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Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small sores formed inside the mouth that appear to be white or grey, with red edges. You can get one or even several at a time. Unlike cold sores, these small, shallow lesions are not contagious and don’t occur on the surface of the lips. Instead, they form on the soft tissues of your mouth, such as the inside of your cheeks or lips, under the tongue, or at the base of your gums. They can be painful and make it difficult to eat or talk.
The cause of canker sores remains undetermined. They are believed to be due to either problems in the immune system or some type of virus or bacteria. Certain toothpastes and mouthwashes are blamed as well. Even sensitivity to certain foods and beverages, such as coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, chocolate or acidic foods, is believed to cause them. Physical conditions and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, celiac disease and inflammatory bowel diseases are also thought to be behind them.
You will start feeling a tingling or burning sensation a day or two prior to their appearance. Most canker sores appear to be round or oval, with a white or yellowish centre and red edges. Symptoms may vary depending on the type.
· They are very large and have irregular edges.
· Compared to minor canker sores, they are larger and deeper.
· They take about six weeks to heal and leave extensive scarring.
Most canker sores heal by themselves, but there are ways to reduce and relieve the pain, as well as speed up the healing process.
You can directly apply over-the-counter pain relief gels or pastes to the sore if you want to relieve irritation while eating spicy food. There are also special patches and bandages to place over the sore which stick to the inside of the mouth to protect it from irritation.
Using mouthwash regularly can keep the infected area clean and provide some relief from pain. If you are looking for faster relief, choose a mouthwash with antiseptic properties.
If you prefer natural alternatives, a simple salt solution can enhance the healing process. However, this is not a substitute for medicated mouthwash.
Vitamin B12 helps the brain and nervous system function normally. A deficiency of this vitamin can cause immature red blood cells. According to a study by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JABFM), B12 reduces pain due to canker sores and controls the number of outbreaks in a mouth.
Practicing proper dental hygiene is the best precaution for preventing or curing canker sores. Use a soft brush to keep the inside of your mouth clean at all times but don’t damage the sores in any way.
Remember that proper oral hygiene and clean gums go a long way towards preventing canker sores from spreading, or happening in the first place. Visit your dentist at regular intervals for complete oral care to avoid such circumstances.