What Causes Canker Sores?

by Anthony Carter on June 24, 2011


Canker sores can be painful and the fact that they appear in the mouth means that they are hard to ignore. Just drinking or eating can lead to an increase in the pain and this takes a lot of enjoyment out of meal times. It is believed that 20% of people will have to deal with these sores at least a few times during their lifetime. These sores are also referred to as aphthous ulcers. They can appear on the tongue, the lips, or the inside of the cheek. Most people will only have or two of these sores at any one time, but they can appear in clusters.

What Causes Canker Sores?

The exact cause of aphthous ulcers is not fully understood. They are believed to occur as a result of a number of different factors including:

  • Certain toothpastes
  • Allergic response to certain oral bacteria
  • Allergies to food
  • Injuries to the inside of the mouth
  • Nutritional deficiencies ( in particular Iron, B12, and Zinc)
  • Weak immune system
  • Infections
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Certain diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, Celiac disease, HIV, or Behcet’s disease

Those individuals who have a family history of canker sores are more at risk. It is also more likely for these sores to occur in females than males.

How to Treat Canker Sores

When it comes to treating these ulcers there are a number of options available. In most cases they will disappear within a week or so without any intervention, but if they persist then some type of treatment will be required. Mouthwashes that contain steroid dexamethasone can help deal with any inflammation. This type of mouthwash is only available on prescription so a visit to the doctor will be required. It is also possible to take oral medications that will increase the rate of healing and remove some of the more unpleasant symptoms. The doctor may also prescribe nutritional supplements that will remedy any possible deficiencies.

How to Prevent Canker Sores

Aphthous ulcers are a real nuisance so the best way to deal with them is to prevent them arising in the first place. There are a number of things that people can do to stop these sores occurring including:

  • Eating a balanced diet to ensure that there are no nutritional deficiencies
  • Good dental hygiene is important for keeping the mouth clean and this should make the development of these ulcers less likely
  • Take care when brushing your teeth to not cause any trauma to the inside of the mouth
  • Try not to use any toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate. This ingredient has been associated with the development of this type of ulcer
  • Try to find effective ways for dealing with stress. Techniques such as meditation and yoga are perfect for this. Regular exercise can also be useful for keeping stress levels low
  • If you have any irregular dental surfaces you will want to have these repaired
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