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Canker Sores: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Ulcer of the mouth is known as canker sores or aphthous ulcer. They are sores and are painful. It is the common type of mouth ulcer. Some people have them on the lip, tongue or inside the mouth on the cheek. They’re usually white or yellow and surrounded by red, inflamed soft tissue.

Canker sores can be simple or complex. Simple canker sores appear three to four times a year and usually last for about a week. They often occur in people between the ages of 10 to 20.

Complex canker sores are less common and usually occurs in people that have had it before.

Neither of them is contagious, and they heal on their own after one to three weeks, but the pain usually subsides earlier.


The cause of most canker sores is not certain. However, some are caused by

  • Stress
  • Viral infection
  • Food allergy
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Immune system problem
  • Mouth tissue injury
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency

Certain foods — including citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables (such as lemons, oranges, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, and strawberries) — can trigger a canker sore or make the problem worse.


The symptoms of canker sores are;

  1. a tingling or burning sensation before the sore appears;
  2. A painful sore or sores inside your mouth — on the tongue, on the soft palate (the back portion of the roof of your mouth), or inside your cheeks.
  3. A painful red area in your mouth
  4. a small, oval-shaped ulcer that’s white or yellow.


In some cases, the following symptoms may be present;

  1. Swollen lymph nodes.
  2. Physical sluggishness
  3. Fever


Although there isn’t any cure, canker sores can be avoided. You can prevent the recurrence of canker sores by avoiding foods that may have previously triggered the outbreak. These often include spicy, salty, or acidic foods. Also, avoid foods that cause the symptoms of an allergy, such as an itchy mouth, a swollen tongue, or hives.

Brushing with a soft-bristled brush after meals and flossing daily, which will keep your mouth free of foods that might trigger a sore


Pain from a canker sore lessens in a few days, and the sores usually heal without treatment in about a week or two. Cankers sores treated with dental lasers exhibit almost complete relief of the symptoms immediately. Talk to your dentist about the procedure.

The pain can be uncomfortable. You can reduce the pain by gargling with mouthwash or salt water.


Your doctor or dentist can prescribe:

  • An antimicrobial mouth rinse
  • An antibiotic
  • A corticosteroid ointment
  • A prescription mouthwash
  • You should call your dentist about canker sores if you have:
  • Unusually large sores
  • Sores that are spreading
  • Sores that last three weeks or longer
  • Intolerable pain despite avoiding trigger foods and taking over-the-counter pain medication
  • Difficulty drinking enough fluids
  • A high fever with the appearance of the canker sores
  • Canker sores with the above symptoms could be signs of mouth cancer.

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