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Canker Sores: What Causes Them?

By HERWriter
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what are some causes for canker sores? Lev Dolgachov/PhotoSpin

If you've ever had a canker sore, you were in no doubt about it. Canker sores really hurt. They can make it hard to eat or drink.

Canker sores are also called aphthous ulcers. They form at the base of your gums, on or beneath your tongue or inside your lips or cheeks. They happen to 20 percent of people at one time or another.

They are fortunately not contagious. They are also not related to cold sores or fever blisters which are caused by the herpes simplex virus.

People in their teens and early twenties are more prone to canker sores than other age groups. Women are twice as likely as men to get them.

There seems to be a possible genetic component as to who is prone to canker sores. They have a tendency to run in families.

You may have searched your past days' activities, trying to figure out how you got the thing and come up with nothing. It's possible that they are simply caused by some types of viruses and bacteria.

A canker sore can be triggered by a mouth injury, either playing sports, or just biting the inside of your lip or cheek. The chemicals in chewing, or smokeless, tobacco can lead to canker sores.

Teeth or tooth restorations that are broken with sharp edges can irritate tissues and create canker sores. Dentures that don't fit your mouth well can, too. If this is what caused yours, consider seeing your dental health care practitioner for an adjustment or reline of your dentures.

Orthodontic attachments can cause canker sores, especially when you first have your braces put on or after an adjustment. If you're allergic to the metal of your orthodontic attachments, you can develop contact dermatitis, resulting in canker sores.

Deficiencies in vitamin B12, folic acid or iron can cause canker sores. So can being under stress. Fluctuations in hormone levels, for instance related to menopause, your menstruation cycle, and pregnancy can lead to canker sores.

Food or beverages that are too hot can cause a canker sore. So can spicy foods or foods that are highly acidic. If you are allergic to any foods, eating those foods may give you canker sores.

Celiac disease for instance, means that gluten must be avoided. If gluten is eaten, canker sores may occur. Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease may cause canker sores.

People suffering from immunosuppression may get canker sores. The autoimmune disease Behcet's disease does damage to blood vessels. It also often is linked with canker sores.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in some mouthwashes or toothpastes can contribute to the development of canker sores.

Living with a canker sore is miserable but tends to be relatively short-lived. Generally it will last for no more than two weeks.If yours last longer, consider seeing your dental health care provider, especially if these problems develop.

If your canker sore gets abnormally large, seems infected, or is accompanied by high fever seek help.

If the canker sore does not seem to be running the normal couse, for instance if the pain is unusually intense, or if you are getting more of them than usual, or if the canker sore is still there in full force after two weeks, see your dental health care provider.


About Canker Sores. Kidshealth.org. Retrieved Feb. 20, 2013.

What Causes Canker Sores? About.com. Retrieved Feb. 20, 2013.

Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger

Reviewed February 21, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

It's interesting that the cause of canker sores is still unknown to some degree. I always thought a canker sore was caused when you bite the side of your mouth. I've also heard that canker sores or mouth sores are common for those going through chemotherapy.

March 14, 2013 - 9:42pm

Great Job. Thanks For Sharing this article on canker sores.

February 21, 2013 - 9:21am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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