One of the most common mouth disorders in the oral health world is the canker sore. Most of us have had one at some point in our lives. And though they are easy to get, no one wants them to linger too long. Here's a helpful guide to understanding what canker sores are and what to do in order to get relief.
What Is a Canker Sore?
A canker sore is a minor abrasion that develops on the mouth's soft tissue, lips, or at the base of the gum line. Though small in size, a canker sore in just the right spot can make eating and talking quite difficult.
Canker sores fall into three categories, according to Mayo Clinic: minor, major and herpetiform. Minor canker sores are typically small, oval-shaped and capable of healing in one to two weeks. Major sores tend to be larger and deeper, with irregular edges. Their healing process can last as long as six weeks and produce noticeable scarring. Herpetiforms develop in the later stages of life, are the size of a pinpoint, and often appear in a cluster of 10 to 100. Although they heal in the same time frame as minor canker sores, they also have irregular edges similar to major canker sores.
Treating Canker Sores
If you think you have a canker sore, consult your doctor or dentist first; he or she can determine whether you do, and what type it is. Remember, minor canker sores typically don't need treatment, as they usually dissipate in a couple of weeks. For major or herpetiform canker sores, there are several treatment options available:
- Topical pastes: Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pastes dispel pain while accelerating the healing process, if applied early on and reapplied multiple times per day, depending on the type of paste and its application instructions.
- Mouth rinses: For multiple canker sores, a steroid-based mouth rinse provides pain relief while reducing swelling. Your doctor or dentist will need to prescribe the rinse.
- Cauterisation: This process involves an instrument that chemically burns the portion of tissue where the sore resides.
If your canker sore is a side effect of a different medical condition, there are still several ways to find relief. These include rinsing your mouth with a solution of salt water and baking soda, or using an OTC product that contains a numbing agent. You can also apply bits of ice to the sore, and avoid acidic or spicy foods until it dissipates. Be sure to brush your teeth gently so as not to aggravate the tissue around the blister.
If none of these treatments sounds appealing or has been effective for you, your best course of treatment is to prevent canker sores altogether. Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
- Consume plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Along with avoiding spicy and acidic foods, minimise your consumption of chips, pretzels and nuts. These types of sharp, salty foods can also irritate the mouth.
- Eating healthy foods and avoiding other specific items is half the battle. The other half rests in developing good oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing after meals, and flossing every day. Be sure to swish with a mouth rinse if you feel a canker sore developing.
No one likes getting a canker sore, but by following the right course of treatment – and consulting your dentist – you'll find canker sore relief before you know it.