Canker Sores

Overview

Canker sores (apthous ulcers) are painful sores found inside the mouth. Some patients get canker sores all the time, while others only rarely or not at all.

What to look for

Canker sores appear as white or gray ulcerations with bright red borders and are always found inside the mouth, never on the outside lip area. Although the exact cause is still unknown, both viruses and bacteria have been suggested as a cause.

They can appear following trauma, anxiety, excitement, stress, bacterial plaque on a tooth that rubs against the soft tissue of the inner lip or cheek, or acidic foods. Allergies may even play a role in the outbreak of this painful condition.

Canker sores make any movement of the mouth painful. Eating, playing a musical instrument, even talking can be affected by these ulcers. They tend to be more painful early in the morning and late into the evening. Canker sores are not contagious or precancerous and usually heal spontaneously in 7-10 days; recurrent outbreaks are common.

There are medications that can be placed by your dentist that will typically stop the ongoing pain. The treatment is uncomfortable, but will stop the day to day pain immediately.

Dental lasers are a much more comfortable treatment; lasers are highly effective in eliminating pain and shortening the healing process.

There are over-the-counter medications that contain topical anesthetic that will temporarily lessen the pain.