Statistics show that at least 20 percent of the population has canker sores at any given time. Other statistics indicate that women and teens are more prone to cankers than men, and that susceptibility to canker sores can be genetic and shared among family members.
What are canker sores?
Canker sores are known in the medical community as “aphthous ulcers” and they come in three classifications.
1) Minor – These make up 80 percent of reported cases of canker sores in the general population. They are usually 1-10mm in diameter and clear up within 7-10 days.
2) Major – These make up 10 percent of reported cases. These cankers sores are greater than 10mm and take between 10-30 days to resolve. There may be some scarring.
3) Herpetiform – About 10 percent of reported cases are clusters of sores with each sore less than 3mm in diameter
Cankers develop on moveable parts of the mouth – tongue, cheeks, lips, and at the base of the gums. They start out as small, red “pimples” that burst within a day. Once ruptured a thin white or yellow membrane will cover the sores. The vast majority of sores will heal within two weeks without requiring treatment and without scarring.
What causes canker sores?
No one is entirely sure what causes them in everyone, but here are some theories.
So far as researchers have been able to determine, canker sores do not appear to be caused by viruses or bacteria, although studies show that some people may develop them as an allergic reaction to a bacterium in the mouth.
They may also be the result of a faulty immune system where the body defends itself against and destroys normal mouth cells.
Studies in Britain have found that 20 per cent of occurrences happen where there are deficiencies in vitamin B12, folic acid and iron. American studies haven’t shown this connection, but it may be because of different criteria for the study subjects.
Other studies have shown a link between Vitamin C deficiency and the development of canker sores.
Some patients experience them as a gastrointestinal reaction to certain cereals.