Canker sores, or mouth ulcers are shallow, oval or round painful lesions with a white to yellow middle and red halo. They form inside the mouth so they generally make talking, eating and swallowing quite uncomfortable. They are not the same thing as cold sores as they appear on the outside of the mouth and are highly contagious. The reason people get afflicted with canker sores is not known, but it is suspected that injuries to inside the mouth, food sensitivities, deficiency of certain vitamins and fluctuations in hormones might be connected with the outbreaks. The sores cause a great deal of discomfort, but there are treatments such as mouth washes, topical remedies and dietary supplements that can ease the healing.
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural antiseptic with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, so it is highly effective in treating canker sores. When applied to the affected area it starts foaming and releasing oxygen, which in turn kills off anaerobic bacteria and helps with cleaning and removing of mucus. You can use it by dipping a cotton swab and gently rubbing the ulcers for a couple of seconds. When you finish rubbing, mix a few table spoons of peroxide with an equal amount of water and use that solution to rinse the mouth. Repeat this process three to four times a day.
Using 1% hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash is fine, but anything stronger than that should be mixed with water beforehand.
You can try dissolving a teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of lukewarm water and using that as a mouthwash as it may promote healing.
Milk of magnesia, or magnesium hydroxide, albeit in very small doses can be used to help eliminate the sores and relieve the pain. Apply it directly to the sore using a cotton swab and rinse the mouth with water afterwards.
For toddlers and younger children, a mix of baking soda and water can be applied directly to the sore after meals.
There are a number of over-the-counter remedies available that help relieve the pain and reduce the overall inflammation of the sore such as aloe vera gels and DGL.
DGL or deglycyrrhizinated licorice is a licorice extract which heals the soft mucosa in the mouth and can be bought in health food stores, as a powder or chewable tablets. The best way of using it for canker sore treatment is by making a paste with water letting the tablet mix with your saliva. The mixture should be applied directly to the sore.
If the sores are painful, large or last longer than a few weeks you should schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor. They can prescribe a corticosteroid ointment or antimicrobial mouth wash or give you a prescription for over-the-counter pain relief such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Ibuprofen is not only good at relieving the pain, it also has strong anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the swelling.
Do not use aspirin in those under 20 years of age, because it can lead to development of a rare but possibly life-threatening condition called Reye’s syndrome.