If you have one, it hurts to even say “aphthous ulcer.” Most likely, all you can croak out is “canker sore.” They are those little, painful sores in your mouth—primarily on the inside surface of the cheeks or lips. Usually, they are about the size of a pinhead, but they can get much larger. The edges are yellowish, but inside the flesh looks and feels raw. If you’re suffering from a canker sore, you might be tempted to pull down your lip and show your friends so they will really appreciate how miserable you are.
Canker sores just hurt. It hurts to touch them, it can hurt to talk, and even the idea of eating certain foods (grapefruit, anyone?) is agonizing. And it probably doesn’t help to know that aphthous means “ulcer,” so aphthous ulcer is redundant. A better term is aphthous stomatitis, meaning ulcer-in-the-mouth-that’s-inflamed.
Lots of causes
Canker sores are different from cold sores, and they are not contagious. About one in five people get them. No one’s positive about what causes them. A common trigger is some kind of injury, such as jabbing yourself with your toothbrush or a piece of food, or biting the inside of your cheek. Orthodontic braces can sometimes bring on a canker sore. Food sensitivity, illness, or stress can also contribute to canker sores.
A few recommendations
Most canker sores go away on their own within a week or two. There’s not much you can do for canker sores, but a few over-the-counter remedies might be helpful. Your mother’s recommendation of rinsing with warm salt water is a good one. You should definitely do your best to maintain your regular dental hygiene—brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups. Some soothing alcohol-free dental gel or rinse—such as PerioSciences AO ProVantage or AO ProRinse—might feel good, too. The antioxidants help promote healthy oral tissues, and the cool, mint flavor is refreshing.
Ask your dentist
Ask your dentist about a special solution with numbing properties. The dentist might also recommend an antibacterial rinse, but research shows that’s more helpful at preventing future canker sores. Also, a few research studies suggest that brushing with toothpaste that does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) may be helpful in reducing the frequency of recurring aphthous ulcers.
Be sure to consult your dentist or doctor if you get canker sores with alarming frequency. Sometimes they are symptoms of underlying illnesses. And if you get a canker sore that doesn’t go away within a couple of weeks, do see your dentist. Canker sores don’t cause cancer, but sometimes early cancers can resemble canker sores.
If you are presently suffering with a canker sore, you have the sympathy of all of us at PerioSciences. But please: don’t pull down your lip to show us how awful it is. We believe you.