- By sahlhealth
- May 18, 2021
- 45 views
Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums. Unlike cold sores, canker sores don't occur on the surface of your lips and they aren't contagious. They can be painful, however, and can make eating and talking difficult.
Most canker sores go away on their own in a week or two. Check with your doctor or dentist if you have unusually large or painful canker sores or canker sores that don't seem to heal.
Most canker sores are round or oval with a white or yellow center and a red border. They form inside your mouth — on or under your tongue, inside your cheeks or lips, at the base of your gums, or on your soft palate. You might notice a tingling or burning sensation a day or two before the sores actually appear.
There are several types of canker sores, including minor, major and herpetiform sores.
Minor canker sores
Minor canker sores are the most common and:
Are usually small
Are oval shaped with a red edge
Heal without scarring in one to two weeks
Major canker sores
Major canker sores are less common and:
Are larger and deeper than minor canker sores
Are usually round with defined borders, but may have irregular edges when very large
Can be extremely painful
May take up to six weeks to heal and can leave extensive scarring
Herpetiform canker sores
Herpetiform canker sores are uncommon and usually develop later in life, but they're not caused by herpes virus infection. These canker sores:
Are pinpoint size
Often occur in clusters of 10 to 100 sores, but may merge into one large ulcer
Have irregular edges
Heal without scarring in one to two weeks
When to see a doctor
Consult your doctor if you experience:
Unusually large canker sores
Recurring sores, with new ones developing before old ones heal, or frequent outbreaks
Persistent sores, lasting two weeks or more
Sores that extend into the lips themselves (vermilion border)
Pain that you can't control with self-care measures
Extreme difficulty eating or drinking
High fever along with canker sores
See your dentist if you have sharp tooth surfaces or dental appliances that seem to trigger the sores.
Treatment usually isn't necessary for minor canker sores, which tend to clear on their own in a week or two. But large, persistent or unusually painful sores often need medical care. A number of treatment options exist.
If you have several canker sores, your doctor may prescribe a mouth rinse containing the steroid dexamethasone (dek-suh-METH-uh-sown) to reduce pain and inflammation or lidocaine to reduce pain.
Over-the-counter and prescription products (pastes, creams, gels or liquids) may help relieve pain and speed healing if applied to individual sores as soon as they appear. Some products have active ingredients, such as:
Benzocaine (Anbesol, Kank-A, Orabase, Zilactin-B)
Fluocinonide (Lidex, Vanos)
Hydrogen peroxide (Orajel Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse, Peroxyl)
There are many other topical products for canker sores, including those without active ingredients. Ask your doctor or dentist for advice on which may work best for you.
Oral medications may be used when canker sores are severe or do not respond to topical treatments. These may include:
Medications not intended specifically for canker sore treatment, such as the intestinal ulcer treatment sucralfate (Carafate) used as a coating agent and colchicine, which is normally used to treat gout.
Oral steroid medications when severe canker sores don't respond to other treatments. But because of serious side effects, they're usually a last resort.
Cautery of sores
During cautery, an instrument or chemical substance is used to burn, sear or destroy tissue.
Debacterol is a topical solution designed to treat canker sores and gum problems. By chemically cauterizing canker sores, this medication may reduce healing time to about a week.
Silver nitrate — another option for chemical cautery of canker sores — hasn't been shown to speed healing, but it may help relieve canker sore pain.
Your doctor may prescribe a nutritional supplement if you consume low amounts of important nutrients, such as folate (folic acid), vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 or zinc.
Related health problems
If your canker sores relate to a more serious health problem, your doctor will treat the underlying condition.