Have you ever experienced an annoyingly painful round/oval lesion on the inside of your mouth with a red border and white, sometimes yellow center once or several times? If so, you’re not alone. Known as aphthous ulcers, aphthous stomatitis, or canker sores, these small and painful ulcers are the most common type of oral lesion. They affect about 20% of people with women getting canker sores more often than men and individuals with a family history of aphthous stomatitis running a higher risk of getting the ulcers.
Canker sores usually appear at the roof of the mouth or on the inner linings of the cheeks or lips. They may also occur on or under the tongue, or at the base of the gum. Regardless of their location, canker sores are categorized into 3 types:
- Minor Canker Sores
These are the most common type of canker sores. They’re usually small in size and heal in 1 to 2 weeks without leaving any scars behind.
- Major Canker Sores
This canker sore category features lesions that are larger and deeper than the minor canker sores. The lesions also take longer to heal (2 to 6 weeks) and leave behind extensive scarring.
- Herpertiform Canker Sores
This form of canker sores is the most uncommon and uncomfortable of the 3 conditions. It’s characterized by clusters of very small lesions numbering from as little as 10 to as many as 100, which occur at the same time. In some cases, the lesions merge together to form larger ulcers. The good news about herpertiform sores is that they heal in just over a week without scarring.
What Causes Canker Sores?
The exact cause of canker sores remains unknown. However, there are certain factors that trigger the condition. These include:
- Genetic Factors
Since aphthous stomatitis is a hereditary condition that can be passed down from parent to offspring, a person’s genes are by far the most common trigger for these mouth ulcers. Therefore, you’re at a higher risk of developing canker sores repeatedly throughout your lifetime if you hail from a family with a history of the condition.
- Injury to the Mouth
Another common trigger of canker sores is injury or stress to the tissues of the mouth. This can be any form of injury or stress brought on by dental appliances (e.g. braces or dentures), sharp tooth surfaces, overzealous brushing, harsh toothpastes/mouthwashes, or accidental cheek bite. For sores to develop, the injury must be significant enough to cause bruises or tissue inflammation in the mouth.
- Certain Foods and Fruits
It’s often noted that eating plenty of fruits is one of the best ways of protecting yourself from a variety of diseases and health conditions. However, that’s not the case when it comes to canker sores. Citrus fruits such as oranges, pineapples, and lemons tend to provoke canker sores or worsen already existing ulcers.
It’s believed that the acidic nature of these fruits is what activates the sores. In the same way, spicy foods can trigger or aggravate canker sores. Other foods that have been linked to triggering or worsening canker sores include strawberries, figs, eggs, tomatoes, apples, and nuts.
- A weak or Faulty Immune System
Although scientists have been unable to find the specific correlation between canker sores and the immune system, it has been noted that individuals with a poor immune system are more prone to the condition. The risks are especially high in the case of a faulty immune system, which mistakes healthy mouth cells for pathogens and as such attacks the cells.
- Lack of Certain Vitamins and Nutrients
In some cases, canker sores can be brought on by a poor diet that’s lacking in vitamins and nutrients. The specific vitamins and nutrients whose absence has been linked to canker sores include vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, and calcium.
Aside from the mentioned triggers, canker sores may also occur because of:
- Emotional stress
- Allergic reactions to bacteria in the mouth
- Hormonal changes
- Viral infections
- Certain medical conditions
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Canker Sores Fast
Although canker sores are not fatal and usually disappear naturally without treatment, the lesions are painful and make it difficult to talk and eat. So, letting the condition die out naturally often means living in discomfort throughout the entire duration the ulcers take to heal. This could be anything from 1 week to 1 month or even more. Therefore, the best thing to do when canker sores attack is to get rid of the sores fast. Luckily, there are plenty of home remedies to get rid of canker sores fast. Here are some options you may want to try:
- Baking Soda
Baking soda is an effective ingredient that speeds up the healing process of canker sores as well as eases the pain and inflammation that comes with the condition. The alkaline nature of this ingredient neutralizes acids that irritate a canker sore, thus making it less painful. Additionally, baking soda kills bacteria in the mouth so that the sore can heal quickly.
To make use of this ingredient:
- Prepare a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 cup warm water.
- Take a sip of the water-baking soda solution, swish around the mouth, and spit it out.
- Repeat this 4 to 5 times a day.
Alternatively, you can make a paste of equal parts water and baking powder and apply over lesions. Let the paste sit until it dries before rinsing your mouth with warm water.
- Aloe Rinse
A great alternative to the baking soda solution is an aloe rinse. Just like baking soda, aloe vera features both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that simultaneously reduce pain and inflammation. This herb also has some potent curative powers that further speed up the healing of process for mouth sores.
To use aloe Vera, you can rinse your mouth with fresh aloe juice or apply freshly squeezed aloe gel directly on to the canker sore 3 to 4 times a day.
- Salty Water
Another effective way of getting rid of canker sores is by rinsing the mouth with a solution of 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup warm water for at least 4 to 5 times a day. Make sure to swish the solution around the mouth for at least 30 seconds before spitting it out.
The salt in the water activates the process of osmosis and draws out the fluid inside the canker sore. This dries up the sore helping it to heal faster. Salt also acts as a disinfectant, so it will get rid of bacteria and other substances that irritate or worsen mouth sores.
For better results, simply apply a pinch of salt directly onto the lesion. It will hurt a lot for a few minutes but the canker sore will heal a whole lot faster.
- Honey Rub
Cancer sores can get worse or take longer to heal when infected by bacteria. Applying some honey on them will fast track the recovery process. Much of this has to do with the fact that honey contains antiseptic and antibacterial properties. As an added bonus, honey will bring down the swelling on the mouth sore because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Below are simple steps on how to use it as a treatment for mouth ulcers:
- Using a teaspoon, apply just enough honey to cover the mouth sore. Some pain is expected, but it will be worth it since honey will numb the surrounding nerves afterward and it will also reduce inflammation.
- Another method would involve mixing honey with turmeric powder. Turmeric will act as a natural antiseptic and cooling agent. Simply mix equal parts of both ingredients with a teaspoon to make a paste, and then apply it on the canker sore.
- Leave the paste in place for a few minutes before rinsing your mouth with warm water. Repeat this process twice every day until you see positive results.
Sage contains compounds that reduce inflammation. It also kills bacteria and viruses that make canker sores worse. You can apply it as a daily remedy using the following procedure to get instant relief for a painful and swollen mouth sore.
- Stir in 2 teaspoons of dried sage to one or two cups of boiling water. Let the mixture settle for about 5 minutes so that it can cool.
- Swish the mixture in your mouth as you would with mouthwash and repeat this three to four times a day.
A much quicker method would be to apply dried sage powder on the canker sore. When using this method, allow sage powder to stay on the sore for several minutes then rinse your mouth. Repeat this process with the same frequency as the previous remedy.
- Milk of Magnesia
The ingredients in milk of magnesia contain antacid properties. This compound creates an alkaline environment by changing the pH inside your mouth, making it harder for bacteria to thrive.
You can apply milk of magnesia on the canker sore using a cotton swab. Let it stay in for a few minutes then remove the cotton ball and rinse your mouth thoroughly.
A simpler option would involve sipping milk of magnesia and using it as a mouth rinse. Make sure to swirl the milk mostly on the canker sore.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide keeps canker sore bacteria at bay by disinfecting your mouth. It also promotes faster healing besides protecting your mouth sore from infection. The best way to use hydrogen peroxide on canker sores is mixing it with other disinfecting ingredients to make a mouthwash.
Here are some simple steps on how to achieve this:
- Mix 1/4 cup each of hydrogen peroxide and water. Stir in 1 teaspoon each of baking soda and salt.
- Swirl this mixture in your mouth the same way you would use a mouthwash
Some people prefer to use hydrogen peroxide without diluting as it’s more potent that way. For safety purposes, only use undiluted hydrogen peroxide that is 3% concentrated.
- Homemade Antihistamine Antacid Mix
For individuals who have faulty immune systems that attack mouth cells to form canker sores, a homemade antihistamine/antacid remedy can provide some relief.
- Mix 1 part of Benadryl allergy liquid with an equal portion of an antacid compound such as Kaopectate or Maalox
- Swirl the mixture in your mouth and spit it out when done.
- Repeat this 2 to 3 times a day until the canker sore heals
- Cayenne Pepper or Cream
Cayenne pepper is widely used in the culinary industry. However, it has therapeutic benefits as well that make it ideal for treating oral lesions. This ground spice contains capsaicin, a natural numbing agent that will temporally desensitize the nerves that detect pain on canker sores.
- To apply this remedy, take half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and mix it with a few drops of water. Apply the paste directly on the mouth ulcer.
- At first, the pepper will make your mouth sore sting. Within a few minutes, the pain and swelling will subside for hours.
- Continue to apply this remedy two times every day until the canker sore heals completely.
Coriander is yet another natural remedy that will neutralize the pain and discomfort that is associated with canker sores. The ingredients in this plant give it anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties that make an effective treatment for mouth ulcers.
To soothe painful and swollen mouth sores with coriander:
- Boil some fresh leaves or seeds from the plant with about 1 glass of water. This will extract the essential ingredients contained in coriander.
- Sieve the solution to collect the liquid only then let it cool down to room temperature.
- Swirl this solution in your mouth at least three times every day until your condition improves.
Sulphur is the active ingredient in onions that makes it a good remedy for canker sores. This compound is known to reduce pain and inflammation, hence providing some relief when suffering from a mouth sore.
To harness the healing power of onions:
- Take one bulb and cut it into small pieces. Place one piece on the canker sore and press it gently for 2 to 3 minutes so affected cells can absorb juice from the onion.
- Alternatively, squeeze the juice out of onions with pestle and motor then collect it and apply directly on the mouth ulcer.
- Repeat either one of these treatments several times every day.