Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are small whitish lesions with a reddish border that appear on the soft tissues of the mouth or at the base of the gums. While they usually last only 1 or 2 weeks, mouth sores can be painful and annoying, especially when chewing, drinking, or talking.
There are various causes behind canker sores. In some cases, the cause is unknown. It appears that women are more likely to get them than men, they may sometimes be linked to the body’s immune system, and sometimes run in families.
Common causes of canker sores include:
- Mouth injury from dental work, biting or rough teeth brushing
- Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing sodium lauryl sulfate
- Food sensitivities, particularly to chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, spicy or acidic foods, and alcohol
- Lack of certain vitamins and minerals in the diet (especially iron, folic acid, or vitamin B-12)
- Emotional stress
- Viral infection
- Hormonal changes
- Helicobacter pylori bacteria
Pain from a canker sore tends to get better after a few days, and the sores usually heal without treatment within two weeks. Nevertheless, the following may help ameliorate the symptoms and speed-up recovery:
- Topical medications
- Oral medications
- Nutritional supplements
- Cautery (dental lasers)
The more effective treatments and products typically require a doctor’s prescription. See a specialist to determine what course of action is best for you.