Also known as aphthous ulcers, canker sores are a common type of mouth ulcer that causes excruciating pain and discomfort. They’re shallow lesions or inflammations that persist in the lining of the mouth, specifically soft tissues like gums. They’re usually round and white or gray in color with a red border.
They’re not contagious. In fact, they can heal within one to three weeks, without any medical treatment. However, some severe cases may require medications and at least six weeks of recovery.
Canker sores come in three different types, including:
- Minor canker sores: They’re small lesions that usually heal around two weeks, without any scarring. They’re the most widespread condition among other types, occurring three or four times a year. People aged between 10 and 20 usually get them.
- Major canker sores: They’re larger than minor sores and may last up to six weeks with little scarring. They usually appear in people who have had them before.
- Herpetiform canker sores: Unlike other types, which are oval-shaped, these lesions are usually irregularly shaped and often persist as clusters.
One of the symptoms of canker sores is painful sores on the soft palate (which is the back part of the mouth’s roof), inside the cheeks, or tongue. You’ll also feel a tingling sensation before canker sores form. When the sores are severe, though, you may feel sluggish, experience fever, and develop swollen lymph nodes.
Over-the-counter products can be taken to relieve symptoms. But sores that are large and painful are treated with prescription corticosteroid ointment, antibacterial mouth rinse, or a solution.
Moreover, canker sores are often mistaken for cold sores, which are fluid-filled blisters that are contagious and triggered by a virus. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are visible outside the mouth: around the lips, under the chin, or under the nose.
You can search for an informative post or a guide to have a better understanding of canker sores. Continue reading to learn about the most common causes of canker sores and some tips that you can follow to prevent them:
- Mouth Injuries
Mouth injuries are some of the most common causes of canker sores. The lining of the mouth is so delicate and susceptible to damage that it’s prone to canker sores.
Here are some factors that might lead to mouth injuries:
- Brushing roughly, particularly in the gumline area
- Flossing your teeth aggressively
- Sustaining an injury while playing sports
- Biting your gums or tongue accidentally
- Eating extremely hot food accidentally
You can prevent mouth injuries by brushing and flossing your teeth softly and gently, being careful while playing sports, chewing your food lightly, and waiting for hot food to cool a bit.
It will be better to use toothbrushes with soft and hair-like bristles to prevent injuries to your gums and gum line. Soft-bristled toothbrushes can bend and reach areas that a regular toothbrush isn’t able to clean.
- Wrong Toothpaste And Mouthwash
Another common cause of canker sores is using the wrong mouthwash and toothpaste. Of course, these two are essential in maintaining oral health since they help remove plaque buildups and food debris. However, some of them can cause lesions, particularly those products with harsh chemicals.
The harsh compound that can cause or worsen canker sores is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). It will be best to check the list of ingredients of any toothpaste and mouthwash before you check the items out at the counter, especially if you’re sensitive to the chemical.
Experts believe that using SLS-free dental care products may induce the healing process of canker sores. So, if you do have canker sores, avoid using products with SLS. Monitor your condition constantly, and if it worsens, seek your local dentist right away.
Diet plays a crucial role in the development of canker sores. In fact, some foods may trigger canker sores, such as spicy and salty foods. You might want to avoid consuming acidic foods as well, including tomatoes, oranges, limes, and lemons.
Check your nutrient intake, specifically folic acid, iron, and zinc. According to experts, the lack of these nutrients may promote canker sores. If you can’t reach the daily recommended intake through food consumption, you can consider taking multivitamins and supplements.
Furthermore, some studies suggest that taking cobalamin or vitamin B12 reduces the symptoms of aphthous ulcers. However, more research is required to prove these claims.
- Bad Bacteria
Bacteria, especially pathogenic bacteria, is one of the leading causes of stomach ulcers, specifically Helicobacter pylori. Once this microorganism reaches the sensitive lining of your mouth, canker sores may start to develop.
To prevent such a situation, make sure that the food you consume is safe to eat. When you cook meat, see to it that it reaches the right internal temperature to kill every living microorganism present. Aside from food preparation, brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice per day.
- Food Allergies
There’s a higher chance of developing canker sores if you have allergies. For instance, if you have Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or other food-induced allergies, your mouth may become too dry, which results in canker sores.
You can prevent a dry mouth by simply avoiding food you’re allergic to. But if your allergies worsen, it’s best to seek medical help immediately.
Canker sores can be caused by genetics too. So, if one or both your parents are susceptible to canker sores, you’re more likely to have them as well.
Though getting these sores may be genetic, following a healthy diet and practicing good oral hygiene will be helpful.
- Constant Stress
One more factor that leads to canker sores is stress. When you’re stressed, the production of hormones in your body becomes imbalanced, and the stress-inducing hormone cortisol may increase.
To relieve stress, take a break whenever you can. Even five minutes will do. In addition to taking breaks, do something that makes you happy, such as engaging in nature photography, painting, or reading. Attending a therapy session will help too.
Canker sores are extremely painful and uncomfortable to deal with when speaking and eating. Thus, it’s important to prevent them as much as possible. One way to do that is to be aware of what causes them.