If you have a small crater-like ulcer inside your mouth, perhaps on the inside of your cheek or lip or on your tongue, it is probably a canker sore. These painful ulcers, also known as aphthous ulcers, typically have a red border and a whitish or yellowish center. WhileÂ harmless, they can certainly make your life miserable until they go away.
Unlike cold sores, these pesky ulcers are not contagious but they can sometimes drive you crazy, especially while attempting to eat or drink. They usually run their course and heal completely in a week to 10 days, even without treatment. The jury is still out on just what causes canker sores, but as many as 80% of the population have experienced them one or more times in their lifetime and one in five get them on a regular basis. They often Â first rear their ugly head around the age of 10 but you can get them at any age.
Many Potential Causes
Theories abound as to why people get canker sores, and there can be many possible reasons:
- Being female â€“ Women tend to get them more often than men, perhaps due to hormonal Â fluctuations. Interestingly, canker sores often disappear during pregnancy.
- Minor trauma to the mouth â€“ Such as biting the tongue or inside cheek or lip, overly enthusiastic teeth brushing, or even after dental work. Teens with braces often get these sores due to the apparatus itself or a loose wire rubbing against the inside of their mouth.
- Stress may also be a culprit. Exam time, work stress or even not getting enough sleep can upset your bodyâ€™s balance, leaving it susceptible to developing mouth sores.
- Food allergies and sensitivities â€“ One of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, known as celiac disease, is canker sores. But you donâ€™t have to have a sensitivity to that degree to develop oral ulcers. They may also be caused by allergies to certain foods. Wheat, nuts, coffee, eggs and chocolate are triggers for some people. Highly acidic foods such as orange juice, tomatoes, strawberries and pineapple may also present a problem for some, and they should certainly be avoided when you have a mouth ulcer.
- Nutritional deficiencies, particularly less than optimum levels of vitamin B12, folic acid and zinc, may also play a part.
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate â€“ Some people are sensitive to the SLS found in most toothpastes and mouthwashes. This is a detergent and foaming agent thatâ€™s also an ingredient in many other personal care products from cleansers to shaving cream. But it can be drying to the inside of the mouth, leading to microscopic tears that leave the door open to canker sores. Some people have found that changing to an SLS-free toothpaste makes a huge difference in the number and frequency of their mouth sores.
- Ingesting too many sugary foods and beverages â€“ Sugar raises the bodyâ€™s acid level and there is some anecdotal evidence that indicates increased acidity may foster more oral bacteria.
- Canker sores can also run in families, so if you parents or siblings get them donâ€™t be surprised if you get them too.
Continue to page 2 for tips on how to treat your canker sores…