How to Treat Canker Sores

How to Treat Canker Sores

Aug 26, 2013

A canker sore is small ulcer or sore in the mouth. They are usually yellow or white. Canker sores can cause a lot of discomfort and  make it difficult to talk or eat.  Although they are frequently confused for cold sores or fever blisters, canker sores are not the same thing. Cold sores are highly contagious and found outside the mouth while canker sores are located inside the mouth.

It’s unclear what causes canker sores. However they appear to be linked to stress in some people. It’s not uncommon to develop canker sores from braces or dentures, or from eating acidic foods like citrus fruits. There may be a correlation between a deficiency in vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron. Some people with Crohn’s disease or Celiac’s disease frequently develop canker sores.


Common canker sore symptoms include a tingling prior to the appearance of small red bumps that turn into an open ulcer. Though not common, some people suffer from general malaise and fever or develop swollen lymph nodes.


Discomfort usually takes about a week to go away although the sore can take up to three weeks to heal completely. Avoid eating hot or spicy foods which can cause irritation. There are over-the-counter canker sore medications that can be soothing when applied directly to the sore.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) also recommends the following two home remedies:

Combine equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water. Apply with a cotton swap to the sore. Then dab Milk of Magnesia to the sore 3-4 times daily.

Combine equal parts of Milk of Magnesia and Benadryl liquid allergy medicine. Swish in your mouth for 1 minute and spit.

If sores are very large or symptoms are particularly unpleasant then your dentist may prescribe one of the following to make you more comfortable:

  • antimicrobial mouth rinse
  • corticosteroid treatment
  • prescription solution


If you notice that the sores are spreading or lasting for more than three weeks then call your dentist. The best prevention is to brush and floss regularly to keep infections at bay and see your dentist regularly.

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