November 12, 2015
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CANKER SORES (APHTHOUS ULCERS)

CANKER SORES (APHTHOUS ULCERS) WHAT ARE CANKER SORES?

Canker sores are painful shallow ulcers in the mouth that are covered by a whitish gray membrane. The ulcers are surrounded by a halo of very red tissue. Canker sores can be found on the tongue, soft palate (the back portion of the roof of the mouth), gums, inner cheeks, throat, and sometimes the lips. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious.

WHO GETS CANKER SORES?

Anyone can develop canker sores. It is believed that simple or sporadic canker sores affect about 20% of Americans at some point in their lives. The first occurrence is usually between the ages of 10 and 20, but younger children can develop them as well. As a person ages, the frequency of canker sores decreases. Women tend to develop them more often than men, and there does seem to be some genetic predisposition.

A fewer number of people develop complex canker sores. Instead of having episodes 3-4 times a year that last 7-10 days, these people may have sores 50% of the time and develop new sores just as the old ones are healing.

WHAT CAUSES CANKER SORES?

Simple or sporadic canker sores:

Currently, it is believed that tissue injury, stress, and viral illnesses may result in the formation of simple sores. Some researchers believe that certain foods such as citrus fruits, pineapples, tomatoes, nuts, and cinnamon can trigger the problem. Menstrual periods can also act as a trigger.

Complex canker sores:

In about 20% of complex cases, certain causes such as vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency, iron deficiency, an impaired immune system, and diseases of the intestinal tract have been found to be the cause. In the remaining 80% of cases, no cause has been isolated.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

In addition to the formation of painful ulcers, a period of tingling and burning may precede the appearance of a lesion. In extensive cases, fever, listlessness, and swollen lymph nodes may occur.

HOW CAN I PREVENT CANKER SORES?

• Brush your teeth at least twice a day in addition to flossing regularly (and gently!). Avoid toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which has been linked to the presence of recurrent oral ulcers. Find an SLS free toothpaste you like and use it exclusively.

• Avoid foods that appear to trigger symptoms. Keep a food diary to identify triggers if symptoms are recurrent.

• Maintain a healthy immune system. Eat regularly, get plenty of sleep, and attempt to manage stress effectively.

• Visit your dentist if you have tooth surfaces that irritate the inside of your mouth.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

• Rinse your mouth 3 times a day with a salt-water solution (1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water).

• Make a mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water. Use a cotton swab to apply the mixture directly to the sore, and then dab a small amount of Milk of Magnesia on top of it. Do this 3-4 times a day.

• Dabbing diluted baking soda on the sore can also help.

• You can also mix Milk of Magnesia and liquid Benadryl Allergy medication in equal amounts. Every 4-6 hours, swish it in your mouth for a minute and spit it out.

• Over-the-counter treatments, such as Ambusol, Orabase, or Orajel, can help ease the discomfort. Colgate’s Orabase is easy to use, effective, and provides a protective barrier. Apply directly to canker sore for immediate relief.

• Avoid irritating foods and drinks (such as citrus, tomatoes, vinegar, pickles, salted nuts, and potato chips).

• Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) for discomfort.

• In some cases, a prescription ointment containing a steroid or a numbing medication can be helpful.

WHEN SHOULD I SEEK MEDICAL CARE?

• Frequent outbreaks (>8 times/year).

• Ulcers that take more than 7-10 days to heal.

• Spreading or unusually large sores.

• High fever with the development of sores.

• Sores that are accompanied by arthritis or diarrhea.

• Pain that is not controlled with the self-treatment measures mentioned above.

RECOMMENDED SLS FREE TOOTH PASTES:

• Tom's of Maine

• Clo-sys

RECOMMENDED RELIEF:

• Orabase

 

 

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