Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are painful, annoying sores that appear inside the mouth, on the tongue or inside the cheek. It is estimated canker sores affect at least one in five Americans.
Canker sores are not related to the cold sores which appear as small outbreaks on the outside of the mouth. There is no known direct cause of canker sores but it is thought they are triggered by some type of immune response, hormone swings, stress, vitamin deficiency, spicy food, allergies or are genetically determined.
When to go to the dentist for canker sores:
You do not need to go to a dentist for your canker sores unless you develop:
Increased problems due to the canker sores being large or numerous and spreading;
If the sores lasts longer than three weeks;
You are having difficulty drinking enough liquids; or
If you develop other symptoms of illness along with the canker sore such as a high fever.
Preventions of canker sores:
A recent 6-month study showed that people who consumed 1000 mcg nightly of vitamin B12 had a reduction in their occurrence of canker sores of 74%, twice the amount of the placebo group which only had a 32% reduction. The vitamin B12 group felt they had less pain, fewer ulcers and shorter outbreaks. Conversely, the placebo group felt that their pain increased in the last 3 months of the study.
Other activities that might reduce the occurrence of canker sores are:
Avoiding spicy or acidic food;
Avoid brushing with a toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate; and
Avoiding trauma to the inside of the mouth by fixing rough bridgework.
If wearing braces, use dental wax to cushion rubbing inside the mouth.
Treatment of canker sores:
A recent dental study showed that licorice root herbal extract applied to the canker sores using an over the counter adhesive patch was effective. After seven days, the group using the patch had a significant decrease in size of their ulcers while the untreated group had a 13% increase in their ulcer size. Licorice extract typically has a strong flavor but when combined with a time release patch the taste is more mild and acceptable.