Canker sores or mouth ulcers are roundish white or yellow open sore encircled by a red halo. They can appear in any area inside the mouth, most commonly inside the lips and cheeks, as well as on the gums, tongue and the soft palate, which is the soft tissue around and behind the roof of the mouth. Canker sores are common and occur mostly in teens and young adults, but they are known to afflict young children and toddlers as well.
They are divided into two distinct groups: minor or simple canker sores, which account for the majority of the mouth ulcers. They are round or oval and less then 10mm in size and appear three or four times per year. Even though they are painful and can cause some discomfort to the child, they clear up within 7 to 14 days from the first appearance and they don’t leave any scars.
Major or complex canker sores are far less common than the simple ones, the mostly affect those who have previously had them. They are made up of deep ulcers that can be bigger than 1cm and unlike the simple ones, they have irregular edges and last for three to four weeks. They have a tendency to leave a scar after healing.
Although the exact cause of canker sores is unknown, there are some factors that seem to contribute to their appearance, such as Injury to the mouth, where the baby is teething so the gums are sore or the baby already has teeth and can happen for it to bite the cheeks or tongue. Other factors include problems with the immune system and deficiencies of B12 vitamin, zinc and folic acid, sensitivity to gluten or allergies. The risk for developing canker sores is increased if the baby is a girl or has a positive family history.
The baby’s sores will usually clear out in a matter of few weeks, even without treatment. But there are certain types of foods and beverages that you should avoid because they slow down the recovery time and can further aggravate the sores. Juices from fruit that contain citric acid, such as lemons, oranges, strawberries, pineapples and even tomatoes should be avoided during the treatment, as well as foods that are to crunchy or too spicy. Even though the ulcers will clear up all on their own, they are known to recur, by themselves or with some other viral infection.
Besides avoiding some types of foods, the recurrence of canker sores can be prevented by using a soft bristle toothbrush so you don’t aggravate the sores and using a toothpaste that doesn’t have a certain agent called sodium lauryl sulfate, which is used to add more foam to the paste. SLS has been linked to increased occurrence of canker sores in some people, so try switching to a different brand of toothpaste if the sores reappear.
If the sores last more than two weeks, the child has issues with swallowing, the pain becomes severe or the child develops a high fever, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. He can prescribe topical creams and pastes or mouth washes that help with the pain and speed up the healing process.