What is a canker sore? What are the causes of canker sores?

A canker sore, or aphthous ulcer, refers to painful sores that occur inside the mouth, appearing as white spots surrounded by red borders, resembling a punched button. It typically occurs in sensitive areas of the mouth such as the tongue, gums, cheeks, and palate, making it difficult for the individual to eat or drink. It is one of the most common oral conditions, with an estimated prevalence of approximately 20% in the population.

What is a canker sore?

Weak immune system, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormonal factors during adolescence, and celiac disease can lead to canker sores. It is not a contagious disease and is more commonly seen in women. Canker sores, surrounded by inflamed tissue, typically heal on their own within a short period of time. However, severe canker sores may take up to 1.5 months to heal.

They are categorized into two categories based on their size: minor canker sores, which are smaller than half a centimeter, and major canker sores, which are larger than half a centimeter. Minor canker sores can typically heal on their own within 10 days. Major canker sores can significantly decrease individuals’ quality of life. They can occur with or without apparent reasons in the mouth. If you experience more than 3 attacks per year, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional to investigate the underlying cause.

Health Problems

What Are the Causes of Canker Sores?

Although the exact causes of oral ulcers are not fully understood, they can be listed as follows:

  • Weakened immune system and decreased body resistance
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Hormonal disorders and changes
  • Weakness against food allergies
  • Unhealthy habits such as alcohol and smoking
  • Behçet’s disease, Celiac disease
  • Damage resulting from unconscious tooth brushing
  • Psychological disorders such as stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Deficiency in vitamins C and D
  • Excessive consumption of acidic fruits and spices
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Habitual cheek and tongue biting
  • Deficiency in iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12

What Are the Symptoms of Canker Sores?

  • Severe pain and ulcers seen on the tongue, back of the mouth, and soft palate
  • Tingling and stinging sensation before the appearance of the sore
  • Round-shaped ulcers with red edges, and white, gray, or yellow coloration
  • Pain felt in the mouth during speaking, which increases over time
  • Ulcers that can spread to the outer part of the mouth
  • In advanced cases of canker sores: swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, and physical weakness may also be observed.

How Do You Get Rid of Canker Sores?

Canker sores generally heal on their own within 7 to 10 days even without any treatment. The main goals of the treatment plan devised with a physician are to control pain, accelerate healing, and prevent recurrences.

Depending on the severity of your canker sores, topical treatments such as anesthetics, antiseptics, and anti-inflammatory agents may be recommended by healthcare professionals. If desired results are not achieved with topical treatments or in persistent major ulcers, systemic treatments in tablet or injection form may be included in the treatment plan.

After starting canker sore treatment, a decrease in pain is typically observed within a few days, followed by noticeable reduction in the size of the ulcer.

If you prefer to alleviate the pain naturally, you can also resort to the methods listed below:

  • Avoiding hot, acidic, and irritating foods for a while
  • Applying a cream prepared from a mixture of water and baking soda on the ulcer
  • Gargling three times a day with a mixture of half a teaspoon of salt added to half a glass of water
  • Adding a spoonful of sumac to a glass of warm water and rinsing your mouth with this mixture. Sumac reduces infection in the ulcer while also cleaning viruses in the mouth.
  • Miswak is a natural method for cleaning teeth and gums. It is known to be beneficial for mouth ulcers as well.

What Helps with Canker Sores?

Gargling with salty or baking soda water may help alleviate your pain.

If you’re wondering how to prevent canker sores from occurring:

  • Avoid consuming acidic, spicy, or very hot foods.
  • Keep your immune system strong by consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet to minimize the risk of mouth sores.
  • If you are prone to canker sores, avoid hard-shelled and irritating foods.
  • Be diligent about brushing your teeth after each meal and using dental floss.
  • Address any prosthetic, orthodontic, or dental problems that may cause chronic trauma in the mouth.
  • Quit smoking.

Canker Sores in Children and Babies

In children and babies, illnesses such as colds and flu that occur in the winter months can develop due to a weak immune system. Since the immune system of babies and children is in the developmental stage compared to adults, diseases can trigger the formation of canker sores.

Another reason may be that inadequate nutrition can trigger the formation of canker sores. Signs of mouth ulcers in babies include difficulty sucking, resisting feeding, reluctance to eat, increased saliva, mild fever, and general restlessness.

Canker sores are rapidly developing, painful lesions that can last up to 3 weeks. If your baby or child has developed ulcers in any part of the oral mucosa that you cannot see, it may take some time for you to notice. If you suspect or observe the presence of canker sores, we recommend consulting a doctor.

Ointments and antibacterial gels recommended by your doctor can accelerate the healing process of canker sores. Additionally, if the condition is due to nutritional deficiencies, your doctor may request some tests to detect vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Based on the test results, vitamin supplements may be recommended.

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