Canker Sore Guide

A Comprehensive Guide to Canker Sore Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention.


The aim of this guide is to help the reader to gain a better understanding of the causes of canker sores, as well as how to prevent and treat them.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Canker Sore?
  2. Symptoms of Canker Sores
  3. Canker Sore Causes
  4. Canker Sores and SLS
  5. Canker Sore Treatment
  6. Canker Sore Remedies
  7. Canker Sore on Tongue
  8. Canker Sore Prevention
  9. TheraBreath Toothpaste
  10. When to Seek Medical Attention for canker sores
  11. Summary
canker sore in mouth

1. What is a Canker Sore?

A canker sore is a small, flat ulcer that occurs in the mouth. The sore is usually painful, particularly when one is moving the mouth in order to eat, drink or speak.

Canker sores are very common. In fact, they are experienced by most people at some point during their lives. They are usually nothing to worry about and will heal with little or no treatment being required. However, frequent canker sores could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

2. Symptoms of Canker Sores

Canker sores are usually small, measuring one centimeter or less in diameter. They appear white or yellow, but occasionally they may turn gray. The area around the sore may appear red or inflamed. These sores are usually located on the insides of the lips or cheeks but can also appear on the tongue or around the gums.

Canker sores are extremely sensitive to touch. They are most noticeable when one is eating, drinking or talking because the motion of the mouth irritates the sensitive affected area. This can cause considerable pain.

3. Canker Sore Causes

Most canker sores result from injuries caused by the teeth or by sharp pieces of food. It is easy to accidentally bite the sides of the mouth, lips or tongue while chewing food. This can result in a canker sore.

Canker sores have been linked to stress. This may be because many people have a nervous habit of chewing on or biting at the lips or the inside of the mouth when they are stressed. The stressed-out person may not realize that they are doing this.

People who wear dental braces often suffer from canker sores, particularly if the braces are ill-fitting. This is because pieces of metal or plastic that frequently come into contact with parts of the mouth cause damage to the delicate tissue.

Sores are occasionally caused by people brushing their teeth too vigorously. If the toothbrush slips and jabs into the gum, a painful ulcer can result.

Acidic foods such as citrus fruits, pineapple and tomatoes can irritate the skin inside the mouth, leading to the formation of canker sores. Spicy foods may also cause irritation. People who suffer from food allergies may notice that canker sores occur as part of the allergic reaction.

Some experts suspect that chemicals in toothpaste increase the likelihood of developing canker sores. The main offender is thought to be sodium lauryl sulphate, also known as SLS. This chemical damages mouth tissue on a microscopic level.

Canker sores are sometimes a symptom of an underlying condition, such as an immune disorder or a nutritional deficiency. Anyone who experiences canker sores very frequently should consult a physician in order to rule out this possibility.

4. Canker Sores and SLS

Sodium lauryl sulphate, or SLS, is a common ingredient in toothpaste. However, there is increasing concern among dental experts that it could be at least partly responsible for the prevalence of canker sores.

SLS is not just found in toothpaste. It is also commonly added to soap and shampoo because it is a type of chemical that is known as a detergent. Detergents act by binding to molecules of fat and pulling them away from the surface to which they are attached. This is exactly what is needed in a product whose aim is to remove grease from hair or skin, but inside the mouth it can cause problems.

The membranes of cells in the mouth are made up of lipids, otherwise known as fats. When sodium lauryl sulphate latches onto these molecules and tears them away from the rest of the cell, the lining of the mouth is damaged. The scale of the damage is too small to see, but it can manifest in the form of painful canker sores.

So why is SLS added to toothpaste? The action of SLS in toothpaste is to cause foaming when the customers brush their teeth. Many users find that this gives them a feeling of confidence in the cleaning power of the toothpaste. However, foaming is not actually necessary for effective cleaning. Some toothpaste manufacturers, such as TheraBreath, are choosing to leave SLS out of their products due to the damage it can cause.

canker sore toothpaste from therabreath

5. Canker Sore Treatment

The highest priority of canker sore treatment is to avoid causing any further irritation to the sore area. The patient should avoid eating spicy or acidic foods as these will cause pain and irritation if they come into contact with the sore.

Having a dry mouth can increase the likelihood of further irritation to the sore. It is important to drink plenty of fluid, even if it is painful to do so. Liquids such as water or milk are less likely to cause irritation than acidic juices. Strongly alcoholic drinks should be avoided as it is likely to be very painful when the alcohol comes into contact with the ulcer.

If moving the mouth is painful, try to avoid speaking as much as possible. It might be worth taking a day or two off work if it means reducing the duration of your ulcer.

If the pain is so bad that you cannot eat normal food, try taking in food that is pureed or in liquid form as this does not require much chewing. Drinking through a straw can reduce the amount of contact that the ulcer has with the liquid.

Some nutritious foods that are easy to eat when you have a canker sore are yogurt, vegetable soup and smoothies. You should use bananas as the main ingredient in the smoothie because they are less acidic than other fruits. Ice cream is also very soothing to the mouth.

6. Canker Sore Remedies

Most canker sores will heal up on their own, without any medical treatment being required. However, doctors do sometimes prescribe treatments for canker sores. These are particularly appropriate for people who frequently suffer from canker sores, or those who have reduced functionality of the immune system.

Prescription medicines for the treatment of canker sores usually include an antimicrobial agent. This is to reduce the possibility of infection. A common treatment is an antimicrobial mouthwash that is used to wash out the mouth several times a day.

Many canker sore remedies include corticosteroids. These are a type of steroid that acts to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Corticosteroids are usually applied directly to the ulcer in the form of an ointment or gel.

Many canker sore remedies are available without a prescription. It is possible to buy gels that form a protective covering over the sore, which protects the area and helps it to heal as quickly as possible. Remedies may also contain ingredients that numb the area, giving relief from the pain of the sore.

7. Canker Sore on Tongue

Canker sores on the tongue are particularly irritating. The tongue plays a vital role in speech, making it difficult to communicate without painfully touching the sore against other parts of the mouth. It is recommended that anyone who has a sore on the tongue regularly applies a gel or ointment to the affected area so that it is protected from further irritation. You should also try to avoid touching the tongue against the teeth as much as possible.

Due to the fact that it is almost impossible to keep food away from the tongue, it is vital that you avoid food that is spicy or acidic until the sore has healed. Also, be careful when eating hot food, as burning an area that is already sore will be extremely painful.

8. Canker Sore Prevention

Frequent sufferers will be glad to know that by making a few simple changes to diet and lifestyle, it is possible to reduce the incidence of these painful ulcers.

First, pay attention to the foods that trigger the development of sores in your mouth. Common culprits are fruits such as lemons, limes and pineapples, although many people also experience sores when they eat tomatoes, strawberries or onions. Try cutting these acidic foods out of your diet if you frequently suffer from irritation in the mouth.

Oral hygiene is vital when it comes to canker sore prevention. Choose an antibacterial, sugar-free toothpaste that is free from harsh chemicals. TheraBreath toothpaste is an ideal choice for protecting against canker sores, because it does not contain SLS. You should also consider using an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day to keep your mouth clean and healthy. TheraBreath mouthwash inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, which leads to better oral health and fresher breath.

Finally, if your canker sores are the result of injury, you need to take extra care when eating and brushing your teeth. Consider trading in your toothbrush for one that has softer bristles and a smaller head if the one you currently use is causing problems.

9. TheraBreath Toothpaste

TheraBreath toothpaste is one of the few toothpastes on the market not to contain SLS, which is thought to be a common cause of canker sores due to the damage it causes to mouth tissue. It is suitable for both children and adults, including vegans and diabetics, so that everyone in a family can enjoy protection against canker sores.

TheraBreath toothpaste has been specially formulated to prevent bad breath, as well as promoting all-around good oral hygiene. By brushing with TheraBreath toothpaste every day, you will not only reduce your chance of developing canker sores, but also enjoy long-lasting breath freshness and strong, healthy teeth.

10. When to Seek Medical Attention for Canker Sores

If canker sores are causing you significant distress, you should seek medical advice. There are several treatment options that a doctor will be able to discuss with you.

Canker sores can be a symptom of a nutritional deficiency. Deficiencies of vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid and iron have all been shown to increase susceptibility to canker sores. All of these deficiencies can result from a restricted diet.

It may be that your diet needs to be modified in order to provide sufficient nutrition. A nutritionist can give you advice about how to do this. However, it is also possible that the nutritional deficiency is due to a digestive disorder, such as Crohn's disease. You should discuss this possibility with your doctor if you are concerned.

Finally, canker sores that are accompanied by fever or swollen lymph nodes deserve medical attention. This is because there may be an infection present, which needs to be treated with antibiotics.

11. Summary

Having a canker sore is very unpleasant. It makes eating, drinking and speaking very difficult or even impossible. Because the different parts of the mouth are constantly in contact with each other, canker sores can cause constant pain that is almost unbearable.

Even though canker sores are a very common complaint, you do not have to suffer in silence. There are several changes that you can make to reduce the incidence and duration of sores. These include making dietary changes, taking care when chewing or brushing the teeth, frequently rinsing with mouthwash and switching to a brand of toothpaste that does not contain SLS, such as TheraBreath toothpaste.

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