not usually rounded like their minor counterparts. This sore will produce pain and can often take much longer to completely heal than other types of sore. Another relatively common form of canker sore is the Herpetiform sore; a group of smaller lesions which have a tendency to merge into one big ulcer.

Causes of Canker Sores

Although the exact causes of canker sores is not known, research has identified a number of contributing factors. There is a hereditary factor at work with canker sores so if a close relative suffers from them, then the chances of you developing them is increased. Canker sores occur more often in women and commonly show up between the ages of 10 and 40. Injuries inside the mouth through trauma or accident can often trigger canker sores in the affected area. In addition, an excess of spicy or acidic foods can cause irritation which may trigger the sores. Chewing tobacco (as well as causing several other oral health issues) has also been shown to trigger canker sores due to the chemicals irritating the mouth.

A wide range of dental problems with ill-fitting dentures or orthodontic attachments can trigger canker sore development in the area where they rub against the tissue. Similarly, broken or damaged teeth which rub against other tissues in your mouth can trigger the sores. Research has shown that stress can also be a potential cause of canker sores as can hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy, menstruation and menopause.

Treatment for Canker Sores

All the common types of canker sore tend to clear up on their own but in some cases the healing process can take a lot longer. If your sores last longer than two weeks or are accompanied by other symptoms, then contact your dentist for advice.

The most common forms of treatment for persistent or large canker sores include mouthwashes which contain steroids which help manage the pain and inflammation. They may also include antibiotics like tetracycline which will also help manage the pain and promote the healing process. There are various medications which, although not originally intended for treating canker sores, can often help like drugs used for treating gout. Nutritional supplements are often recommended, especially if you have found to have a lack of certain nutrients such as folic acid or vitamin B12 in your diet.

Preventing Canker Sores

There are several steps you can take to protect against the formation of canker sores. If you are sensitive to any food types then make sure to avoid them, particularly if you have any allergies. Maintaining a healthy and varied diet should be enough to combat any nutritional problems which may trigger canker sores. Similarly, maintaining a decent level of oral hygiene with plenty of brushing and flossing will help to keep your mouth free of food debris. Keeping your dentures or orthodotic equipment clean is especially important in avoiding the formation of sores.


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