Canker Sores (also known as aphthous ulcerations or aphthous stomatitis), are small ulcers usually found on the inside of the lip or cheek or on the tongue and can be a troublesome burden for patients. Some patients live with them as frequently as every one to two months. Once one ulcer heals, another one can soon appear in a different location.
Canker sores are not to be confused with cold sores. Cold sores are usually found on the outside of the lip; they are caused by the herpes virus which is contagious and can easily spread from one person to another. Canker sores are non-contagious; they cannot be spread from person to person.
The etiology of canker sores is still unknown; however, there may be some contributing factors. Canker sores often occur when a patient is not feeling well. Sometimes they show up right before a patient becomes sick—like a warning sign that the immune system is compromised and that extra care (drinking plenty of water, eating well, and getting enough rest) is needed. Stress may also induce a series of events leading to canker sores. Additionally, canker sores can be caused by a source of trauma, such as, a tiny scratch from a toothbrush bristle or a reaction to acidic foods, like walnuts or chocolate.
Over the years there have been numerous medications and coping strategies offered to help alleviate the pain from canker sores, but most have failed to deliver. Canker sore treatment has greatly improved, though, and your dentist or physician may apply a topical treatment to larger, more painful sores to stop the pain and seal and protect the damaged tissue while it heals. Because canker sores usually last for two weeks or less, you may choose to simply “ride it out” on your own. If this is the case, you can rinse your mouth with warm salt water, drink plenty of water to help keep mouth pH values closer to normal, and avoid acidic foods.
Contact your dentist or physician if your canker sores become worse or increase over time.