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Have you ever suffered from a canker sore? If you’ve had even one in your life, you know that they come from the devil himself, sent only for the obvious purpose of making you miserable. How can something so small cause such a huge amount of pain, and more importantly, how do you get rid of them? To answer that, let’s put on our nerd glasses and study the little demons that take up residency in our mouths.

Canker Sores: An Education

It’s important to understand what a canker sore is: They are aphthous ulcers, which are small, shallow lesions that develop on the tongue, inside the cheeks, at the base of your gums, or on your soft palate. Most canker sores are round or oval with a white or yellow center and a red border. You might notice a tingling or burning sensation a day or two before the sores actually appear. They are very common and usually are no cause for concern.
They usually go away on their own in a week or two. Don’t plan on eating or talking too much during that time because, when severe, the little buggers will take away any desire to use your mouth at all. Again, most canker sores go away by themselves within a week or two, but if they don’t, or if they are unusually large and exceedingly painful, check with your doctor or dentist.

It’s also important to understand what they aren’t.

Canker sores are not fever blisters or cold sores. They are not contagious. And, they are not part of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). That’s good news, seeing as how you can’t share this wealth with others.

Types of canker sores

Minor canker sores
– Are usually small
– Are oval shaped with a red edge
– Heal without scarring in one to two weeks

Major canker sores
– Are larger and deeper than minor canker sores
– Are usually round with defined borders, but may have irregular edges when very large
– Can be extremely painful
– May take up to six weeks to heal and can leave extensive scarring

Herpetiform canker sores
– Herpetiform canker sores are uncommon and usually develop later in life, and:
Are pinpoint size
– Often occur in clusters of 10 to 100 sores, but may merge into one large ulcer
– Have irregular edges
– Heal without scarring in one to two weeks


The cause of these little devils is still unclear, but there are several possible triggers for canker sores which include:
– A minor injury to your mouth from dental work, overzealous brushing, sports mishaps or an accidental cheek bite
– Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing sodium lauryl sulfate
– Food sensitivities, particularly to chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, and spicy or acidic foods
– A diet lacking in vitamin B-12, zinc, folate (folic acid) or iron
– An allergic response to certain bacteria in your mouth
– Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori), the same bacteria that cause peptic ulcers
– Hormonal shifts during menstruation
– Emotional stress

Canker sores may also occur because of certain conditions and diseases, such as:
Celiac disease, an intestinal disorder caused by a sensitivity to gluten.
– Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
Behcet’s disease, a rare disorder that causes inflammation throughout the body, including the mouth
– A faulty immune system that attacks healthy cells in your mouth instead of pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria
– HIV/AIDS, which suppresses the immune system


Canker sores can be recurring, but there are a few things you can do to help prevent them, such as:
Watch what you eat: Try to avoid foods that seem to irritate your mouth. These may include nuts, chips, pretzels, certain spices, salty foods and acidic fruits. Avoid any foods you’re sensitive or allergic to.
Choose healthy foods: To help prevent nutritional deficiencies, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Follow good oral hygiene habits: Regular brushing (use soft bristles) after meals and flossing once a day can keep your mouth clean and free of foods that might trigger a sore. Make sure to use toothpaste and mouthwash that does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate.

Holistic Remedies

The real question that everyone wants answered is “How the heck do I get rid of them?” Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic solution to this age old question. But, we can give you a few tips to help alleviate the pain and shorten their duration.

It goes without saying that aloe vera is the go-to plant for soothing just about anything. And, when you couple it with the alkalizing and neutralizing force of baking soda, you’ve got yourself some immediate relief. Here’s what you use:

1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons aloe vera juice
1/2 cup warm water

Combine all ingredients in a small glass or mug and stir well to blend ingredients.
Take a small sip and swish mixture around in your mouth for at least 10 seconds.
Repeat until no rinse is left. Do not swallow. Repeat once daily until canker sore is completely gone.

Milk of magnesia and Benadryl: Mix equal parts together as a mouth rinse. You can also dab milk of magnesia directly onto the canker sore with a cotton swab.

Salt water or baking soda rinse: Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda per ½ cup water, and rinse.

Sage and chamomile herbs: Infuse in water and use as a mouthwash four to six times daily.

Other Helpful Remedies

Zinc lozenges may help provide relief and speed healing time.
Vitamin C, vitamin B complex, and lysine can be taken orally when lesions first appear and may help speed healing.
Echinacea may help speed healing.
Carrot, celery, and cantaloupe juices may also be helpful.
Supplementation. If there is any vitamin deficiency, take supplementation as prescribed.

There’s no sure fire way to rid yourself of these tiny blisters set aflame by hell itself, but hopefully, being equipped with this knowledge and these tools, you’ll be able to shorten their unwanted stay or prevent them altogether. Here’s hoping you’ll never have to deal with them again!


Behcet’s Disease