Overview of canker sores
Ever suffered from an uncomfortable ulcer within your mouth that makes eating as well as speaking painful? If yes, then you probably suffered from a canker sore.
Canker sore is a type of mouth ulcer. These are shallow sores that are red in color and may be covered with a white coat of skin over them. They are usually found present on the base of the gums or over the mucous membranes within the mouth.
Canker sores are called as aphtous ulcer, aphthous stomatitis as well as Sutton’s Disease (in case of recurring or multiple ulcers).
These are common lesions that are not contagious in nature. Canker sores are about 1 cm in size and appear round or oval. The simple canker sores are commonly observed in adolescents and teenagers. These lesions may appear about 3 to 4 times in a year. Most of the cases do not require any kind of treatment for the sores.
Canker sores are different from cold sores. Cold sores are very painful, fluid-filled blisters. They occur due to herpes simplex virus infection. They occur around the lips, under the chin or nose. Cold sores are very contagious, unlike canker sores that do not spread from one person to another.
Symptoms – What are the Symptoms of Canker Sores?
Canker sores appear on the lining of cheeks, tongue, lips, base of the gums and roof of mouth. Before the appearance of the ulcer, one may experience tingling or burning sensation at the site for a day or two.
Canker sores are in round or oval shape with white or yellow in the center and red on the border.
Causes – What Causes these Painful Canker Sores?
The actual reason that leads to eruption of these canker sores remains unclear. However, experts have lead to many theories that help understand the possible causes of canker sores. There is not just one, but many factors that can lead to aphthous ulcers in a person.
These factors include:
- Eating lot of spicy or acidic fruits and vegetables
- Minor injury during vigorous brushing
- Injury due to a sharp tooth surface or due to dental braces or dentures
- Sensitivity to sodium lauryl sulfate present in toothpastes or mouth wash
- Reaction to certain foods like nuts, cheese, chocolate, coffee, etc.
- Poor diet that leads to deficiency of vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid or iron
- Emotional or physical stress
- Presence of an underlying disease such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, weak immune system, HIV/AIDS
- Hormonal imbalance in menstruating women
- Bacterial infection within the mouth
Some or a combination of these factors will lead to canker sores in the mouth.
Diagnosis – How Does One Diagnose Canker Sores?
Canker sores do not require any tests for diagnosis. The doctor usually carries out a visual examination to identify these lesions. Recurring lesions may be tested for a fungal or bacterial infection. In extreme cases, a biopsy may be conducted to test the ulcer.
Treatment – What is the Treatment for Canker Sores?
Canker sores heal on their own in a few weeks. However, the doctor may prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash to get rid of an infection. In some cases, mouth rinses containing a steroid may be advised that help in reducing the pain and redness. Ointments containing benzocaine, fluocinonide, etc. may be prescribed to reduce the pain. Apart from these, there are many over-the-counter medications available that help relieve pain and inflammation due to canker sores.
When do we need to see the doctor?
In most of the cases, the sores heal without any treatment. However, of the sores are large in size and new ones develop before the older ones heal, one needs to seek medical attention. In some cases, persistent sores that do not heal within a month, become painful, spread to the lips, lead to high fever and make eating and drinking extremely painful also require medical care.
Prevention – How Does One Prevent Canker Sores?
There is no particular remedy to prevent occurrence of canker sores in future. However, one can take a few preventive measures to reduce their frequency.
These measures include:
- Avoiding spicy and acidic foods that irritate the mouth
- Eat a healthy diet to prevent nutritional deficiencies
- Maintain oral hygiene and choose a soft toothbrush when brushing
- Avoid using toothpastes and mouth rinses that contain sodium lauryl sulfate
- Ask your dentist to apply orthodontic wax over braces or other dental appliances that irritate your mouth
- Avoid chewing gum and eating hard foods
- Meditate and carry out lifestyle changes to reduce stress
This was about canker sores and its prevention. This is not a contagious condition and affects many people in their lifetime. Persistent, large and very painful sores should be bought to the notice of a medical practioner.
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Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: January 05, 2015