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Canker Sores in Mouth - Pictures, Causes, Treatment, Home Remedies

Updated on December 31, 2013

What is Canker Sores in Mouth?

Canker sore is a form of mouth ulceration that involves the soft parts of the oral membrane such as the inside of the cheeks, below the tongue, and gums. Canker sores are also referred as aphthous ulcers and are found to be the most common pain-causing sores in the mouth. This is characterized by a lesion that is oval or round in shape with a red border. These sores tend to have a recurrence, can be either yearly or almost regularly. Canker sores are not contagious and should not be compared with cold sores/fever blisters.

These sores are classified according to forms:

  • Minor canker sores are the oval shaped sores that have a white center. Mostly these sores are 2 to 3 mm in size and can last up to 2 weeks without scarring.
  • Major canker sores are deep ulcers that are painful and have uneven margins. These sores can last for 3 to 6 weeks and can result to extensive scarring.
  • Herpetiform sores resemble the root word herpes infection. The sores are characterized by small ulcerations and are in clusters. These clusters are large in number and can form a large irregular ulcer.

These sores can be accompanied by some presenting symptoms. The patient may experience fever or flu-like symptoms, foul-smelling breath, or difficulty in chewing and swallowing food. One should seek medical help once the sores are unusually large, recurring and persistent, extensive, unbearably painful, and the person affected cannot eat or drink because of the associated pain and high fever from canker sores. This may indicate that prompt treatment is needed and that a grave infection has developed.

What causes canker sores in your mouth?

Canker sores development varies from one person to another. An exact cause for canker sores isn’t clear. Triggering factors are suggested that cause for an outbreak of canker sores and these are the following:

  • Oral injury or trauma
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Smoking cessation
  • Heredity
  • Drugs
  • Food allergies
  • Oral infections/viral infections.

Vitamin deficiencies can predispose one to have canker sores. These would include vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is essential in maintaining our membranes’ integrity. Vitamin B2 deficiency can induce or worsen the canker sores. Since vitamin B2 is necessary for the cell build up and repair. A condition called iron deficiency anemia can also result to mouth sores. In relation to acquired infections, canker sores are a form of complication. Using oral products that a person is highly sensitive with can cause this condition. A toothpaste or mouthwash that contain sodium lauryl sulfate is associated with an increased risk for canker sore. The effect of this agent can make us susceptible to drying up our mucous area thus compromising our defense to oral irritants. These oral irritants would include acidic foods. Dental apparatuses are also suggested to assist in the development of these sores. Drugs can also precipitate in the flare-up of sores. Those who are undergoing treatment that suppresses the immune system would experience a common side effect of mouth sores.

Medical conditions are found to be associated with canker sore formation. Underlying conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, HIV-AIDS, and Behcet’s disease are quite linked to canker sores. Bacterial and viral infections of the mouth are typically traumatizing in the oral mucous membranes, thus resulting to lesions – canker sores. Cancer patients are also susceptible in the formation of canker sores because of their treatment course that involve immune system suppression.

Another risk factor for this condition includes gender. Females are said to be prone in developing canker sore and is linked with the hormonal changes during menstruation.

Pictures of Canker sores in Mouth

Treatment for canker sores in mouth

Painful and infected cankers are the top priority in the treatment course. It is not necessary for minor canker sores to be treated medically but simple home remedy can be sufficient enough. There are topical ointments and oral rinses prepared for major canker sores.

A mouth wash that is prepared to contain steroid dexamethasone reduces the inflammatory reaction in the mouth. An oral suspension of antibiotic tetracycline kills the bacteria that may be the causative agent. But the downside is drug resistance. Thus making you vulnerable to other infections that may cause mouth ulcers. A doctor’s prescription is necessary for these forms of treatment.

Topical pastes are prepared and made available over the counter to relieve discomfort and reduce healing time. These have active ingredients of benzocaine, amlexanox, and fluocinonide that are usually given to relieve pain. Prescription drugs such as steroid medications are given to patients. But this drug is usually given as a last resort for its serious side effects. Debacterol is specifically designed to treat canker sores. This is a liquid topical agent that especially treats oral mucous lesions. Application of silver nitrate directly onto the mouth sore can result to immediate pain relief and hasten the healing process. Lidocaine gel is also a form of treatment for canker sores. This can relieve the pain for its anesthetic effect and can speed up the healing process. Oral supplements are also given to patients to assist in the healing process of oral canker sores and these are the vital nutrients needed by the body (vitamin C, vitamin B and zinc).

Prevention for the occurrence of canker sores is much better than treatment. First we need to avoid irritating foods that can injure our oral membranes: sharp foods, spicy and hot foods and beverages. For overtly sensitive oral membranes we need to use the following: soft-bristled toothbrush and diluted mouth rinses.

Home remedies

Having an improvised mouth rinse is a help in treating canker sores. In order to do that, you have to prepare a solution of ½ teaspoon salt dissolved in a glass of water (approximately 8 oz.). The use of Maalox (antacid agent) has been found effective as a mouth rinse. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of Maalox with a ½ tablespoon of liquid Benadryl is the solution. The simple swishing of the prepared mix can ease out the discomfort and the worsening of canker sores.

The use of baking soda as a gargle can help in neutralizing the acidic state of the mouth from canker sores. Dilution of the baking soda is necessary before you use it as a rinse or gargle.

Make sure that your mouth is clean and protected as always. Do not expose the mouth in any way that can worsen the condition. Do not forget to regularly clean the mouth and brush teeth with the suggested device.

Avoid triggering factors that can further irritate and emit pain. Lessen or as much as possible prevent oneself from eating spicy foods. Application of ice on the canker sores can relieve a person from the constricting pain that is from the canker sores. The use of canker sore-inducing materials on the mouth should be avoided such as toothbrushes that are not soft-bristled, mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Consult your dentist if your dental apparatuses are the cause of your canker sores.

After the entire treatment course done at home, also make sure that you have enough rest and sleep. Regain strength from all the hassle of canker sores. Don’t forget to always hydrate oneself. Remember that consulting the doctor should not be emitted from the treatment list.


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    • profile image

      Sean mccoy 

      3 years ago

      I have to red dots on the tip of my tongue and some white outline circles keep popping up , can anybody tell me what it is

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My three year old has cancer sores on lips and tongue and can barely eat gonna have to take her to .er


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