A canker sore is similar to any ulceration in that it occurs in an area where the outer layer of the mucous membrane is exposed. Since the integrity of the mucosa is broken, bacteria invade the area and the result is inflammation which makes the ulcer even more painful. Canker sores often appear on the inner surface of the cheeks and lips, tongue, soft palate and the base of the gums making eating and talking very uncomfortable. Cold sores should not be confused with canker sores. Cold sores are extremely contagious and caused by a virus.
While the exact cause of canker sores is uncertain, some clinicians believe that immune system problems, bacteria or viruses may be involved in their cause. Fatigue, stress or allergies may also increase the likelihood of developing canker sores. Additionally, a small cut caused by biting the inside of the cheek or tongue can contribute to their development. Certain foods-including citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables can trigger a canker sore or make the problem worse. Sometimes a sharp tooth surface, dental braces or ill-fitting dentures can trigger the development of canker sores.
You can minimize the impact of canker sores on your well-being by avoiding foods with sharp, crunchy edges such as nacho or potato chips as well as acidic and/or spicy foods that can come into contact with the sore. You should also avoid chewing gum.
Brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled brush promptly after meals, flossing daily and rinsing vigorously with cold water will help to keep your mouth free of food debris that might aggravate a sore.
To speed up the healing process, try mixing 1-part hydrogen peroxide and 1-part water, and apply it directly to the canker sore with a cotton swab. Then dab a small amount of milk-of-magnesia on the canker sore 3 to 4 times daily to help relieve discomfort. You can also use (as directed) aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen for pain relief.
Any mouth sore that worsens or persists longer than 10 days should be examined by your dentist. The dentist may elect to prescribe an antibacterial chlorhexidine rinse to keep the bacteria in the mouth from attacking the mucosa. The dentist may also suggest rinsing with a mouthwash containing dexamethasone (a low-dose topical steroid) several times a day to decrease inflammation and facilitate healing. Such medications may have undesirable side effects and should only be administered under the close supervision of your dentist or physician.
Yours for better dental health
Dr. Arvind Kataria D.D.S.