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Pain Relief For Canker Sores & Mouth Ulcers: Natural And Over The Counter Remedies

Updated on August 21, 2016
Cold Sore Or Canker Sore? Do you know the difference?
Cold Sore Or Canker Sore? Do you know the difference? | Source

Canker sores are small white crater like ulcers that develop on the inside of the lips, on the tongue or on the back of the throat.

Unlike cold sores, they occur only inside of the mouth and are not contagious.

They are, however, quite painful.

When a person has several canker sores at once, it can make eating very difficult and almost impossible

Canker sores can last anywhere from a few days through to 3 or more weeks.

Disclaimer & Health Warning:

Please note that you should only try these remedies after doing your own research or with advice from your medical professional.

Outcomes may vary based on your own medical history and possible allergies or reactions.

If you experience severe pain from a canker sore, have canker sores that occur frequently or a single sore that lasts for more than 3 weeks, you should always see your doctor.

Although often confused, canker sores and cold sores are quite different.

Canker Sores

  • Occur inside the lips, on the tongue or throat
  • Can have a variety of causes but exact trigger is not known
  • Are not contagious

Cold Sores

  • Only occur outside the mouth - usually on the outer lip or skin around the lip.
  • Caused by the herpes zoster virus.
  • Are contagious

Canker sores can develop on the inside of the lip, on the tongue or in the back of the throat.
Canker sores can develop on the inside of the lip, on the tongue or in the back of the throat. | Source

What Are The Causes of Canker Sores?

Although the exact cause or trigger of canker sores is not known, many sufferers and doctors have noticed that there are common links between canker sores and the following:

  • Low immune system
  • Genetic predisposition - it's not uncommon for canker sores to run in families
  • Foods - some sufferers have found a link between foods such as banana and their sores
  • Lip biting - People who regularly bite their lips out of habit or stress can often have bites turn into canker sores
  • Mouth injury - If a person injures their mouth, the injured area may develop into a canker sore
  • Tooth position - If the teeth have an overbite or sit in a bad position, they can often rub against the mouth, causing canker sores in these areas
  • Oil Pulling - Many people who regularly do oil pulling (swishing a naturally derived oil around the mouth for about 15-20 mins per day) say that they experience a short outbreak of cankers during the first few weeks of beginning this practice
  • Toothpaste - Many sufferers find that toothpaste containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate will make cankers occur much more frequently and in greater numbers

How Often Do You Get Canker Sores?

See results

Things That Will Aggravate Canker Sores

To help get rid of the sore as quickly as possible, it's a good idea to avoid things that may make it worse or even lead to an infection.

  • Acidic foods
  • Fatty foods
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Soft drinks

20+ Remedies For Canker Sores
20+ Remedies For Canker Sores | Source
Ice can provide temporary relief by numbing the area.
Ice can provide temporary relief by numbing the area. | Source

Natural Canker Remedies

These remedies may not immediately relieve the pain of a canker sore, but they will help it heal faster. The majority of these are natural antiseptics that kill bacteria, which can help the healing process speed up. Although some may sting when first applied, they will increase healing and in some cases, relieve pain fairly fast.

Alum (powdered) - Dries the sore and helps it heal.

Apple Cider Vinegar - Mix with water and use as a mouthwash.

Baking Soda - Mix into a paste with water and apply to sore.

B Vitamins - B deficiencies can lead to canker sores, so make sure you add some to your diet. Naturally extracted ones are better for your body.

Calamine Lotion - Natural and cool pain relief.

Cranberry Juice - Drink a glass between meals to help with healing and pain relief.

Garlic - Cut a clove in half and apply it directly to the ulcer. Garlic contains potent elements that help with healing.

Hydrogen Peroxide - Apply a small amount to the sore, or mix with water and use as a mouthwash. Do NOT swallow.

Ice - Ice, ice water or a frozen cloth applied to the area can help provide temporary relief.

Milk of Magnesia - Soothes irritated skin, so makes for a great canker remedy.

Pickles - Dill pickles and pickle juice are claimed by some to provide relief.

Probiotics - Either live foods or over the counter probiotics help build up the immune system and help fight canker infections.

Salt - Mixed with water as a mouthwash or dabbed directly on the sore. Salt helps kill infections.

Sunrose (Rockrose) - Rinse the mouth several times a day to provide relief

Tea Bag - Tea contains tannin and antioxidants which help relieve the pain.

Tea Tree Oil - A few drops diluted in water and used as a mouth wash can help. Avoid this if you are breastfeeding or pregnant

Wasabi - Kills bacteria in the mouth and can be used both directly on the sore for healing, or as part of the diet (or with toothpaste) to reduce recurrence.

Wintergreen - This herb has antiseptic properties

Zinc - Low levels of zinc can increase canker sores.

A mix of turmeric and honey is a good natural antiseptic.
A mix of turmeric and honey is a good natural antiseptic. | Source

Over The Counter & Medical Remedies

Sometimes you simply need something that's going to get rid of the pain of a canker sore as soon as possible, as the pain is too much to deal with or you're unable to eat. Here are some quick ways of doing that.

Pain relief medication - taking pain relief such as Panadol (Tylenol) or Ibuprofin can temporarily provide pain relief while the area continues to heal

Natural Cold Sore Relief - Although originally developed for cold sores, many people find this natural essential oil product works well for canker and mouth ulcers as well.

Topical ointments - there are a wide variety of ointments and creams that can be applied directly to the sore to numb the area, protect it and facilitate recovery. Some better known ones include

  • Orajel, Bonjella, SM33, Rincinol, Colgate Peroxyl mouth rinse,

Ear Wax For Canker Sores

One unusual remedy sometimes recommended to fix canker sores is ear wax.

Although it sounds like a strange cure, some people swear by it and say it both numbs the area and cures the ulcer in a matter of hours.

I'll leave it up to you to decide!

Canker Sore Remedies That You Shouldn't Try

There are hundreds of ideas, remedies and old wive's tales spread about in forums. Some of them work, while others can lead to severe pain or even make the ulcers worse. Here are some I personally don't recommend.

  • Lancing or scraping the ulcer - this can lead to a lot more pain and even possible infection
  • Crystalised sugar and lime/lemon juice - most probably due to the acidic nature of the citrus, this can be a very painful remedy
  • Promite or vegemite - a very painful remedy


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    • WriterJanis profile image


      6 years ago from California

      I haven't had one in years, but I remember how uncomfortable they are.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 

      6 years ago from Cape Cod

      The best relief for a canker is to buy the product that sounds like a Bostonian saying canker........that would be "Kanka". It's sold in Rite Aid, all the other pharmacies as well as in Stop n Shop and all the other super markets.

    • RobinBull profile image

      Robin Bull 

      7 years ago from Moore, Oklahoma

      Great hub. Be careful not to use hydrogen peroxide as a mouth rinse too often. I was told by my doctor that too much of it can damage your tooth enamel.

    • ratnaveera profile image


      7 years ago from Cumbum

      A Great article about how to get rid of canker sores. Many people are in my experience often suffering from this health problem due to the food allergies. I usually get this when I eat grapes. You have shown great natural remedies to cure canker sores. Thanks a lot WryLilt for this informative Hub!

    • thebiologyofleah profile image

      Leah Kennedy-Jangraw 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Canker sores really are terrible, especially because as your article points out they seem to pop up in groups making eating difficult. Thanks so much for sharing this list of natural remedies, I have previously used the OTC gel that numbs them but I will definitely try your natural suggestions in the future.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nice and useful information, concerning Canker Sores. The natural remedies seem easy to use and preferable, because usually they do not have side effects.

      Using powdered Camphor mixed with coconut oil also helps a lot.

      Thanks for sharing this useful hub! Voted up and pinned!

    • cathylynn99 profile image


      7 years ago from northeastern US

      my mom was a nurse and she had us use alum. it seemed to work to heal the mouth ulcer quickly. it did burn briefly.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      7 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Interesting that this topic should come up just now. I had a canker sore this week for the first time in many, many years. The over the counter medicine that I used actually helped was called Ora Gel. It kind of numbs the area and give some relief from the painful area. These home remedies sound interesting. All but the ear wax one.

    • samsons1 profile image


      7 years ago from Tennessee

      My mom use to use spirits of camphor, but you can't find it now. If you had a lot of them like in the summer some of the old folks would refer to them as sun poisoning-- if they covered the entire lower lip. An old lady friend told me to go and get a smallpox booster to remedy that, and it worked...


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