Contending with Canker Sores

Canker sores are a small yet painful problem for some people. They are small, pale-colored ulcerations that can occur on the inside of our mouth. They are not contagious and most of the time will go away on their own. While we don’t know the exact cause, researchers suspect that our immune system, genetics, and viruses and bacteria may all play a part. They can arise spontaneously or be triggered by stress or minor trauma.

We do know that some people suffer from canker sores more frequently and that a family history can increase someone’s risk, due to genetics or shared environmental causes. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a common ingredient in dental care products can prolong them. Hormones, allergies, vitamin deficiencies and food sensitivities are also thought to contribute to outbreaks. While minor sores will usually resolve in 1-2 weeks, large lesions may take several weeks to heal and can cause scarring.

What can be done?  First, switch toothpaste and mouthrinses to products without SLS and continue to follow good oral hygiene habits. Avoiding spicy, crunchy or acidic/citrus foods may help. If a sore is not healing after two weeks, accompanied by a fever, or seems to be enlarging or worsening, contact your dentist. Laser treatment can help lessen pain and speed healing. In more severe cases, your dentist can prescribe medications to help lessen the pain and help sores heal.