Canker sores are very painful sores or lesions that occur inside the cheeks, lips, at the base of the gums, and on or under the tongue. Unlike cold sores, canker sores only develop inside the mouth, they don’t occur on the surface of the lips and they aren’t contagious. Cold sores are contagious, they are mostly caused by virus and can develop outside the mouth around the lips, on the cheeks or chin, or inside the nostrils. These two sores are can be painful, making eating and talking difficult.
In general, canker sores start as white to yellowish ulcers that are surrounded by redness and are less than a half inch in size. They usually appear very small at the earliest stage. But they may grow up to 1 inch in diameter as more days passes without treatment. In most cases, canker sores go away on their own in a week or two without treatment. But if the sores continues to get larger or painful and doesn’t seem to heal, then that’s a big problem.
You’ll usually feel a burning or tingling sensation on the spot where the canker sore is forming. And once it does form, it will be painful, but can usually be managed through self-care.
Types of canker sores
Well, there are three common types of canker sores, they include:
- Simple canker sores: this is the most common type of canker sores that doctors and dentists see very often. They are usually small, oval shaped with a red edge and heals without scarring in one to two weeks. Although, anyone can get simple canker sores, but they mostly occur in people between 10 and 20 years of age. They may appear 3 or 4 times a year and last between a week or two.
- Major canker sores: these type of canker sores are are larger and deeper than simple canker sores. Major canker sores are less common and occur more often in people who’ve had canker sores before. They are usually round with defined borders, but may have irregular edges when very large. These sores are extremely painful and larger, they may take up to six weeks to heal and can leave extensive scarring.
- Herpetiform canker sores: Herpetiform canker sores are rare, but they’re not caused by herpes virus infection. These sores are persistent and can last up to two weeks or more. They often occur in clusters of 10 to 100 sores, but may merge into one large ulcer. Herpetiform canker sores have irregular edges and heals without scarring after some few weeks.
Canker sore causes
The exact cause of canker sores remains unclear, though researchers have revealed some factors that can contribute to the outbreaks. Young people in their teens and early twenties seem to get canker sores most often, women on the other hand are twice as likely to develop them as men. Well, here are some of the causes and factors that may result to canker sores:
1. Allergic reactions and sensitivities to certain foods. Many people out there do experience severe sensitivity and allergic reactions to some foods. In most cases, people experience food sensitivities, particularly to lemons, oranges, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, and spicy or acidic foods. Taking this type of foods regularly everyday, can trigger the formation of canker sores or make the problem worse.
2. Injuries to the mouth. Minor injuries to your mouth from dental work, aggressive brushing, contact sports or an accidental bite on the inside of the cheek or lip can actually lead to canker sores. Also, frequent taking of hot foods or drinks can burn the inside of the mouth and result to canker sores. In addition, Ill-fitting braces, poor-fitting complete or partial dentures, broken tooth, orthodontic brackets, bands, and various other orthodontic attachments will often cause canker sores in the mouth where there is constant friction on the oral tissues.
3. Nutritional deficiency. As we already know, there are essential nutrients that are required by our body in order to stay healthy and strong. When these needed nutrients are lacking, one problem or the other will surface. However, Canker sores is commonly seen in patients with nutritional problems. Deficiency in certain nutrients such as vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid and iron can trigger the development and recurrence of canker sores.
4. Hormonal changes. Women are more likely to have dental problems including canker sores than men. The reason for this, is because of frequent hormonal changes that occur in women. Normally, during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, women tend to experience increased levels of hormones. An increased level of hormones makes the mouth tissues to be extremely sensitive, and susceptible to tissue irritation and canker sores.
5. A faulty immune system. Certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS suppresses the immune system, making the patients susceptible to oral problems and infections. In most cases, the immune system may turn and attack the healthy cells in your mouth instead of pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
6. Diseases. People with inflammatory bowel diseases ( Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), Celiac disease (a serious intestinal disorder) and Behcet’s disease (a rare disorder that causes inflammation throughout the body) are more likely to develop canker sores more often than people who are healthy.
7. Allergic and Immune reactions. According to Verywellhealth, allergies to metals such as nickel may become evident in the mouth of a person wearing orthodontic devices necessary to move the teeth. Canker sores may begin to appear adjacent to the metal attachments. This is often referred to as contact dermatitis.
8. Bacteria. Although, bacteria does not cause canker sores directly, but allergic reaction to certain types of bacteria found in the mouth may also result in this type of mouth ulcers. Helicobacter pylori, the same bacteria that cause peptic ulcers has been linked to canker sore occurrence.
9. Emotional stress. Scientists have shown that emotional stress is a possible trigger that may cause the development of canker sores. According to a study of college students, it was discovered that students usually have more canker sores during stressful periods, especially around exam periods.
10. Family history. Canker sores often run in families. Often people with recurrent canker sores have a family history of the disorder. This may be due to heredity or to a shared factor in the environment, such as certain foods or allergens.
Normally, canker sores is supposed to heal on their own in a few days to a couple of weeks, treatment is generally not necessary. But if the sores grows larger and becomes more painful after two weeks, then you should see a health professional. In the meantime, over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to ease the pain and discomforts.
At the doctor’s office, there may be need to carry out some necessary tests to look for possible nutritional deficiencies, immune system deficiencies, and food or other allergies. If the problem is caused by nutritional deficiencies, it can still be corrected with dietary changes or prescription vitamin supplements. Your doctor may prescribe some topical medicines, mouthwash, or home remedies to help heal the sores as well as prevent infection. There are some effective medicines and home remedies that are applied directly on the canker sores for fast healing. You can check here to see: