Although mostly benign, canker sores can be quite irritating. They prevent you from talking comfortably and can make eating difficult.
Canker sores can be simple or complex. The simple ones mostly affect the young population between 10 and 20 years of age, and they might appear up to 4 times in 12 months.
On the bright side, you are far less likely to get a complex canker sore unless you’ve previously had it. However, the question of how to heal a canker sore still remains.
There are two treatment options – standard medical treatment and home remedies. To help you choose the one you think will work best for you, this article will look into both.
Standard Medical Treatment
The type of medical treatment that works for you largely depends on the severity of the sores in your mouth. For this reason, you should consult with your doctor or dentist to help you determine the right medication.
A lack of certain vitamins and other essential nutrients is one of the reasons canker sores appear in the first place. Your doctor might prescribe a supplement that’s rich in vitamins B6 and B12. Supplements that contain zinc or folic acid are also often prescribed. Their purpose is to equip your immune system to fight the ongoing infection and prevent it from recurring in the future.
This treatment is great for people who suffer from multiple canker sores. Rinses are prescription medications which contain a combination of lidocaine and dexamethasone. They are effective in reducing pain and inflammation and allow you to start eating better almost immediately after application.
If the sores don’t respond to other treatments, a doctor might prescribe oral medications. However, there are no medications that specifically target canker sores.
In general, doctors resort to colchicine, a gout medication, or sucralfate, which is used to treat intestinal ulcers. Steroid oral medication is rarely prescribed due to the side effects it could cause.
You don’t need any prescription for canker topicals, and there are a few different forms to choose from. They include liquids, creams, pastes, and gels that aid pain relief and expedite the healing process.
Certain products contain active ingredients like fluocinonide, hydrogen peroxide, or benzocaine. Even though you don’t need a prescription to get them, it is still wise to consult with your doctor. They will help you choose the product that is best suited for your symptoms.
In some cases, doctors might resort to a more invasive treatment to cauterize the sores. Chemicals like silver nitrate and debacterol are applied to the sores to physically remove or burn them. Debacterol has an advantage over silver nitrate as it simultaneously speeds up the healing time and lessens the pain.
Luckily, most canker sores don’t require medical treatment and go away on their own in a few weeks. But there’s no need to suffer and just wait for the sores to disappear. There are several effective folk remedies that should provide immediate relief.
Sodium Bicarbonate and Saltwater
Take a cup of warm water and mix in one teaspoon of salt, then swish it in the mouth for a minute.
For a more potent mix, add half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate to make a paste-like solution. Put the paste over your canker sores, and you should feel less pain after a few applications.
Both solutions reduce bacteria and alkalinity in your mouth to speed up the healing process.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Rich in acetic acid, apple cider vinegar can help fight the bad bacteria in the mouth. It also balances the oral flora as extra help for treating canker sores.
To make the mouthwash, mix one tablespoon of vinegar into a glass of water and swish it in your mouth. The solution is also beneficial to your digestive tract, so rather than spitting it out once you’re done, you can swallow it.
Note: Ensure that the vinegar is properly diluted to avoid acid erosion from the low pH.
Chamomile tea is an excellent relaxant and digestion aid, but it also has antiseptic properties. Drinking or even swishing the tea will soothe the sores and expedite the recovery. It should be taken warm to get the most benefits.
This one might come as a surprise since it’s generally advisable to avoid strong spices when you suffer from canker sores.
However, cayenne pepper has capsaicin, a special substance that can do a lot of good. It is known to prevent the growth of bacteria and affect the substance P which is responsible for inflammation.
When treating canker sores, make cayenne paste using water, and apply the paste to your sores with a cotton swab. Repeat the process a few times a day and you should soon feel relieved.
Similar to cayenne pepper, basil has great anti-microbial characteristics which can provide relief from the sores. There are two ways to use basil. You can chew the leaves fresh or put them in hot water and then swish the basil tea like any other mouthwash.
Sage is yet another herb with powerful anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties. It balances the flora in your mouth and expedites the canker healing process.
To make the mouthwash, mix in 2 teaspoons of sage (dried) with water and swish for about a minute.
For decades, clove oil has been used as one of the most potent folk remedies to heal canker sores. What’s more, some dentists continue to use it to this day. This oil contains eugenol, a powerful painkiller that provides immediate relief when applied directly.
When you want to apply clove oil directly, rinse your mouth with salt water first. Then take a cotton ball and soak it in half a teaspoon of olive oil and add clove oil (5 drops is enough). Put the ball on the sore and hold it there for a few minutes.
Irritating as they are, canker sores are not that difficult to treat. Now that you know how to heal a canker sore, it’s only a matter of choosing the right treatment.
You should try one of the home-made remedies as soon as you see the first signs of sores. They don’t create any negative side effects and can improve your overall oral health.
However, if home remedies don’t help after a few days, it is best to visit your doctor. Canker sores are sometimes confused with other oral conditions, so you shouldn’t try to self-medicate.