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How to Treat and Prevent Chronic Canker Sores in the Mouth

Updated on July 31, 2012

If you've ever had canker sores, which are sores in your mouth, you know how painful they can be. It can make eating a very unpleasant experience. Even talking can be uncomfortable. Food and drink, like orange juice or chocolate, can really make the infected area sting. People that rarely get canker sores tend to endure them until they eventually go away. Others, who suffer with them more frequently, may need immediate and long term answers to remedy this condition. Traditional methods of treatment include harsh chemical antiseptics, creams and rinses by doctors. Unfortunately, these treatments cannot prevent or cure this condition long term. Natural treatments are much more safe and provide an effective long term solution.

Over 60 million people in the United State alone get canker sores. Sores in the mouth are also known as Apthous ulcers, are painful little, white ulcers with a red border that can form anywhere inside the mouth. They can appear singly or in small groups. Healing time can take up to two weeks without any treatment and even longer if they are unusually large. They can range in size from very small to over an inch. Ongoing high levels of stress and certain foods are triggers for recurring canker sores.

Food allergies have been considered a major cause of recurring sores in mouth. Even if you don't have any known symptoms of foods allergies they may be involved. Food allergies you used to have as a child can resurface later in life in a hidden form that may be responsible for canker sores. Many people with canker sores have been found to be allergic to gluten. It is important to find out if you are allergic to any foods, and if so, elliminate them.

People who have heavily used antibiotics or eat a lot of white flour and white sugar, sweets and chocolates can be more susceptable to canker sores because they promote bad bacteria which compromises the immune system. Chronic canker sores may also be caused by digestive diseases, improper dental hygiene and high levels of continual stress. Canker sores have been found to form when certain nutrients are low or missing. Many times they occur with anemia when vitamin B12, iron and folic acid are lacking. Small mouth injuries can lead to canker sores. People have found that when they supplement their diet with the needed nutrients, their chronic, recurring, symptoms disappeared. Zinc deficiency has also been found to cause canker sores.

A mixture of sodium bicarbonate powder and water is an excellent first aid treatment. It can be used to rinse the mouth and even swallowed to help reduce body acidity. There are a number of toothpastes available that contain sodium bicarbonate, which would be a better choice than standard brands that are high in various chemicals. Another very effective, immediate relief remedy is deglycyrrhizinated licorice lozenges which can be slowly dissolved in the mouth to relieve pain and to help with healing. Studies have shown that people using glycyrrhizinated licorice have had 50 to 75% relief from pain within 24 hours.

Eating plain, white unsweetened yogurt several times daily has been found to shorten the time it takes to heal canker sores because it produces beneficial bacteria that fights infection and overcomes bad bacteria throughout the body. Foods rich in B vitamins such as green, leafy vegetables and whole grains will help the body to better cope with stress. HIgh acid foods such as tea, chocolate, red meat, fried foods, processed foods and alcohol should be avoided. High allergy foods like wheat, nuts, rye, milk and dairy products should be avoided for several months and food allergy testing should be done through a natural health-care provider.

Supplements that are effective in treating canker sores include probiotics for good bacteria repopulation, vitamin B complex (50mg 3 times daily) and zinc lozenges (one15mg lozenges every three hours while awake. a maximum of 5 daily for 2 days ) to boost immunity and speed healing time, and extra Vitamin B3 (50mg 3 times daily. Do not take if you have gout, high blood pressure or a liver disorder). B3 or niacin deficiency has been linked to the development of canker sores. Tea tree oil can be applied directly to the canker sore. It has a numbing affect and prevents infection.

Sores in the mouth are a sign of health problems in the body. Making changes in diet and adding the appropriate supplements will not only treat and cure irritating canker sores but will help to eliminate any health disorders in the body.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I posted about two years ago, you can see my post above. Went to get my tonsils out, canker sores came back stronger than ever right after the surgery and covered my tongue. I couldn't eat or drink anything for days. I know that is pretty normal for a tonsillectomy, but I couldn't even take my pain medicine it hurt so bad. Waited a few days, and then took some prednisone and it cleared right up. I could finally at least kind of eat (really light), and I could drink, finally. Went to a couple more specialists when the canker sores and sore throat came back, and finally got diagnosed with Behcet's (someone above mentioned that their son was diagnosed with it). While prednisone and other steroids help, they make me feel terrible in other ways, so my Rheumatologist prescribed Colchicine. I hardly ever get any canker sores any more, unless I am really stressed out, and they are far fewer in number than they used to be. Only about 3 instead of upwards of 15-20. So, if any of you are having issues with arthritis in addition to canker sores, or having other sores on your body, or having vision issues, get checked out by a rheumatologist, maybe. The colchicine has really helped me, and there are hardly any side effects. It just makes me feel better, which is really nice. Even if you don't have behcet's, it could be another autoimmune issue, which colchicine helps with.

    • profile image

      John in Michigan 

      6 years ago

      I have always fought canker sores but recently with all the heat it seems like the air conditioning has agravated my nostril and mouth areas and now I am fighting canker sores each week - anybody notice the difference when constantly in air conditioning? Thanks John

    • profile image

      Master Wellness Coach Sherri 

      6 years ago

      Any sore in the mouth and gums is easily remedied with the aminoacid L-Lysine. Herpes virus and high levels of the aminoacid L-Argnine contribute to canker sores. Peanut butter, chocolate and tomatoes are high in L-argnine. What works for me and others who have tried this recommendation is the following - At first sign of any sores in the mouth, tongue and helps with sore throats as well, Take 8 tablets of 1,000mg all at once. Then 4 tablets of 1,000mg a day til pain is gone, then one a day til completely gone and continue for one week after.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My son is 14 and has braces. Even before he had braces he would get them. But recently he got hit in the mouth and developed about 11 canker sores on the inside of the upper lip. Now those 11 have turned into 3 huge pits!!! He is in sooo much pain. Any suggestions to help him now?!?!? He is using peroxyl, kincaid, orabase, also take Lysene but no relief. Help???

    • flacoinohio profile image


      6 years ago from Ohio

      Very informative, I refered kennedybrown to this hub, she has some questions about chronic canker sores that your hub may be able to help her with. This hub may assist her in some questions she could ask her self and her doctor to maybe assist her in her search for treatment with her chronic canker sores.

    • orchidloverdianne profile image


      6 years ago from Manila, Quezon City

      Wow! awesome hub! I love your healthy hubs. Thanks for sharing!

      Looking forward to read more incoming hubs from you!

      God Bless!


    • profile image


      6 years ago from Detroit,Mi.

      Hey John. Yeah clove oil is really strong stuff! Canker sores are the result of toxicity or over- acidity in the body which does not allow wounds not only in the mouth, but the entire system to heal. Have the patient drink juices, distilled water, and red raspberry leaf tea for 3 days(they will not starve)and you will see a wonderous improvement. Follow a diet of fruits, veg., whole grains. nuts and seeds(non-mucus), keep the bowels clean and free moving so that there is no reoccurance.Other herbs used with excellent results are Plantain, Slippery Elm, and Wheat Germ.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I guarantee the clove oil solution is perfect for those with canker sores in the throat as all you do is put a drop or two in the mouth and swallow with a little saliva for timely and long lasting relief and speed of healing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      THE remedy for canker sores that have NEVER failed, I've tried most of them, is CLOVE OIL. It gives momentary pain that immediately afterward gives soothing relief...within seconds it'll feel like they've already healed and you have no sores at all. I kid you not--WITHIN HOURS, your sore will be on the road to healing and they often would heal overnight. Make sure you wash the oil thoroughly off your fingers & don't let it touch your lips as the potency will burn it. But just thoroughly rinse that skin well and place COLD water or ice on'll sooth and be harmless in a no time. I carry a bottle with me when I'm out at work and one at home, so after eating, I just go to the bathroom and apply remedy if one flares up...and I'm fine for the rest of the day.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am vegan and still get these. At least 3 at any given time. I only drink water so no sugary drinks and things. Can you help me understand? Also I take a multi, probiotic, and B12

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My son has had a chronic issue of canker sores since he was a kid and they have progressed and increased in quantity and outbreaks. He was once hospitalized for 5 days because the sores in the mouth, in his throat, and on his lips were so bad he could barely drink out of a straw. Severe dehydration set in. He is getting married today and last night he informed me his sores are back. Thank you for the insight I will run out and get him what I can this morning and see if they will not give him some relief so that he can enjoy this memorable day. The doctors diagnosed him with Buscets disease....have you ever heard of it? Thank you for this Hub and I am thanking God right not that I came acrossed this article this morning.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi there!! We have been to every specialist under the sun but no luck for my 5 year old that lives with horrific mouth sores constantly . Any suggestions on your above recommendations for vitamin dosing a 5 year old?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      did you mention they're not contagious...someone asked about that and they aren't

    • profile image

      Alfred Knows 

      6 years ago

      Great hub Steve, You are to be commended for your insightful suggestions to this problem of Canker sores. I have always thought that Edgar Cayce had the answer to many health issues, as this one. He said that eruptions on the skin will occur from underlying problems, (such as warts) this is the body's method of defense to expel the inner problem. If a person would put a mouth piece (available at a drug store) used to prevent grinding of the teeth, in their mouth at night, it would prevent the sores from occurring. Hence, the stress at night is relieved, by the mouth piece, there by eliminating the problem of acid in the mouth.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment Heath!

      If you are willing to switch to a plant-based diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds you will see results. In order for this to be effective you need to cut out processed, refined and fast foods, commercial baked goods, foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans-fats. Cut down animal protein consumption to not more than 5% of totally daily calorie intake. That means it very little meat and dairy. Then you need to be patient because it won't happen overnight.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Have had chronic sores all my life. As many as 19 at once and never without at least 5 or 6.

      The ENT put me on steroids and they healed right up, but I can't continue on steroids forever.

      I have tried the majority of the things in this hub except for the licorice lozenges. The doctor told me that mine are not related to allergies, he said I'm sorry there's nothing you can do. Just try not to be so stressed.

      Easier said than done. My question is if the steroids work so well what can I do naturally to have the same effect??

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have had chronic mouth sores for a few mon of gluten products..tried soda did not help..they say dairy foods may cause not know about yogart..tried steriods..antibotics..still no releft completely,,tried aftazen..for 40 did not helptake zinc no avail..take b comples..guess it just stress..need to mediatate..or DR,. WEil says hyponotisem works..need to try it

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I used to get the sores quite a bit as a child. I would get them maybe once every couple of years. But the last 2 years I have had them constantly. As one would heal another 1 or 2 would develop. The most I have had at one time is 6. They are usually just under the lip and on the side of the mouth, but the worst ones are on the tongue. I currently have 3 on my tongue. I went to my doctor about 6 months ago and they took blood for a workup and didn't find anything specifically wrong. I did get a topical steroid prescription and was told to take a Vitamin B Complex daily, neither has helped. Previous to the doctors visit I had switched to Sensodyne ProNamel which is SLS free. I will look into the Licorice lozenges as another thing to try. I really wish to have a cure for these soars.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have always had issues with canker sores, but recently (last 6 months), I have been having a bout of canker sores about every 2-3 weeks (sometimes with more than ten sores in my mouth). It's very difficult to eat or talk with this sores, and in general, I am miserable. At one point, they were so bad that I lost about 10 pounds because I couldn't ever eat, it was so painful. I'm getting my tonsils taken out in November because of recurrent severe sore throats/strep throat that occurs at the same time or just before the canker sores... I'm hoping this helps the problem some. I'm looking forward to trying some of these remedies, because I am getting worn down.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This started for me to vitamin tablets .. Really it hurt me alot when I get dis.

    • profile image

      Gf lady 

      7 years ago

      Gluten. I got terrible mouth ulcers for most of my life, every few weeks I would get a batch. Since being diagnosed with coeliacs (celiac to you in the us) they have totally gone. Anaemia and mouth ulcers were my ONLY symptoms of this life long condition and I would happily have gone gluten free just to get rid of the ulcers!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i havee had recurrent canker sores for the past 10 years so badly the ENT doctors had to give me cortisone shots --They all say that its not preventable and there is nothing I can do except not get stressed out. I have tried Lysine ,cutting out -nuts chocoate wheat -etc.. but lately since I usually am not wihout at least one sore -I would like to hope for faster healing.. I will try the bcomplex ,DGL licorice and yogurt and folic acid and zinc lozenges since i tend to be a bit anemic-i am not crazy about meat but i love kale and leafy greens . wish me luck since I am entering a high stress period for work and need to Not have these canker sores interfering-Thank you so much Steve and everyone for giving me some hope and helpful advice!!

    • profile image

      p davis 

      7 years ago

      i have looked at every tuber of toothpaste and haven't found one with out sls.If you are brave enough a clove of garlic cut up and a piece put directly on the ulcer works real quick.The pain is not good but it heals next day.

    • DuchessDuCaffeine profile image


      7 years ago from United States of America

      Great article. I'm going shopping for deglycyrrhizinated licorice lozenges right now. I've never heard of it before, but licorice is beneficial in so many ways that I'm not surprised. Thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have had cankers since I was a youngster, then occasionally, then later in life I had them every week before my cycle started, I used lysine, yogurt and cranberry juice and it subsided for actually years. Now in this past year I am getting them again once a month, and beyond the years of menstruation. I eat well but notice your list of items to avoid. This will be a good article to refer. Good info for me. Thanks

    • tnderhrt23 profile image


      7 years ago

      My 6-year-old grandson gets canker sores fairly often. The last one was huge and deep. Took a long time to heal. This article is invaluable information that I will pass on to his parents! Many thanks!

    • profile image

      Shahbaz Younis 

      7 years ago

      Great Hub indeed, I am fed-up with canker sore, I have had this since I was kid, it become chronic to me, when one canker sore near to heal, another grow up. But from this hub I just found some useful info about SLS, certainly I'll make sure my toothpaste is SLS free, and also about another remedy is to dab some salt on canker sore for quick relief. I'll try this thanks all....

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Very Informative Hub!

    • profile image

      Jacqueline Harmon 

      8 years ago

      I have suffered from canker sores for most of my life. They became chronic when my stress level as a single parent went through the roof. Life is still pretty hard to handle and I haven't found a way to prevent them. Doctors only tell me that they're caused by biting the inside of the mouth. But as an experiential expert, I know that they pop in places where I can't possible bite myself. What have I learned? I've learned that I am not going to apply salt to painful ulcers, as many as 8 at once sometimes. So I take a daily dose of liquid B-complex and Vitamin C w/bioflavanoids; and keep a bottle of folic acid tablets on hand for an outbreak of one or two. (I've been able to prevent onsets by with two folic acid tabs before going to bed.) They don't get as bad or last as long as they used to; I have two right now and one has practically healed in two days. Perhaps someday, I'll be canker sore free.

    • viking305 profile image

      L M Reid 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      Very informative hub thanks. I have been suffering from these sores for a while now. My doctor took a swab a few weeks ago just in case and I'm back there on Thurs.

      I am dealing with a lot of stress at the moment so that is probably the cause of them. The many ways of easing the pain you have outlined here will be a great help thanks.

    • profile image

      Cold Sore Medication 

      8 years ago

      This for posting this article Steve. I'm sure that a lot of people will benefit from this information, especially the mouthwash brand that cures them instantly...starrkissed...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      If you get them because of food allergies or whatever, are they still contagious?

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment dinkan53!

      There are a number of rich sources of B vitamins among plant-based foods. Vegetarians do not need to eat meat to get all the b vitamins and protein they need as long as they know how to combine plant-based foods.

    • dinkan53 profile image


      8 years ago from India

      I heard that usually vegetarians are suffering from mouth sores because of the deficiency of Vitamin B and I think B- complex tablets will do the best.

    • thaninja profile image


      9 years ago from America

      I was always told they were caused by not washing the soap off of the

    • kawendie profile image


      9 years ago

      Good to know. I have been using a steroid paste perscribed by a doctor. The paste works fast but knowing there are more natural ways to get rid of them is lovely. I also agree that what you put in your body plays a major role in how well your body works for you. While my canker sores are not a result of food allergies, I think the tips you gave will work just the same. Thank you for sharing them.

    • janicedickson profile image


      9 years ago

      great information here. I will try yogurt next time, and see if that helps. Im always up for something natural and easy.

    • marcofratelli profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      I've started getting them recently. They're not fun at all. I've tried the over the counter gels, salt and water, whiskey rubbed on it to kill it off etc. I might give the bicarb soda a go and the yogurt... thanks for this! Thumbs up

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i suffer from thes chronically since i was a kid. it gets os bad that i can't eat. i had never heard about the SLS thatis in the toothpast, so i will def check that. also, never considered tht i might have food allergies.

      i read another article form someone that said she kept a journal of her outbreaks, which herlped her pin down stress triggers, hormonal changes, and food that may have contributed to the sores.

      i read that women are especially prone with hormonal changes like their menstrual cycle, etc.

    • Garden Minnesota profile image

      Garden Minnesota 

      9 years ago from Minnesota

      Gosh I suffer from mouth sores frequently. Doctors thought it was an underlying illness like lupus or digestive disease. I ended up being diagnosed with FMS (fibromyaliga) and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and they are telling me that the mouth sores are most likely linked to that, but I am not so sure. This hub post is great information.

      When I get the mouth sores I rinse with salt water and avoid any acidic food and drink- usually gone in a few days or so.

      The gluten fact and food allergy part was very interesting to me- I wonder if I might have something like that going on? Hmm...something worth checking out. Thanks for this post!

    • profile image

      Little Mom 

      9 years ago

      I have had these so bad lately. I have been under so much stress, lost my 45,000.00 a year job, have only been able to work temp jobs, had both hip replaced, had to declare Bankruptcy, they foreclosed on my house. All in 2 years. Did you say stress??????????? Well that would be why I have them I guess. I have tried so much and I can hardly eat, Hate to brush my teeth, drink anything other than water makes me want to scream. Anyway I thought this was very good information.

    • Lgali profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for the info. we need more article like this

    • stevecw md profile image

      stevecw md 

      10 years ago from Washington, D.C.

      Nice article!

      For more health and medical information, check our articles and also our site at, including talking to our doctors online [] Thanks!

      Stevecw md -

    • tinacarla profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      +A hub! thank you for writing this article! very helpful! My son presently has it ! I never know this was connected with food alergies ! I guess my husband was right to take Aqueous Collodial silver!

      I just gave my son Pro Greens with Advanced Probiotic Formula mix with his blueberry juice.

    • ehue profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      Thanks for the info. I get them sometimes when I'm super stressed out. I use Kenalog - it's a gummy paste that creates a "seal" around the ulcer. It's only average in the way of pain relief (my friends prefer Bonjela) but it helps to heal mouth ulcers quicker.

    • Rookie Expert profile image

      Rookie Expert 

      10 years ago from US

      Thankfully, I've never got them, but my friend does, I should forward this link to her. Thanx.

    • Uriel profile image


      10 years ago from Lebanon

      i have to say i get that OFTEN and sodiumbicarbonate does the joB:P a great mouthwash can help too right? i tend to eat and drink lots of lemon juice for fun without diluting it , guess that adds it up and makes me more prome to have this right? thanks for the info ... üri€£

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 

      10 years ago from United States

      Great hub, very informative.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks everyone! I appreciate your comments.

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 

      10 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      I rarely get them, but hate them when I do. I use the tea tree oil as a natural antiseptic, and re-remember that they occur when I'm allowing STRESS to get to me...dealing healthily with the stress makes me feel healthier all around. Didn't know about the vitamin deficiencies...good info.!

    • guidebaba profile image


      10 years ago from India

      Nice and thanks for sharing. I needed this info.

    • Pete Michner profile image

      Pete Michner 

      10 years ago from Virginia

      Great Hub as always stevemark! I used to get canker sores frequently and searched around for answers. I found sources that said the chemical sodium lauryl sulfate, a common ingredient found in most toothpastes like Aim, Crest, etc. is believed to help cause canker sores, for some people at least. I switched to a brand that explicitly stated that sodium lauryl sulfate was not included (Sensodyne) and things seem to be better.

    • byee profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for the tip. I have often used kitchen salt directly applied to the sore. It stings for a minute but heals very quickly. If I don't feel like dealing with the pain, gargling/swishing with warm salt water also works (great for sore throats as well!). In the Philippines, crushed Tawas Crystal was also used to quickly heal sores. This is pure mineral salt/Alum crystals that are also used for anti-bacterial purposes and skin deodorant or soap. You can buy those online now from manufacturers.

    • Lynn Byrne profile image

      Lynn Byrne 

      10 years ago from Daytona Beach Florida


      Another excellent hub. I get these monsters every once in a while and it's not fun at all. Thanks for the useful remedies. I will definitely be prepared if I get another canker sore.

    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 

      10 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      I am sometimes prone to canker sores, depending on my stress levels. Haven't had one for a long time (thank goodness!) I didn't know that yogurt helps! I'll remember that. My father was very prone to them, in fact I remember several years ago he had them throughout his mouth and down his throat. Talk about agony...he went to the doctor for that outbreak. Thanks for the good info, stevemark122000!

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for you comment zylla3philippines!

      Thanks for you comment starrkissed! Different types of mouthwashes will provide quick emergency relief but won't address the source of the problem which requires the changes mentioned in this hub.

    • zylla3philippines profile image


      10 years ago from Anaheim, CA

      My brother often gets this canker sore. I hope he'll find some relief from the ones mentioned here. I'm glad I found your hub.

    • starrkissed profile image


      10 years ago from Arizona

      We bought a mouthwash that works wonders. It literally takes care of them instantly. I can't recall the brand, but it's well known, I'm just not at home to check.


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