A canker sore, also known as an aphthous ulcer is a lesion or an open sore inside the mouth and upper throat that appears due to a break in the mucus membrane. Prior to initiating canker sore treatment, it is important to correctly identify that the problem is indeed a canker sore, a condition that is not infectious – unlike other conditions such as cold sores (fever blisters).
It is important to make the distinction between these two conditions, since canker sores are not contagious and have no clearly understood cause, whereas cold sores are infectious and caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Canker sores are a very common condition, and an estimated 20 to 40% of Americans may have them at some or other point in their lives. Often no canker sore treatment may be required if the condition is mild and is not a recurrent problem.
Various causes such as oral trauma, hormonal changes, stress, environmental factors, genetic predisposition, drugs, and stoppage of smoking have been suggested as probable causes, but the causes of canker sores are not yet understood.
There is as such no cure for canker sores however the following canker sore treatment can help to ease the painful symptoms and speed up the healing process –
- To decrease oral bacteria and increase the alkalinity in the mouth, make a solution by adding 1 teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in a cup of warm water and swish it around the mouth for about half a minute before spitting it out and then repeating the process. A paste made from baking soda and a few drops of water, applied directly to the problem areas is also an effective canker sore treatment.
- Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a home treatment – dilute hydrogen peroxide with equal parts water and dab the solution on to the canker sore since this actually acts as an antiseptic.
- Similarly, milk of magnesia is also an effective canker sore treatment – it can be applied directly to the sore several times a day using a cotton swab. Using a liquid suspension of magnesium hydroxide (also used to relieve constipation) can be a useful way of speeding up the healing process and also reducing pain.
- A mouth rinse or oral care products that are used for resolving dental problems may also help as a canker sore treatment, since they reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth and help to numb the pain caused by the sores. These can be available over the counter and should be used according to package instructions.
- Sometimes canker sores can become a recurrent problem, or may cause very severe or painful sores; also in some cases they may develop into secondary infections, in which case medical attention may be required. For this prescription medications such as Tetracycline suspension may be indicated – to be kept in the mouth for several minutes before swallowing. Certain antiviral drugs are also prescribed as canker sore treatment at times.
- Very rarely, steroidal canker sore treatment may also be prescribed in severe cases.