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Canker Sore Relief

by Brad McHargue
  • Overview

    Aphthous ulcers, known more commonly as canker sores, are noncontagious lesions appearing in the soft tissues inside the mouth. They can be incredibly painful and typically last one to two weeks before fading and eventually disappearing on their own. Treatment and relief can be found in a variety of forms, including over-the-counter medication, rinses and vitamins.
  • Topical Medications

    A number of medications exist to help fight canker sore-related pain and to help expedite the healing process. Pain relief is typically found through a variety of over-the-counter topical medications such as triamcinolone acetonide, amlexanox and fluocinonide. If these are applied directly to the lesion the moment it appears, they can help alleviate pain, slow the progression and increase the rate at which it heals. Debacterol is an oral medication developed just for treating canker sores and gum problems. It works by cauterizing the ulcer, reducing the amount of pain and cutting healing time to a week or less.
  • Mouth Rinses

    Rinsing the mouth out with mouthwash or a salt water mix can help clean the sore out and speed up the healing process. The application of mouthwash to a canker sore can be very painful, but the pain doesn't last long. Other rinses are drug-based and include dexamethasone, a steroid that helps to reduce pain and inflammation. Another oral rinse involves the use of tetracycline, an antibiotic that can reduce pain and expedite the healing process. This rinse is not recommended because it can increase the risk of the patient developing the fungal infection oral thrush and permanently discolor the juvenile teeth.
  • Alternative Treatments

    A variety of vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as probiotics, can be used as an alternative or complementary treatment. One of the many possible causes of canker sores is poor nutrition, and therefore ingesting adequate amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B-6 and 12, zinc and folic acid is recommended. A study published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine suggests that daily supplements of vitamin B12 are an effective and inexpensive method of treating recurring canker sores.
  • Prevention

    Preventing the recurrence of canker sores and the exacerbation of associated pain is possible through a number of lifestyle changes. These include avoiding spicy or acidic foods and foods with a rough consistency; eating healthy foods to ensure the ingestion of adequate vitamins and minerals; and maintaining proper oral hygiene, such as daily brushing and flossing. If a canker begins to develop, treatment should begin immediately.

    References & Resources