Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are painful, small, round or oval-shaped sores that develop inside the mouth, usually on the inner surface of the lips, cheeks, gums, or tongue. They are not contagious, but they can be quite uncomfortable and irritating, making it difficult to eat, drink or speak.
The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, but several factors may trigger or contribute to their development. These include:
Injury or trauma to the mouth, such as biting your cheek or tongue, wearing ill-fitting dentures, or brushing too hard.
Certain foods, such as acidic or spicy foods, chocolate, coffee, and nuts.
Hormonal changes, especially in women during menstruation.
Stress and anxiety.
Weak immune system.
Certain medical conditions, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and HIV/AIDS.
Canker sores typically appear as small, round or oval-shaped white or yellowish bumps with a red border. They can be painful and may cause a burning or tingling sensation in the affected area. Other symptoms may include:
Swollen lymph nodes.
Difficulty eating or drinking.
Most canker sores heal on their own within 1-2 weeks without any specific treatment. However, there are several remedies that can help relieve pain and discomfort and speed up the healing process, including:
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Topical numbing agents, such as benzocaine or lidocaine.
Antimicrobial mouthwash or oral gels to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
Avoiding spicy, acidic, or rough-textured foods that may aggravate the sores.
Applying a damp tea bag or baking soda paste to the sore to soothe the pain.
Keeping the mouth clean and maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly.
While canker sores cannot be entirely prevented, there are several measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing them, including:
Avoiding or limiting your intake of foods that may trigger the sores.
Brushing and flossing regularly to maintain good oral hygiene.
Using a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid injuring the delicate tissues in the mouth.
Reducing stress and anxiety through exercise, meditation, or other relaxation techniques.
Avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, which can weaken the immune system.
In rare cases, canker sores may require medical attention, especially if they are large, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe stronger pain relievers or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and promote healing. They may also recommend further tests to rule out underlying medical conditions that may be causing the sores.