If you find yourself experiencing pain in your mouth that is exacerbated by drinking acidic compounds like orange juice or extremely hot or cold liquids, your first thought may be that you are experiencing a tooth-related issue. If you find that your pain is coming from a shallow white or yellow wound with a red border, however, it is possible that you are experiencing the pain of canker sores, a common and recurring mouth problem.
Canker sores in the mouth are also called aphthous ulcers, and they can appear on your tongue as well as the inside of your lips and cheeks all of the parts of your mouth that move. Sores that appear outside the mouth are not canker sores, but more commonly herpes simplex (cold sores). The exact cause of canker sores in the mouth are unknown, but medical science speculates that they may be as a result of an overreaction to streptococcus bacteria, since canker sores will often contain large amounts of this bacteria if they are tested. It is possible that canker sores are hereditary, and are also seen more often in those who have severe allergies or who have small dental injuries from injections, surgeries or cuts. There are also possible environmental causes for canker sores, as they will often appear when you are under a great deal of stress, and may occur as a result of low vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), folic acid, or iron. In addition, it is possible for certain foods that you eat to trigger the appearance of canker sores in the mouth, and some may accelerate the growth of streptococcus bacteria. At any given time, approximately 20% of the population will be affected by canker sores, so if you do find yourself dealing with these small, painful sores, you’re not alone.
The typical life cycle of a canker sore is approximately 14 days, and you may experience a tingling or burning sensation in your mouth before one appears. Initially, a red bump will rise inside your mouth, one that you will be able to feel and see. A canker sore in your mouth will have a white or yellowish center, and after a few days will burst, leaving a wound with a red border. These wounds are often quite small, but can be up to an inch in diameter in some cases. Once a sore has burst, it will be painful to the touch, and will also respond to hot, cold and any strong beverages that you drink, and can making both eating and drinking very uncomfortable. Commonly, canker sores in the mouth appear one at a time, but they can also appear in small clusters. If you have a sore once, you are more likely to get one again in the same place, and you will see them appear approximately once a year. The first time you see a canker sore in your mouth will typically be between 10 and 20 years of age, though that is not a hard and fast rule.
Canker sores in mouth areas are not contagious, meaning that they cannot be spread to any other person by any means. Eating the same food, drinking from the same glass or kissing someone with a canker sore will not cause it to be passed on to you, and there is nothing in a canker sore that is dangerous. Once it has burst, a sore is actually well on the way to being healed, but you must be careful not to agitate the sore too much and prevent it from disappearing. Spicy foods, sharp foods, or vigorously brushing the sore with a tooth brush or poking it with your tongue will prolong the time that it spends in your mouth.
There are several ways that you can treat your canker sores and relieve pain once a sore has burst. Pain relievers for canker sores include viscous lidocane, an anesthetic which can be applied to the sore directly to numb pain, but it may cause your sense of taste to be dulled as well. Carboxymethylcellulose is a coating you can apply to your sore to relieve pain, benzydamine mouthwashes can temporarily give you relief, and silver nitrate can be used to dull pain, but none of these options will speed the healing of your sores, and in some cases may cause your sores to persist. Home remedies to help out with the healing of your canker sores include using water mixed with one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of baking soda that is swished in the mouth and then spit out, as well as placing black teabags directly on your sore, as tea naturally contains tannin, a compound that can lessen pain. A small amount of hydrogen peroxide and water, in addition to milk of magnesia, can help to lessen your discomfort and speed the healing process.
Within a few days or by the end of a two week period, you should see your canker sores disappear. If they do not, or if you have sores recur in the same part of your mouth in a short period of time, you should contact your doctor or dentist. Medical professionals can prescribe a mouthwash that contains tetracycline, which you can use as soon as you feel a new sore developing, or you may be given a corticosteroid ointment to rub directly on the sores. Your doctor or dentist may also prescribe a dexamethasone mouth rinse or prednisone tablets that can limit the amount of time that your canker sores are active.
Canker sores are small red bumps which appear in the mouth and then burst, leaving behind red-edged wounds with yellow or white centers. These wound are painful but not contagious, and while they may re-occur in the same spot in your mouth over time, they will typically disappear in 14 days or less with no treatment. Pain-relieving options are making these sores irritating and unpleasant but not dangerous.