About 20 percent of people are bothered with regular occurrences of canker sores which can make eating and drinking less than enjoyable. No one knows for sure what causes the small, round sores inside the mouth but diet, food allergies and stress may be factors.
Canker sores can show up inside the gums, cheeks, lips and throat, or on the tongue. They are not contagious like cold sores or fever blisters. Sometimes people confuse canker with cold sores which are found outside the mouth around the lips, on the cheeks or chin, or inside the nostrils.
If you are a woman, you are twice as likely to have canker sores as men. Although anyone can get them, teens and young adults in their 20s seem to get canker sores most often. The red spots can be up to an inch across in size, may occur in clusters and take about two weeks to heal.
Canker sores often appear during times of stress in susceptible individuals. Scientists believe that stress is one of the risk factors for canker sores but they can be caused by something as simple as a mouth injury. Individuals who bite the inside of their mouths or brush their teeth too hard may get canker sores.
Sometimes canker sores are an indication of other problems. People who have recurrent canker sores may find that certain foods trigger outbreaks. Keeping a food diary may help them zero in on which foods may be culprit. Being tested for food allergies also is an option.
Canker sores can be a clue that an individual has an immune-system problem or needs additional nutrients, such as folic acid, Vitamin B12 or iron. Those who regularly suffer from canker sores (three or more time a year) should probably schedule a doctor’s visit.
Many home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) products are available to treat canker sores. Start first with some simple changes aimed at prevention. Avoid mouthwashes and toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a compound which can cause or worsen canker sores. For some, switching to SLS-free products may be all it takes to eliminate canker sores. Avoid hard or crunchy foods that may cause mouth injuries and lead to canker sores. Reduce stress if that seems to be contributing to outbreaks.
Look for OTC products for canker sores that contain carbamide peroxide which is a combination of peroxide and glycerin that cleans and coats the wound. An easy home remedy is to apply hydrogen peroxide (one part hydrogen peroxide/1 part water) with a cotton swab to a canker sore. Then dab it with milk of magnesia three to four times a day. Some doctors recommend dissolving a zinc lozenge (50-mg. strength) directly over the canker sore.