What is a canker sore?
Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small sores that occur inside the mouth. Canker sores appear on the tongue and on the inside of the cheeks and lips. They do not appear on parts of the mouth that cannot move (so not on the roof of the mouth).
Is a canker sore a member of the herpes simplex family?
No, canker sores are not a form of herpes. Cold sores are a form of herpes- herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). Genital herpes is herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2).
What’s the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore?
Canker sores are always inside the mouth. Cold sores, even when on the lips, are always outside the mouth.
Are canker sores contagious?
Canker sores are not contagious because they are not a virus. Cold sores are viral, and therefore contagious.
(Cold sores (HSV 1) can be transmitted to the genitals, but genital herpes (HSV 2) is rarely transmitted to the mouth.1)
What causes a canker sore?
No one really knows. It’s believed that heredity has a role. (Even though canker sores are not passed directly from family member to family member.) It’s also widely believed that canker sores are triggered by stress, poor nutrition, food allergies and menstrual periods.
Who’s at risk for having canker sores?
Canker sores most commonly occur in people between the ages of 10 and 20. In adults, woman are more likely than men to get canker sores.
How are canker sores treated?
Canker sores usually go away on their own in about two to three weeks if left untreated. Over-the-counter medications are available for treating the pain associated with a canker sore. Orajel, Anbesol, and Kanka are popular name brand names for canker sore pain relief treatment. Generic and store brands are available, too- look for something with benzocaine in it. I notice that most mouthwashes designed to treat canker sores have hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient, which brings us to the next question.
Are there home remedies for canker sores?
Yes. I personally believe in gargling with warm salt water in addition to using pain relief medications. It seems that gargling with hydrogen peroxide is a pretty popular home remedy, too. (I’ve also read that gargling with whiskey works, but I wouldn’t recommend that for those in the 10- 20 year old age group. And I never have whiskey in the house anyway). To read more canker sore home remedies click here.
Should special care be taken for a canker sore?
Yes. In addition to using pain relief medication and/or home remedies, avoid spicy, acidic, and salty foods. Foods with sharp edges, like potato chips and tortilla chips, should be avoided.
Are canker sores preventable?
This is debatable. Reducing trigger factors may reduce the frequency and severity of canker sores. For example, reducing stress may reduce canker sores. Some sources say to eliminate dairy to reduce canker sores, other sources say to eat dairy to reduce canker sores. It’s best to pinpoint possible triggers for each individual and see if reducing these triggers makes a difference. There are also over-the-counter toothpastes that are designed to reduce the occurrence of canker sores.
Should you see a professional for a canker sore?
See a dentist if you experience any of the following: The canker sores persist more than two weeks. The canker sore is unusually large (more than one centimeter in diameter) . A persistent high fever accompanies the sores. The pain is unbearable .You experience difficulty drinking with the sores.