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Effective Canker Sore Treatments to Reduce Pain and Speed Healing

Updated on September 3, 2009

What are Canker Sores?

Approximately 20% or 1 out of 5 people suffer from canker sores. A very painful to the touch, canker sores can make it difficult to  drink, eat, and talk. Women are more likely than men to get them, especially during menstruation. Appearing small round or oval sores with white or yellow center and a red border, they can be very painful and sensitive o the touch. Usually chronic, they are found inside the mouth on the tongue, under the tongue, at the base of the gums or inside the cheeks or lips. Many people get canker sores and cold sores confused. While cold sores are found primarily on the lips and are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus, canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are found inside the mouth. Unlike cold sores which are caused by a virus, canker sores are not contagious.

Canker Sore

Three Types of Canker Sores

There are three types of canker sores. They include minor, major, and herpetiform canker sores.

  • Minor canker sores - The most common type of canker sore, these are usually less than 1/3 inch wide and heal within two weeks.
  • Major canker sores - These are chronic large canker sores and may heal with extensive scarring.
  • Herpetiform canker sores - Usually developing later in life, these are lusters of tiny canker sores which may form one large canker sore. They can take anywhere from a week to a month to heal.

Symptoms of Canker Sores

Sometimes before you develop a canker sore, you may notice a tingling, itching, or buring sensation. Other symptoms may be fever, listlessness, and swollen lymph nodes.

What Causes Canker Sores?

The cause of canker sores is not clearly understood. However, many factors can attribute to their development.There is some evidence that canker sores may be caused by nutritional deficiencies in B12, folic acid, and iron. amino acids, and gastrointestinal problems. Furthermore frequent reoccurences may be due to certain diseases or genetic. The following is a list of suspected triggers.

  • Hereditary - According to research, when both parents have canker sores, their children are 90% more likely to get them.
  • Faulty immune system
  • Lupus
  • Injury to the mouth
  • Allergic response to oral bacteria
  • Heliobacter pylori
  • B12, folic acid, iron, and lysine deficiencies
  • Celiac disease
  • Food allergies and certain foods
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Bechet's disease
  • Hormonal shifts during menstruation
  • Stress
  • Toothpastes and mouthwashes containing sodium lauryl sulfate

Canker Sore Treatments

While there is no cure for canker sores, over the counter ointments, prescribed mouthwashes and ointment, and herbal remedies can be used in canker sore treatments and to speed healing.

  • Corticosteroid ointments may speed healing.
  • DBacterol - DBacterol is a prescribed topical liquid that cauterizes or seals the affected area and promotes healing. Supposedly, it stops pain instantly.
  • Aphthasol - A prescribed oral paste which reduced pain and promotes healing. It's only designed for people with normal immune systems.
  • Lidocaine
  • Anti-inflammatory steroid mouthwashs
  • Sage and or chamomille mouthwashes.
  • White oak bark powder tea - Use a mouthwash
  • Oral analgesics
  • Zinc lozenges - Improves the immune system
  • Over the counter topical anesthetics may reduce pain.
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E - Open capsule and apply to affected area.
  • Licorice extract - One study found after seven days of using licorice extract on an adhesive patches, participants ulcer size was signifantlly reduced. However, in the no-treatment group, ulcer size had increased by 13%. In another study, partipants using a patented, disolvable patch treated with licorice had no more base pain after three days of use. Furthermore, sores decreased to 1/10 of their original size, and in a separate prior study, 26/27 sores treated with the patch healed in 3 or less days. At the time of the study, the patch being used was called CankerMelts.
  • Lysine supplements - Useful in fighting off canker sores, lysine is an essential amino acid that assists with the production of antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and tissue repair. An essential is one the body cannot produce; it needs to supplemented instead. The recommended dosage is 500 mg. three times per day on an empty stomach.
  • According to a team of researchers at Ben-Gurion in Negev, a nightly dose of vitamin B12 may help to prevent canker sores. In this study, 58 randomly selected canker sore sufferers were tested for six months. Divided into two groups, one groups was given 1,000 mcg. of B12 nightyly while the other goup was given a placebo. In both groups, the average number of sores and the duration of them decreased over the first four months. However, at months 5 and 6 had a significant decrease in the number of outbreaks, the duration of the outbreaks, and the level of pain in comparison to the placebo group. At the end of the study, 75% of the group given B12 achieved remission wherea only 32% of the control group achieved remission.
  • Compresses made out of wet tea bags with calendula, myrrh, or goldenseal may be helpful. Tea has tannins which act as an astrigent. Myrrh has a high content of tannins and reduces inflammation. Break open a capsule and apply to affected areas.
  • Dandelion tea or capsules may help heal so
  • Eating yogurt
  • Stress-relieving techniques
  • Acemannan gel - Derived from the Aloe Vera plant, this was found to be more effective than conventional treatments in 4 out of 5 children.
  • Cankerroot
  • Chamomile - Reduces stress, inflammation, and promotes healing. Chamomile can be used as a tincture or by drinking chamomile tea.
  • Echinacea - Numbs the pain. Do not use if you have ragweed allergies or an autoimmune disorder.
  • Gingko Bilboa - Promotes healing and fights inflammtion. Apply topically. Steep 1/2 tsp. of dried leaf in 1 c. of hot water for 15 minutes.
  • Goldenseal - Inhibits bacterial growth. Reduces swelling and pain. Use 20 to 50 drops of goldenseal tincture in water or brew 2 tsp. in water as a mouthwash. Do not use if pregnant.
  • Gotu Kola - Promotes new tissue growth. Since canker sores result from the breakdown of tissue, this herb can be beneficial. Steep 1 tsp. in water for 10 minutes and use a mouthwash.

Home Canker Sore Treatments Suggested by Internet Commenters

  • Saurkraut juice - Apply to affected area. Some users say refrigerated sauerkraut. You can also swish the juice around in your mouth.
  • Saltwater and sodium bicarbonate - For the saltwater, mix 1 tsp. salt with 1 c. warm water. Swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds and spit out. Follow this by the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). For a mouthwash, use 1/2 tsp, baking soda added to saltwater solution or form a paste out of baking soda and a few drops of water and apply to affected area.
  • Mix a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water and apply to affected area. Hydrogen peroxide reduce oral bacteria which may affect canker sores while saltwater and baking soda reduce the alkalinity of the mouth and the oral bacteria.
  • Milk of magnesia - Apply to affected area 3 to 4 times a day. It helps reduce pain and speeds healing. This can be done after the hydrogen peroxide treatment.
  • Rinsing the mouth with Biotene mouthwash can be beneficial.
  • Applying ice can reduce pain and blood flow to the affected area.
  • Silver nitrate sticks
  • Chloraseptic throat spray and lounzenges
  • Orabase Soothe-N-Seal by Colgate
  • Tea tree oil - Apply to affected area


Foods to Avoid

Canker sores are not only sensitive and painful to touch, certain foods can aggravate them too. While you have a case of canker sores, it may be helpful to avoid these foods:

  • spicy foods
  • citrus fruits
  • sugary products

Two different studies indicated these additional foods may trigger canker sores.

  • figs
  • cheese
  • vinegar
  • french mustard
  • apples
  • milk
  • whole wheat
  • buckwheat
  • rye
  • barley
  • chocolate
  • shellfish
  • soy

Sharp and hard food may damage the mouth and thereby cause canker sores.


If you want to avoid canker sores, the key is living a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, avoid stress, and avoid known triggers. Although there is no cure for canker sores, there are numerous prescribed medications, over the counter treatments, and alternative health remedies available. These treatments can reduce pain, reduce inflammation, reduce oral bacteria, promote faster healing, or a combination of these. Since each person is unique, some treatments and remedies will work better for some than others. Therefore, you will have to experiment to find which one works best for you. Furthermore, it is equally important to avoid known triggers. Consequently, although canker sores are painful and more than a minor nuisance, there are things you can do to improve the condition. Good luck!

Comments - If you have any remedies not listed, please feel free to share.

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    • visionandfocus profile image


      8 years ago from North York, Canada

      Voted up! Very comprehensive and informative. Excellent hub! I bookmarked it for future reference. Thank you!

    • ncuxapa_ profile image


      8 years ago

      All your hubs, including this Canker Sore hub, look amazing ! NICE JOB

    • seamist profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      Hi Broussardleslie

      You are welcome. I am glad you no longer suffer from them.

      Thank you for your comment and stopping by!

    • broussardleslie profile image

      Leslie Broussard 

      9 years ago

      I sure do wish I had read this hub about a decade ago...Childhood through my mid-twenties, I SUFFERED from canker sores. I'd get seven at a time. Or I'd get the big icky one you have pictured. It was horrible!!

      Thankfully, it seems, I have grown out of them.

      Thank you for writing this hub to help canker sore sufferers!!

    • seamist profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      Hi Hanny!

      Thank you for contributing to the article. I hope one of the remdies helps you. If so, come back and let our readers know which one helped you. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Hanny Laron 

      9 years ago

      Thank you for that, desperately wanted to know what to do about these things...keep suffering from them everytime I give up smoking them again now (16 days and still not smoking)but did see my doctor about them last year when I suffered for 12 weeks non stop with them - it was easier and less painful to sart smoking again but not this I know what to do I shall fight them all the way!!!!

      Thank you again :)

    • seamist profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      Thank you, praetio. I am glad you liked it.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      thanks for share. It was great information. we have to concern about our healthy.nice hub.

    • seamist profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      Hi Trimar7 and Indanila

      Thank you for commenting. I hope the information helps.

    • indanila profile image

      Inda Blackwell 

      9 years ago from Hampton Roads

      Thanks for the info, always wanted to know how to prevent those pesky things!

    • trimar7 profile image


      9 years ago from New York

      Very informative. Great hub!


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