Canker Sore

What is a Canker Sore?

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, develop inside the mouth. They usually come up around the base of the gums or on the soft tissue of the mouth.  Unlike cold sores, canker sores do not develop on your lips. They cannot pass from one person to another because they are not contagious. Canker sores can be very painful and are well known for making eating, talking and drinking very difficult.

Canker sores can take one to two weeks to go away. However, if you have an unusually large, or unbearably painful canker sore that doesn’t seem to heal, you may need to see your doctor.

What are the Symptoms for Canker Sore?

The majority of canker sores are round or oval. They usually have a white or yellow colored center with a red boarder. Canker sores appear on soft tissue.

The most common places for canker sores to develop are on:

  • On or under the tongue
  • Inside the cheek
  • Inside the lip
  • At the base of the gum
  • On your soft palate

There are many types of canker sores, including:

  • Minor
  • Major
  • Herpetiform

Minor Canker Sores

Minor canker sores are very common and people who get them report that they happen frequently.

Minor canker sores are:

  • Usually small
  • Round or oval shape with red edge
  • Usually heals spontaneously within a week or two.

Major Canker Sores

  • Extremely large and very deep compared to minor canker sores.
  • They are usually defined with boarders. These boarders can have irregular edges because the sore is very large.
  • Large canker sores can be extremely painful.
  • These sores can take more than six weeks to heal. These sores can leave large scars.

Herpetiform Canker Sore

These specific canker sores are very uncommon and typically develop later in life. These sores are not caused by the herpes virus, even though the name suggests it.

These canker sores:

  • The size of a pinpoint.
  • Can develop in clusters of 10 to 100 sores at a time. These sores may later merge into a single ulcer.
  • Develop with irregular edges.
  • Usually heal without scaring.

Cause of Canker Sores

The exact mechanism by which canker sores manifest has not been completely solidified in medical research. However, there are many strongly supported theories which tend to point to multiple factors. Aphthous stomatitis, as it is known in many areas of the world, is partly influenced by a T cell (T lymphocyte) mediated immune response which leads to mucosal destruction involving the generation of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukins.

Immuno-dysregulation is the preferred theory that medical researchers hold for canker sore causation, but the condition is different from many of the other autoimmune diseases which have been seen in humans. Three general subgroups appear to each have their own cause leading to the canker sores: primary immuno-dysregulation, decrease of mucosal barrier and also states of heightened antigenic sensitivity. Evidence also suggests that canker sores might be influenced by environmental factors in some particular cases.

How is a Canker Sore Treated?

Most canker sores do not require medical treatment.

How to get rid of a canker sore?

The recommended home treatment for canker sores is mouth rinses, topical products to relieve pain, and topical products to speed up healing. These medications are available over the counter.

If the canker sore will not heal on its own, oral medications may be required from your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid to aid in healing, or he may cauterize the sores to destroy the infected tissue.

Prevention of Canker Sores

It is an unfortunate fact that canker sores often reoccur, but the condition does often clear up as a person gets older in age.

There may also be some steps that can be taken to further reduce the likelihood that this recurrence will happen. First, a person with a history of the sores can watch what they eat and avoid particular foods that seem to irritate the mouth upon consumption. In many cases these are particular salty foods or acidic fruits such as nuts, chips, pretzels, grapefruit and oranges. Healthy foods should always be preferred and ones which a person is sensitive or allergic to should be abstained from.

Protect the mouth by using orthodontic waxes and other such measures if braces are worn. Also, reducing stress and following general good oral hygiene practices will go a long way towards keeping canker sores away from the mouth.