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Canker Sores: What to do

Updated on December 6, 2010

Canker sores are not fun to have. They are also called aphthous ulcers and they can be very painful and downright irritating as they will make eating food and brushing your teeth difficult. Canker sores look like white-pinkish splotches on the inside of your mouth. They can occur on the insides of your lips, cheeks, and even tongues. It's not clear what causes them. There are some indications that stress may be a factor as well as hormones and diet. In any case, they are not the same as cold sores which are contagious and usually appears to occur outside of the mouth. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are also not contagious. So, no worries over infections.

Partly since there is no clear reason for why canker sores occur, there is also no clear treatment (i.e., as in treating a sore caused by bacteria or a virus as in the case of cold sores. If left alone, canker sores usually go away within 1-2 weeks.

If possible, keep the sore wet or lubricated so that it does not become worse. If you sleep with your mouth open, chances are the sore will become dry. When that happens, it feels like the sore has been further aggravated when you wake up, kind of like when a leaf dries and easily cracks. Therefore, if possible, try to sleep with your mouth closed.

Similarly, try not to aggravate the sore by overtly touching it with a toothbrush or certain kinds of foods (e.g., spicy, tart, etc. foods). These will not only cause pain but could very well make the sore worse, and take longer to heal.

Use something to cover the sore to help it heal. While you are sleeping, perhaps the simplest thing to do would be to use some petroleum jelly (e.g., vaseline). First, use a towel or tissue to dry the sore. Then using a q-tip or even your finger, apply a generous amount of the petroleum jelly so that all of the sore is fully covered. This will not only help the sore to heal faster but should provide some pain relief as well. There are various over-the-counter medicine that can be used and homemade peroxide-based mouthwashes that can be used. Rather than going through all of that, simply make sure your mouth is clean (i.e., carefully brush your teeth) and then apply some petroleum jelly to the sore. It is the simplest thing to do and is very effective.


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      Anaqipnas 4 months ago

      Sweetsusieg thanks for passing the remedy. I have tried to keep up with my hygiene to preserve my health, and over the counter medication. It's doing it's job, though I'm at work looking a bit awful. Its been two long days with pain and inflammation on my lip and I'm going to try to use your remedy. I'll let you know how it works.

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      Lillian 5 years ago

      I started to have canker sore on my tongue in 1998. It would heal in about 10 to 14 days, then about 5 days later, another one will form. This went on and on and I had tried many ways e.g. herbal tea, vitamin B etc, but none worked. In March 2011, I read that it could be due to the toothpaste. So I bought a toothpaste which is SLS free and does not brag about its "whitening" effect - it's called AloeDent Triple Action. Since using this toothpaste, I have not had one single canker sore and I've been free from canker sores for more than 12 months now.

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      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      I do have a home remedy... It is one that I was taught by my grand mother, mother and have used it... This is going to sound ridiculous but it REALLY does work. Powdered Alum. That is something used for pickling foods.

      I will warn you, it does sting for a little bit, not too long though. What it does is cause the sore to 'close' up or possibly pucker the edges bring them closer so they can close.

      How to apply; dip dry Q-tip into small amount of powdered alum, try to cover the head of the Q-tip by rolling it around in the alum, apply to the sore. Like I said it will sting for a bit, but it does work.

      BTW Love the pic!!!! ewww, been a while since I had one but I do remember how bad they felt!

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