Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, occur inside your mouth. They manifest as white or grey ulcers that are fringed in red. Usually, canker sores appear on the inside of the lips, gums, tongue, or inside of the cheeks. The exact cause or causes of canker sores are still unknown.
Though usually painless, canker sore ulcers can cause pain and difficulty eating and talking. Sometimes, they can be accompanied by fever, a general feeling of weakness, or swollen lymph nodes.
An outbreak may have one or more ulcers which should go away on their own in a week or two without any lasting damage. Sometimes, canker sores are often confused for cold sores and the other way round. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 and usually appear as painful blisters outside the mouth.
Keep reading to find out how to get rid of canker sores, when to visit a doctor, and how to minimize the chances of future outbreaks.
In case you’re not sure how to get rid of canker sores, an over-the-counter topical paste or gel should be your first line of defense. You should apply it directly to the sores to prevent irritation.
Topical remedies can be used on their own or in combination with bandages and patches. They are often used in conjunction with a range of home remedies.
Salt rinse is one of the most popular home remedies for canker sores. To make the rinse, you can use regular table salt or sea salt. Have in mind that this is going to hurt a little.
To prepare the rinse, add one teaspoon of salt to a cup of water. Swirl the rinse in your mouth for around half a minute and spit it out. It is recommended to do this several times a day until the sores are gone.
Hydrogen peroxide has strong antibacterial properties and can help you get rid of the canker sores. Prepare it by mixing equal parts 3% hydrogen peroxide and water.
Dip a cotton swab or ball into the solution and apply it directly to the sores like you would a topical gel. Alternatively, you can use the mixture as a rinse. Gargle for a minute and then spit it out.
Historically, chamomile tea has been used for treating a wide variety of ailments and health problems, especially in combination with natural honey. Many people use it to treat canker sores as well. But chamomile tea and honey shouldn’t replace medications.
For canker sores, you can drink the chamomile tea or use it to rinse your mouth as chamomile may have an anti-inflammatory effect. Similarly, honey is believed to have an antiseptic effect and can be applied to the sores directly or used in combination with the tea.
Sage tea is another traditional home remedy for canker sore outbreaks, as well as mouth inflammations in general. The tea is used as a mouthwash for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and astringent properties. You can find it in almost any drugstore. However, if you decide to prepare the rinse on your own, follow these steps:
- Pour boiling water over sage leaves. One or two tablespoons of leaves will suffice.
- Steep for several minutes.
- Strain it and let it cool down.
- Swirl it around your mouth for a minute or two.
- Spit out the rinse or swallow it.
Thanks to its strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, Aloe Vera can be used in the treatment of canker sores. You can apply Aloe Vera gel directly on the sore.
It should be noted that there is very little scientific evidence for this. However, the NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) deems Aloe Vera safe to use.
Baking soda is another popular home remedy for canker sores. It may help soothe the inflammation and restore normal Ph levels in your mouth to speed up the healing process. The preparation and use are identical to a standard salt rinse.
If Aloe Vera isn’t your thing, you can try coconut oil. Thanks to its proven antimicrobial properties, it may heal canker sores and the associated inflammation. It can reduce the pain and redness, as well as prevent the spread of canker sores.
Unlike salt and baking soda rinses, coconut oil actually tastes good. You should use it like a topical gel or paste, i.e. applying directly onto the sores. Repeat the process multiple times every day until the sores are completely gone.
No one actually knows the exact cause of canker sores. Some of the cases have been linked to inflammatory bowel disease and Helicobacter pylori bacteria. A study published in 2007 found that lactobacillus and similar probiotic cultures found in yogurt can help kill Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Also, they can help with some types of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
Consequently, if your problem with canker sores stems from the Helico bacteria or IBD, yogurt may have a beneficial effect. In such cases, it is recommended to eat a minimum of one cup of yogurt a day.
While it is known that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause more frequent canker sore outbreaks, the exact role of vitamin B12 here is unknown. A study published in 2017 investigated the correlation between vitamin B12 intake and canker sore outbreaks. The researchers found that patients who took 1,000 micrograms of B12 a day had fewer and milder outbreaks than those in the placebo group.
Alternatively, you can go for vitamin B complex supplements. Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting the supplements to prevent unwanted side effects.
In case the canker sore outbreak is followed by a fever, rash, diarrhea, headaches, severe pain, or enlarged sores, you should contact your doctor. Likewise, you may want to talk to your doctor before applying some of the treatments described in this text.
In order to minimize the chances of repeated outbreaks, you should try refraining from eating overly spicy, salty, and acidic food. Also, avoid hot drinks, toast, and other foods with rough edges.