Canker sores are a real pain, and that goes double when the condition is chronic. These excruciating spots - also known as aphthous ulcers - cause not only bad breath but also irritation and severe oral sensitivity. These ulcers make effective treatment a must, which is why so many people invest in specialty alcohol-free mouthwashes.
Such products kill bacteria and eliminate odor, all without searing your canker sores with alcohol or irritants.
Interestingly, even though we've found a treatment that works (i.e. specialty mouthwashes), scientists are still hard at work trying to come up with...a therapy that works. Hmm. It's possible that they're missing the forest for the trees - that is, that they don't consider specialty products because they're too busy thinking about alternative products, which rarely do any good.
The canker sore: Out, damned spot!
Forgive the mild expletive, but canker sores can sure make you want to swear. (For the record, Lady MacBeth was referring to bloodstains, not canker sores.) These ulcers are, with the exception of toothaches, probably the ultimate in oral pain.
The National Institutes of Health states that all sorts of things can cause canker sores, from food allergies and emotional stress to poor oral hygiene. However, the symptoms of these ulcers are always the same: They cause halitosis, they get inflamed and they hurt.
If you've got canker sores, which look like white patches on the gums, tongue or inner cheeks, you'll know it. Biting one, or eating spicy foods while having one, can leave you screeching in pain.
This is why alcohol-free mouthwashes are so essential. Not only do they eliminate the bacteria that cause sores, but they do so without roasting your oral cavity with high concentrations of alcohol.
Are there other treatments out there? Sure, but few actually work. Consider what science has cooked up in order to treat recurrent aphthous stomatitis - that is, chronic canker sores:
- Allicin. This is a volatile sulfur compound (VSC) found in garlic. Recently, a team of Chinese researchers recommended using it for canker sores. In a study published in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology, the group announced that allicin tablets appeared to shrink canker sores faster than regular treatments. The results were just significant enough to warrant a report, meaning they weren't all that great. Furthermore, it's probably not a good idea to use a VSC-based treatment, since these compounds are what gives bad breath its stink in the first place!
- Dexamethasone. Another Chinese study, also published just this year, recommended using dexamethasone to treat recurring canker sores. Ummm, we would not suggest doing this. Dexamethasone is one of the most powerful synthetic steroids on the planet - seven times stronger than prednisone and nearly 30 times more potent than the cortisol in your body.
- Multivitamins. This may be the most warranted of all experimental treatments, since nutrient deficiencies make canker sores more likely. Unfortunately, multivitamins don't actually treat bad breath. In a new study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers found that up to a year of vitamin supplementation had no effect on the number or extent of canker sore outbreaks.
So what can you do? Stick to the one thing we know works: specialty breath freshening mouthwashes. These products can do the trick without using stinky garlic, ineffective vitamins or unbelievably strong steroids. Instead, they utilize all-natural oxygenating compounds to kill bacteria, soothe sores and neutralize bad breath.