Medical treatment is usually not necessary for common aphthous ulcers. In most cases, the canker sores heal on their own in a few days to a couple of weeks. If a canker sore lasts more than two weeks, or if it is very painful, you should see your dentist for treatment.
How to cure a canker sore
Most forms of canker sores may be treated by eliminating the conditions that cause them. Depending on the etiology possible treatment for canker sores could be :
- A doctor may prescribe folic acid, iron, or vitamin B12 supplements if you are deficient in these. In such cases, you may require several months of therapy to improve.
- Some women may notice an increase of canker sores occurence or severity during their premenstrual phase. An estrogen-dominant oral contraceptive may help if given for 4-6 months.
- In some cases, switching to an SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) free toothpaste can prevent mouth ulcers.
If a canker sore persists for more than two weeks, you should see your dentist.
In rare cases, a mouth cancer may first look like a mouth ulcer that does not heal.
Treatment for severe canker sores - Canker sore medications
If a canker sore lasts more than two weeks, you should see your dentist. Prescription treatments based on antibiotics and steroids are reserved for severe cases, and should be used only under medical supervision
- Tetracycline suspension is a common antibiotic prescribed for severe mouth ulcers (larger than 1 cm or lasting longer than 2 weeks). (Tetracycline is not suitable for pregnant women or children before the eruption of all permanent teeth because it can cause serious discoloration of the still-forming teeth.) Mouth rinses containing the antibiotic tetracycline may reduce the unpleasant symptoms of canker sores and speed healing by preventing bacterial infections in the sores.
- A doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory steroid mouth rinses or gels. Steroid mouth rinses have been shown to reduce the inflammation and number of recurrences and are reserved for more severe cases due to potential side effects. Another choice doctors have is to prescribe Aphthasol, an FDA approved treatment specifically indicated for aphthous ulcers.
- Some doctors may also prescribe a local anesthetic, such as lidocaine, for cases of multiple or severe aphthous ulcers.
- DEBACTEROL® Canker Sore Pain Relief is another prescription only drug used for treating ulcerating oral mucosal lesions. It claims to stop oral ulcer pain, seal damaged oral mucosal tissues, and form a protective barrier after just one application.
- If it does not heal within a week, a doctor or dentist may cauterize it using a laser to burn off the ulcer, causing it to completely disappear within a few hours up to two to three days.
Home remedies for a canker sore
If you want to avoid medication, the most popular home remedies for canker sore treatment, include the following:
- Rinse the mouth with salt water.
- Avoid acidic foods such as tomato, citrus, soft drinks, and vinaigrette salad dressings.
- Another canker sore home remedy suggests to rinse regularly with ginger, lemon and honey tea, that have strong anti-bacterial properties.
- Keeping the ulcer dry by exposing the ulcer to the air and keeping saliva out of the ulcer for periods up to 30 minutes once or twice a day is sometimes very effective for canker sore treatment in as little as 24 hours.
Canker sore pain relief home remedies & medications
There are several canker sore home treatments for reducing the pain and duration of mouth ulcers for patients whose outbreaks cannot be prevented :
- Rinse the mouth with a hydrogen peroxide antiseptic mouthwash (e.g., Peroxyl®), which can help significantly reduce discomfort from irritation caused by food residuals and bacteria that accumulate in an ulcer, while speeding the healing process.
- As an alternative home remedy for canker sores you could mix one part hydrogen peroxide with one part water and apply it to the canker sore with a cotton swab, followed by a little milk of magnesia .
- Other over-the-counter carbamide peroxide products (e.g. Gly-Oxide®) or normal antimicrobial mouthwashes may help to relieve pain for a few hours. Mouthwashes that are too acidic should be avoided, as they could cause discomfort, at least for the first uses.
- Various over-the-counter pain relievers can help for temporary pain relief.
- Medicines, such as Anbesol, Orajel, Orabase and others, that are applied directly on the sore, might reduce irritation and relieve the discomfort of canker sores.
- Avoid hot, spicy or acidic foods and foods with sharp crunchy edges, such as nacho chips, which can irritate the canker sore. Acidic foods or beverages (tomato, citrus, soft drinks etc) produce a burning sensation when they come into contact with the ulcer.
- A temporary remedy for the pain of the mouth ulcer is to let ice chips melt on the area of the ulceration. Although this may cause intense pain in the beginning, it is a highly effective home treatment for canker sore pain relief and it lasts for about half an hour
- Brush your teeth gently, using a soft brush to avoid irritating the sore.
How to prevent canker sores in mouth
Canker sores can recur, but you may be able to prevent canker sores reducing their frequency by addressing factors that seem to trigger canker sores :
- Follow good oral hygiene habits - Regular brushing (using a soft toothbrush) after meals and flossing once a day can keep your mouth clean and free of foods and bacterial infections that might trigger a sore. Regular use of mouthwash may help prevent or reduce the frequency of the sores.
- Avoid trauma - Avoid anything that could cause trauma to the mouth :
- Use allways a soft toothbrush and be careful when brushing or flossing teeth, to avoid trauma to gums. - Do not talk while chewing. You could cause minor trauma to the oral mucosa by biting the cheek, lips or tongue, triggering a canker sore.
- Be careful when eating rough or sharp foods
- Have any irregularly sharp edged teeth repaired. Dental braces can be treated with wax to reduce the risk of wounding the cheeks.
- Watch your diet - Avoid foods that seem to irritate your mouth. These may include acidic foods or beverages, nuts or certain spices that could cause canker sores.
The cost involved with dental treatments can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to you and your family.