Ask the DDS: Canker Sores

Managing Canker Sores

“My son pointed to his mouth today and told me, “It hurts!” I looked inside and saw a small sore on the inside of his lip! What is that?!?”

-Concerned Mom

There are a few things it could be with one of the more common being a Canker Sore. Here are all the details you need to decide if this is what’s hurting your little one!

1. What are Canker Sores?

A canker sore forms inside your mouth. While canker sores can be painful, they aren’t contagious and eventually will heal on their own.  There are a few recommended treatments that are pretty simple and effective.

Symptoms to Look for:

  • A tingling or burning sensation before a sore appears
  • A round-ish, white or gray sore with a red border
  • Normally found on tongue, soft tissue near back of the mouth, or inside cheeks.

2. Treating Canker Sores

Honestly, most canker sores will heal themselves within a week or two. In the meantime, avoid eating spicy foods, highly acidic foods, such as sour candies, or crunchy foods that can be tough on sensitive tissues.

We can also prescribe a topical steroid to place directly on the sore. There are two options: an oral rinse with a steroid component and a gel. It is best to place it early on and can decrease the intensity and duration of the ulcer.

Other treatments we’ve heard of and DO NOT recommend include lasers, cautery agents, and antibiotics (Remember! Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. A canker sore is not an infection. Antibiotics should only be used if a secondary infection sets in. Treat your canker sore early to avoid this.)

3. What Causes Canker Sores?

The truth is we don’t always know. There are many possible causes. A few include:

  • Oral trauma
  • Stress
  • Food allergies
  • Genetics
  • Toothpastes containing SLS and/or tarter control formulations

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a foaming agent that gives your mouth that foamy feeling when you brush. In some people, SLS compounds can irritate the soft tissues of the mouth causing canker sores. A few options for toothpastes that don’t contain SLS include Tom’s of Maine Peppermint Clean and Gentle, Sensodyne Original, Biotene toothpaste and gel. These toothpastes do use other foaming agents in place of SLS so check the label if you want to know the agent in use. Some toothpastes without tarter control or foaming agent include TheraBreath, Oxyfresh and CloSys.

No matter the cause of your canker sore, early treatment is the best medicine.

4. When Should We Call the Dentist?

If you are not sure if a sore area is a canker sore or something else do not hesitate to call our office for an evaluation appointment so we can determine the exact nature of the problem. We are in the business of growing healthy smiles, and anything that takes out patients’ smiles away is a concern for us!