How to Get Rid of Canker Sores

Janis

By Janis | Updated January 8, 2024

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small, shallow ulcers that occur in the lining of your mouth. These irritating and painful sores are not contagious but can affect your daily life. 

Fortunately, there are several remedies and preventative measures you can take to alleviate and avoid canker sores. Natural and over-the-counter products can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with canker sores. 

It’s important to identify and avoid triggers that may cause canker sores and maintain good oral hygiene to prevent further irritation and recurrence. By understanding the causes and implementing the suggested treatments, you can effectively manage and prevent these ulcers.

Understanding Canker Sores

Aphthous ulcers are tiny, superficial wounds that form on the soft oral tissues like the tongue, gums, or inner part of your lip. Despite their prevalence, they don’t pose a risk of spreading from one person to another.

Symptoms of a canker sore typically start with a burning or prickling feeling before the actual ulcer forms. 

Once it appears, the lesion is usually small, round, or oval, with a white or pale-yellow center, and circumscribed by a reddened perimeter. These sores often occur individually but can also appear in clusters.

Causes of Canker Sores

Before diving into the remedies for canker sores, it’s essential to understand what actually triggers these painful ulcers in your mouth. By knowing these causes, you’ll be better equipped to prevent and manage these oral lesions and attain quicker relief.

Stress, Trauma, or Injury

Physical trauma or excess stress can lead to canker sores. These irritations may result from excessive tooth brushing, dental work, burns from hot foods, or even a cheek bite.

Furthermore, emotional stress is also a common culprit. Periods of high anxiety or significant life changes might affect your body and trigger the appearance of these painful ulcers in your mouth.

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infection is another contributing factor to the formation of canker sores. Certain bacteria present inside the oral cavity might initiate an immune response that ultimately leads to these sores.

In particular, a bacterium known as Helicobacter Pylori, also associated with stomach ulcers, has been linked to canker sores. 

Weak Immune System

When your immunity is low, your body’s ability to fight off infections is compromised, leading to a higher risk of oral issues such as canker sores.

Moreover, certain immune disorders like Behcet’s disease or HIV/AIDS may cause more frequent and severe occurrences of these painful mouth ulcers.

Acidic Food and Beverage

Acidic foods and beverages can irritate your mouth and trigger canker sores. Items like oranges, tomatoes, lemons, strawberries, coffee, and chocolates have high acidity that may aggravate the soft tissues within your mouth, making them more sensitive.

Such foods and drinks can cause a stinging sensation in pre-existing sores or induce new ulcers.

Home Remedies for Canker Sores

While these sores are typically harmless, they can be uncomfortable and make eating or speaking painful. Fortunately, there are several effective home remedies to alleviate the discomfort and promote faster healing.

Alum Powder

Alum powder, a common ingredient in pickling and baking, is a useful home remedy for canker sores. It has astringent properties that shrink the tissues and dry up sores, aiding in faster healing.

To use, create a paste with a pinch of alum and a drop of water. Apply the paste to the sore, leave it on for a minute, and rinse. Repeat daily until the sore heals.

Saltwater Rinse

Mix one teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water. Swish it in your mouth or gargle for about 30 seconds, then spit it out.

Use this remedy several times a day to help heal the sore.

Baking Soda Rinse

Baking Soda balances the pH levels in your mouth, reducing acidity and inflammation, thereby accelerating the healing process.

For application, mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a half-cup of lukewarm water until it dissolves completely. Use this solution as a rinse for your mouth several times a day until the sore heals.

Yogurt

Yogurt is often in the limelight for its probiotic properties, which restore the natural balance of ‘good’ bacteria in your body. These benefits are also applicable in managing canker sores.

Consuming unflavored yogurt can be helpful if your sores are triggered by an imbalance in the normal bacterial flora in your mouth. A daily serving can reduce sore frequency, aid healing, and contribute to preventing recurrence.

Honey

Honey is celebrated for its natural healing properties, making it a popular remedy for canker sores. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties can reduce swelling and discomfort while also curtailing any potential infection.

Try applying raw honey to the sore three to four times a day. This keeps the area moist, reduces pain, and might expedite the healing process to a significant extent.

Coconut Oil

Known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial abilities, coconut oil may reduce swelling, discomfort, and the potential risk of infection.

To apply, dab a small amount of virgin coconut oil onto the sore. Repeat this several times a day until healing is achieved. This home remedy is safe and can be beneficial for maintaining overall oral health.

Chamomile Compress

Soak a chamomile tea bag in warm water and apply it directly to the sore for a few minutes.

Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties and may provide relief.

Echinacea

Echinacea, a plant native to North America, is widely used in herbal medicine. Studies suggest that it boosts the immune system and fights viruses, which makes it beneficial in dealing with canker sores.

You can use echinacea tea as a mouthwash multiple times a day. Alternatively, supplements are also available but should be taken under a healthcare provider’s supervision to ensure safety and proper dosage.

Sage

Create a homemade mouthwash by boiling fresh sage in water, then allow it to cool. Consider swishing the solution around your mouth several times throughout the day.

Alternatively, applying cooled sage leaves directly onto the sores can also provide relief.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

You can also cure and prevent canker sores with over-the-counter items.

Mouth Rinses

Mouth rinses specifically formulated for canker sores can provide relief and aid in the healing process. These rinses often contain ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or baking soda, which help to reduce pain and inflammation while keeping the affected area clean.

Regular use of these OTC mouth rinses can be a valuable part of managing canker sores and promoting faster recovery.

DGL Mouthwash

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) mouthwash is an over-the-counter treatment that may provide relief from canker sores. DGL is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with canker sores. 

It’s often used as a rinse or mouthwash and can be swished in the mouth for a period before spitting it out. 

Vitamin B-Complex Supplement

Deficiencies in zinc and iron can cause canker sores. Taking a Vitamin B Complex supplement might help prevent these deficiencies and reduce the occurrence of canker sores.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen to ensure it’s appropriate for your specific needs.

Medicated Gel and Pastes

Over-the-counter gels and pastes formulated specifically for treating canker sores can provide relief from pain and aid in the healing process. 

These products often contain active ingredients such as benzocaine or hydrocortisone, which can numb the affected area, reducing discomfort. Additionally, they create a protective barrier over the sore, preventing irritation and promoting healing.

Swelling and Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can be effective in reducing both the pain and inflammation associated with canker sores.

Note that while these drugs can alleviate pain and inflammation, they don’t directly speed up the healing process of the canker sore itself.

When to Get Help

Long-Term or Frequent Sores

If your canker sores last for more than a couple of weeks or keep recurring, consult a doctor or a dentist for advice.

They can rule out underlying health problems and may prescribe effective treatments.

Severe Pain

Although canker sores are usually uncomfortable, intense pain in the mouth or on your lips and tongue may be a sign of a more serious issue.

In such situations, don’t hesitate to consult your dental or medical professional.

Difficulty Eating or Speaking

If canker sores make it hard for you to eat, drink, or speak, it’s time to see a doctor.

Severe discomfort and pain may indicate that you need stronger medications or specialized treatment.

Large Size and Growth

Canker sores generally appear as small, round ulcers. If the size or spread of the sores is unusual, contact your dentist or doctor.

They can provide targeted treatments based on the severity of the condition.

Signs of Serious Infection

Keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as a fever, swollen lymph nodes, or pus near the sore. If you notice any of these symptoms, promptly consult a healthcare professional.

Bear in mind if there’s uncertainty, it is always safer to choose the cautious path. Addressing canker sores early can prevent complications and ensure a speedy recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are effective home remedies for canker sores?

Alum powder, saltwater, and baking soda are some common home remedies for canker sores.

They help in shrinking the tissues and drying out the sores, accelerating the healing process.

How can I quickly alleviate canker sore pain?

To alleviate canker sore pain quickly, you can try applying ice or using a topical numbing agent.

Avoid applying pressure directly on the sore, and rinse your mouth with cold water.

What foods should I avoid to prevent canker sores?

Prevent canker sores by avoiding citrus fruits, spicy foods, acidic foods, and abrasive foods like crunchy chips.

These foods can irritate existing canker sores or trigger new ones.

Are there mouthwashes designed for canker sore relief?

Yes, there are mouthwashes specifically designed for canker sore relief. Some contain ingredients like hydrogen peroxide.

You can also try homemade salt water or baking soda rinses for relief.

When should I consult a doctor for a canker sore?

Consult a doctor if your canker sores are severe, persistent, or don’t respond to home remedies and over-the-counter treatments.

Also, if you experience difficulty in eating, drinking, or speaking due to canker sores, seek medical advice.