When it comes to canker sore treatment, an accurate diagnosis by a trained healthcare professional is required before treatment is started. This is just to be sure that what you are treating is actually canker sore, since several other oral conditions may mimic canker sores at their earliest stage. Well, canker sores (aphthous ulcers) can be caused by a variety of issues. Other health problems such as cold sores, infections and oral cancer can actually look like canker sores within their early stages.
However, canker sores are small, painful ulcers that usually develop on the inside of lips, side of the tongue, inside the linings of the cheeks and on the gums, or throat. When you look at these sores, they appear white or yellow in the center, surrounded by a ring of red and Inflamed tissues. Generally, canker sores are known for burning or tingling sensation inside the mouth followed by painful, sensitive sores. Minor sores which measures from 3 to 10 millimeter last for about 10 to 14 days and heal without scarring.
Herpetiform sores on the other hand, is a type of canker sores that is characterized by large groups of multiple sores. Herpetiform sores can measure up to 2 – 3 millimeters and may be as many as 100 sores cluttering together at the same spot. A general rule by health care professionals is that any sores or mouth ulcers that persists for more than 10 to 14 days should be evaluated by a health professional and biopsied if necessary.
What causes canker sores?
There are numerous factors that may contribute to canker sores. An injury to the mouth tissues as a result of biting your tongue, lip, or cheek and injuries from braces, dentures, and other potentially sharp objects can lead to canker sores. Also, burning your mouth frequently when you always attempt to eat hot foods or beverages can equally contribute to canker sores. Researchers also made us to believe that vitamin deficiencies, hormonal changes, emotional stress and weakened immune system and food allergies can all result to canker sores.
Well, in my previous article, I gave a full list of the common possible causes of canker sores. You can read the post here – 10 serious causes of canker sores.
How to diagnose canker sores
Blood tests and other similar medical tests are not always necessary when diagnosing canker sores. Your doctor or dentist can easily identify them with a physical examination. Although, in some there may be need to check for other health problems, especially if your canker sores are severe and ongoing. People with frequent canker sores are usually tested for possible underlying medical conditions.
Biopsy is usually recommended when testing oral sores and ulcers. Remember, canker sores show similar symptoms with other severe oral problems. During biopsy, the doctor will have to take some tissues from your sores. These tissues are then sent to the lab where it’s being tested to identify the actual underlying cause of the problem.
Canker sore treatment
Minor canker sores does not necessarily need to be treated since they tend clear on their own in a week or two. Large, persistent, painful sores are the types that requires treatments. Major and herpetiform canker sores are usually severe and often more widespread, more painful, and interfere with the patient’s ability to eat and speak. Luckily, there are available treatments options to get rid of severe, persistent canker sores. Canker sore treatment options includes:
If your sores are several and causes lots of discomforts. Your doctor or dentist may prescribe suitable mouthwash to reduce the pain and Inflammation if there is any too. Diphenhydramine is a great mouth rinse that has a powerful topical anesthetic effects, when applied directly on the tissue of the mouth and the canker sores. Anti-inflammatory steroid and tetracycline antibiotic mouth rinses are also prescribed to help relieve the pain and promote healing of canker sores. However, tetracycline should not be given to pregnant women or children under the age of 16 years.
2. Topical medications
There are numerous topical gels that can be applied directly on the canker sores to relieve pain, decrease inflammation, and prevent infection.
- Topical pain medication gels. These includes topical pain medications such as benzocaine (Orajel, Orabase) and lidocaine (an anesthetic). They generally applied directly on the canker sore to relieve pain or discomfort. This medications cover the sores, providing pain relief effects as well as protecting the sore to heals.
- Topical anti-inflammatory medications. These special steroid medications which includes triamcinolone acetonide or fluocinonide are used topically to decrease inflammation from canker sores. (1)
- Topical antibiotics. These medications may be prescribed if your canker sores are becoming infected with bacteria. When the sores gets infected, you are more likely to experience redness, pus discharge, bad breath or even fever as a result of the infection.
3. Oral medications
Oral medications are usually recommended, when canker sores are too severe or do not respond to topical treatments. Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil ), acetaminophen (Tylenol ), or naproxen (Aleve ) can be used to relieve discomforts from canker sores. Although, oral medications for canker sores do come with some serious side effects, they’re usually a last resort.
4. Zinc Supplements
People that have zinc deficiencies tend to suffer from canker sores on a regular basis. According to studies, consistent taking of zinc supplements has been shown to reduce canker sores by between 50 to 100 percent. High-quality zinc lozenge has been proven to be very effective when it comes to healing your canker sores. Zinc lozenges helps to promote faster healing and also help to prevent recurrence of canker sores.
5. Vitamin B-12 supplements
The deficiencies of certain nutrients in the body such as folate (folic acid), vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, iron or zinc can lead to persistent and reoccurring canker sores. Your doctor may prescribe a nutritional supplement if you consume low amounts of important nutrients, such as folate (folic acid), vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 or zinc. A study reported that consistent taking of vitamin B-12 supplement, reduced the amount of pain from the canker sores, the number of outbreaks, and the number of ulcers experienced in a month. (2)
Home remedies for canker sores
Salt water rinse
Salt water is a natural mouthwash that that promotes healing of inflamed or damaged oral tissue. The water contains a powerful anti-inflammatory, healing and antibacterial properties, which helps to reduce the pain, promote faster healing and also prevents infection. Make a solution by dissolving 1 teaspoon of salt in a half cup of warm water. Swish the solution around in your mouth for 30 seconds, then spit out and rinse your mouth with clean water.
Baking soda mouthwash
Baking soda is an alkaline in nature. It helps to reduce the pain by maintaining a healthy pH level in your mouth. It neutralizes those acids in your mouth that irritates your canker sores. Also, baking soda has an antiseptic properties, it kills the bacteria in your mouth, helping your canker sore to heal even more faster. Prepare a solution by mixing 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a half cup of warm water. Swish the mixture around your mouth and wash it off with clean water after.
Avoid certain foods
Patients who experience frequent canker sores are always advised to avoid very spicy, salty, or acidic food, which can irritate their canker sores and stop them from healing. Hot drinks and foods with rough edges, might equally cause discomforts and prevent your sores from healing as supposed. In addition, you should try as much as possible to always brush your teeth gently. Use only soft-bristled toothbrush and foaming-agent-free toothpaste such as Biotene or Sensodyne ProNamel until your canker sores heals.
Milk of magnesia
Milk of magnesia is an effective home remedy for fighting oral problems, including canker sores. To apply the milk, you can dab milk of magnesia directly onto the canker sore with a cotton swab. In order to increase the effectiveness, you can mix your milk of magnesia with Benadryl liquid and use the mixture as a mouth rinse, everyday until the sores goes away.
Read here to learn more. See – 8 remedies for treating canker sores at home yourself.