Canker sores are small shallow ulcers that form inside of the mouth. These pesky sores can be a source of pain and irritation, making it difficult to eat, drink and brush your teeth.
Children, as well as adults, are susceptible to having canker sores. They are common and fairly short-lived, making them easy to deal with and treat. In fact, canker sores affect around 20% of the world’s population.
What are Canker Sores?
Medically known as apthous ulcers or apthous stomatitis, canker sores are small ulcers characterized by a red border with a white or yellow center. They can form anywhere in the mouth, including the tongue, inner cheeks and gums.
Canker sores are not to be confused with cold sores, which are blisters that form around the outside of the mouth. Whereas cold sores are highly contagious, canker sores are not.
Canker sores tend to hurt for 7-10 days and usually take 1-3 weeks to completely clear from the mouth.
What Causes Canker Sores?
There is no one definitive cause of canker sores. They can be caused by stress, tissue damage, dental apparatuses, acidic foods (such as citrus, tomatoes or strawberries) or a lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acids.
Overall, apart from injury to the mouth or foods, it seems that canker sores are caused mostly from issues with the immune system. Stress and nutritional deficiencies can have a negative effect on the immune system and lead to canker sores.
It’s possible to avoid canker sores by ensuring teeth are properly brushed, certain foods are avoided and proper nutritional needs are met.
Around 40% of people who experience canker sores have a family history of these ulcers, suggesting that there is a genetic predisposition to having them. So if you are prone to developing canker sores, it’s likely your children will be as well
How to Treat Canker Sores
Canker sores can be treated with both over the counter medications and at home remedies.
Over the counter medications are useful in treating the symptoms of a canker sore. A numbing agent, such as Orajel, applied 3-4 times a day will help numb the stinging sensation caused by the canker sore. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen are useful in reducing any pain.
If you have a little one under the age of 2 with a canker sore, please consult a medical practitioner or pharmacist before administering any over the counter medications.
At home, you can try clearing out the canker sores with a warm salt rinse. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of warm water, swish around the mouth and spit out.
You can also use cold fluids or ice directly on the canker sore to reduce the pain and stinging. Teeth should be brushed carefully to avoid irritating the canker sore with the bristles.
When Should I See a Doctor?
Canker sores are a highly common and non-serious occurrence. However, if you notice any of the following, you should see your doctor to rule out a more serious condition:
- Larger sores than usual.
- Lasting more than 3 weeks.
- Severe pain.
- Difficulty drinking fluids leading to dehydration.
Conclusion: Canker Sores Suck
Canker sores suck and they can cause a difficult time for you or your child. Luckily, canker sores are benign and will cause no serious health issues if tended to properly.
They are still painful and annoying, so the best course of action is to lay on the remedies as soon as a canker sore begins to form.