Canker sores, also known as mouth ulcers describe a condition in which small, oval lesions develop in the mouth, mostly on the inside of the lips, at the base of the gums, on the soft palate and on the tongue. They should not be confused with cold sores, which are caused by herpes simplex virus and in contrast to canker sores appear only on the outside of the mouth and are highly contagious.
The researchers are still uncertain about the exact cause of canker sores, but some factors are known to be related to the illness.
Injury to the tissue of the mouth, from accidental biting of the cheek and lips, incorrect brushing techniques to dental work and eating hard or spicy food can cause the sores to appear, as well as heredity, problems with the immune system, stress, lack of certain vitamins and minerals, hormonal fluctuations, food allergies and gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.
There is a strong sense of burning or tingling inside the mouth preceding the onset of sores. They usually appear as one or more painful, red bumps with a white to yellow middle with red, inflamed edge. Their size varies and depends on the type of sore. Simple sores account for the vast majority of mouth ulcers and are less than 10 mm in size. Complex sores are less common, they often appear in people who have previously had them and are made of ulcers greater than 1 cm. Unlike the simple sores, the ulcers are deep and very painful, with irregular edges.
Fortunately, the ulcers heal on their own over time even without medical treatment, but you should schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor if they are accompanied by a high fever, last for more than two weeks, or the pain becomes severe. He can prescribe topical pastes and mouth rinses containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help speed up the recovery time and relieve the pain. You can apply a paste made of baking soda and water directly to the sore after meals, or use 1% hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash.
Avoid using hard bristled toothbrushes and toothpaste containing foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which has been linked to increased occurrence of canker sores in some people. Brush your teeth gently at least two times a day, or after every meal. If you have braces or any other dental appliance, ask your dentist about dental wax to cover sharp edges.
Lemons, oranges, apples, pineapples and figs and other fruits and vegetables containing citric acid should be avoided if you have canker sores.
They are known as a factor in development of sores and can worsen the condition. Besides acidic foods, you should also avoid hard and crunchy food, spicy food, chewing bubble gum and any foods that cause allergic symptoms such as swollen tongue, itchy mouth and hives.
In case your diet is lacking vitamin B12, iron, zinc and folic acid, speak to a nutritionist so he may devise a suitable dietary plan.