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Canker sores (also referred to as apthous ulcers) are a common type of mouth ulcer presenting as a small and shallow ulcer. Canker sores can show on the inner surface of the cheeks and lips, soft palate, the tongue, and along the gums. Canker sores appear as a bright red area surrounding a white or yellow center. More than half the population is affected by them. They generally last about 10-14 days with no long term health issues (not cancerous). They are very different from cold sores that develop from the herpes simplex virus and are contagious unlike canker sores.

What Causes Canker Sores?

The exact cause of canker sores remains a mystery to dentists and physicians alike. The following are some of the issues linked to what causes canker sores:

Canker Sores Marielaina Perrone DDS-Emotional Stress. This seems to bring canker sores on in many people but not all.

-Trauma To Tissues. Biting lip or cheek, orthodontic braces causing trauma, or ill fitting dentures can trigger canker sores to develop.

Nutritional Deficiencies. This includes deficiencies of B-12, Zinc, iron, or folic acid.

-Impaired Immune System.

-Presence Of Gastrointestinal Disease (GI Disease). This can include celiac disease or crohn’s disease.

-Hormonal Changes. For many women, the oncoming menstrual cycle can bring on the occurrence of canker sores.

-Genetics. Canker sores seem to run in families with women being affected more often than men.

Signs And Symptoms Of Canker Sores

Signs and symptoms of include the following:

-A painful sore or sores inside your mouth. These sores can be anywhere on the tongue, on the soft palate, or inside your cheeks or lips.

-A tingling or burning sensation before the sores appear.

-Canker sores present in your mouth round in size, white or gray center, and with a bright red border.

Although canker sores will heal on their own they can be quite uncomfortable especially when speaking or eating. The following are some of the treatments recommended for canker sores:

-Non prescription anesthetic cream. This will help relieve some of the discomfort of the canker sores. Topical creams can include benzocaine (Anbesol), fluocinonide (Lidex), and hydrogen peroxide (Orajel).

-Prescription Mouth rinse. Prescription mouth rinse containing the steroid dexamethasone to reduce pain and inflammation.

-Dental Laser. Can eradicate canker sores giving almost immediately relief

-Oral Medications. Oral steroids can be given in severe cases.

-Debacterol. This is topical solution formulated to treat canker sores. Debacterol works by chemically cauterizing canker sores. Debacterol medication has the ability to reduce healing time to about a week.

-Nutritional Supplements. based on laboratory results your doctor may prescribe a nutritional supplement if you are low folic acid, vitamin B-12 or zinc.

At Home Help For Canker Sores

Below are some remedies to try at home to speed healing time of your canker sores:

-Use salt water or baking soda rinse.

-Milk of magnesia. Place a small dab on your canker sores 3-4 times a day.

-Avoid Certain Foods. Avoid abrasive, acidic or spicy foods that can cause more irritation and discomfort.

-Use Ice. Allow ice chips to slowly dissolve over the area of the canker sores for relief.

-Soft Brushing. Using a soft brush and foaming-agent-free toothpaste such as Biotene or Sensodyne ProNamel can give relief. Look for SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) Free toothpastes.

 What Causes Canker Sores? Conclusion

Canker sores are not a serious health event but are definitely uncomfortable when they occur. At first sign of a sore speak to your dentist or doctor to ensure it is not something more sinister. While unusual, they can often be overlooked as oral cancer. If they last more than 3 weeks get them checked out immediately. As always see your dentist regularly for a happy, healthy smile.



Use of an anti bacterial mouthwash can be an important part of everyone’s dental hygiene. Many people have been instructed to brush and floss regularly but did you know that using an anti bacterial mouthrinse can be just as important? Walking down the aisle of any grocery or drug store can be quite confusing as there are a ton of options.

Types Of Mouthwash

Therapeutic Mouthwash. This type of mouthwash is meant to fight off dental diseases like tooth decay and periodontal disease. These will have anti bacterial and anti plaque (tartar control) properties. By reducing plaque and tartar you will decrease the risk of periodontal disease as well as decrease gum inflammation. They may also contain fluoride which will help in the fight against tooth decay.

Cosmetic Mouthwash. These include agents to freshen your breath. They can also include whitening agents. Generally, these mouthwashes do not include any therapeutic agents.

Therapeutic Mouthwash Advantages

-Mouthwash With Fluoride. Fluoride mouthwashes have the ability to possibly help decrease the risk of tooth decay. There have been numerous research studies over the years to prove that fluoride can strengthen and reduce the breakdown of enamel thereby reducing the possibility of tooth cavities. This will not work for all but has been proven to be a benefit for many. Some fluorides are also good antibacterials and help fight periodontal disease (example – stannous fluoride).

-Periodontal Disease Fighter. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque from bacteria and food that sticks to teeth. As the bacteria feed on the food particles they release acids that will break down the bone and cause inflammation of the gum tissue. Our body responds and causes bone loss and inflamed, infected gums. An antibacterial mouthwash may help prevent periodontal disease by decreasing the amount of bad bacteria in the mouth. There is also type of rinse (Periogen) that has been found to dissolve tartar, stains, and plaque. This rinse is a great way to keep your teeth from rebuilding tartar between cleanings. This is a powder that can be diluted with water in a waterpik and tends to be even more effective if a capful of your fluoride rinse is added to it.

-Help Keep Pregnancy Gingivitis At Bay. It is important to maintain good oral hygiene at all times but for certain groups it is even more important. For pregnant women it can be critical to control oral health. During pregnancy, a woman’s hormones are elevated which makes them more susceptible to developing periodontal disease if their dental hygiene is not maintained. Periodontal disease in pregnant women has been linked to low weight and pre term babies.

Help Diabetics. Patients with systemic diseases that make them more susceptible to infection like diabetics need to reduce the bacteria they are ingesting. It is even more critical to maintain good oral hygiene and mouthwashes are definitely recommended for those patients.

Therapeutic Mouthwash Disadvantages

-Canker Sore Irritant. This is caused when the alcohol content in your mouthwash is too high. It will irritate the canker sore and make it quite uncomfortable to use.

-Cover Up For Bad Breath. Use of a mouthwash can definitely lead to fresher breath but it is usually only for a short period of time. Only some mouthwashes are formulated to actually neutralize odor causing chemicals (example Closys). Not maintaining your dental hygiene, or chemicals from your diet are usually the underlying factors in most people’s bad breath but the mouthwash will just mask it for a short time.

Alcohol Based Mouthwash. Studies (Listerine) have shown that rinses with alcohol, if used as directed can actually cause saliva production to be stimulated in a semi dry mouth. The alcohol in mouth rinses has historically been used as a way to cause the essential oils (the bacteria killing aspect) in the rinse to keep from separating out in the liquid, and staying mixed. No one wants to rinse with something oily feeling. There are now quite a few alternatives to alcohol to do the job, so alcohol free rinses have become more prevalent. Many people do not like the burning sensation of alcohol, and in people with little to no saliva flow, alcohol based rinses can be quite uncomfortable. The choice is based on personal preferences.

Mouthwash Use Conclusion

Using a mouthwash can be another tool to keep your mouth healthy and free of periodontal disease. If you decide to use a mouthwash as part of your dental hygiene routine remember to continue brushing and flossing as well. They work together not separately. There are a lot of mouthwashes on the market today, talk to your dentist to see which one is right for you.