At some point in our lives, most of us will have experienced an ulcer in our mouths. These ulcers, sometimes known as canker sores, can be annoying, unsightly and worst of all, painful. They can appear almost anywhere on the soft tissue in your mouth including on your gums, on the inside of your cheeks, on the roof of your mouth, and even on your tongue or your lips. Although canker sores are harmless, they can nevertheless be extremely bothersome and worrisome. In fact, our Calgary dentist frequently is asked to give assurance that they are not serious and will go away on their own. In this blog post, our Calgary dentist reviews some of the causes of mouth ulcers and provides some tips for avoiding and minimizing the discomfort caused by these sores.
What Do Mouth Ulcers Look Like?
Mouth ulcers or canker sores are usually oval or round sores with a white, gray or yellow centre. Most are small and appear inside the mouth with a red and flat border (called minor aphthous ulcers). You can have one or more ulcers at a time and they usually recur at varying intervals. Sometimes, mouth ulcers can become quite large and have a raised border (called major aphthous ulcers).
Mouth ulcers or canker sores can be very uncomfortable and even painful. Patients have reported to our Calgary dentist that they can make activities such as eating, drinking and even talking to be quite uncomfortable.
Are Canker Sores Contagious?
Unlike cold sores which are caused by a virus, canker sores are not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person by kissing or sharing glassware or cutlery.
Interestingly, adolescents, women and people who have a family history of mouth ulcers have a higher risk of developing these types of mouth sores.
How Long Do Canker Sores Last?
Most canker sores last anywhere from a few days to more than a week or two. According to our Calgary dentist, it is very important that if you notice any mouth ulcer or any other type of sore or spot in your mouth that does not go away within two weeks that you make an appointment with your dentist to ensure that the sore or spot is not anything serious or does not require any further treatment or analysis.
What Causes Canker Sores?
Although there are no definitive causes for canker sores, it is thought that genetics may play a certain role in an individual’s susceptibility to them (from the American Dental Association). Our Calgary dentist also advises to try to avoid certain other triggers which may help to mitigate the frequency of canker sores. These triggers include the following:
- Accidentally biting the inside of your cheek
- A sharp tooth
- Consuming too much of certain foods, particularly foods that are highly acidic including sour candies, pineapple, strawberries and citrus fruits
- Spicy foods or foods that are very salty such as potato chips
- Loose or sticking out wires or parts from dental braces that are injuring the inside of your mouth
- Ill-fitting dentures
- A lack of certain essential vitamins, particularly Zinc, Folate, Iron and B12 (note that the medical evidence on this issue is not conclusive)
- Hormonal changes
There are also certain types of medical conditions and treatments that may make some individuals more prone to mouth ulcers, including diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes melitus, celiac disease, a weakened immune system and HIV/AIDS.
If you are experiencing frequent episodes of canker sores, you should make an appointment with your Calgary dentist who can assess your mouth ulcer and ensure that it is not a sign or symptom of a more serious condition, including oral cancer. If necessary, our Calgary dentist can take a biopsy of the mouth sore so that oral cancer can be ruled out. Our Calgary dentist may also recommend that you make an appointment with your family physician to rule out any undiagnosed medical conditions that may be causing your canker sores.
Tips From Our Calgary Dentist To Prevent Canker Sores
For most canker sores, treatment by a dentist is usually not required. In fact, canker sores usually go away on their own within a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for canker sores and, according to our Calgary dentist, your best bet to avoid developing canker sores is to try and avoid anything you know may be a trigger for your canker sores, including stress and lack of sleep. If your mouth ulcers are particularly painful or occur frequently, here are some tips from our Calgary dentist that may help to alleviate some of your pain and discomfort caused by canker sores and even potentially decrease their healing time:
- Try using an over-the-counter topical anaesthetic
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain
- Avoid very hot drinks
- Rinse your mouth with a mixture of salt water and baking soda
- Cover your canker sore with a paste made from baking soda and water
- Place ice or damp tea bags over your canker sore
- If your canker sore is from a sharp tooth or ill-fitting denture, make an appointment with our Calgary dentist who can smooth the sharp tooth or adjust your denture
When Should I See My Calgary Dentist For A Mouth Sore?
If your canker sores are particularly painful or bothersome and the pain cannot be controlled with over-the-counter medications, or if they are larger in diameter than the head of a pencil eraser, or if they are interfering with eating, drinking or speaking, you should make an appointment with your Calgary dentist who may make recommendations for further treatment or analysis, including a biopsy or a prescription for corticosteroids. If you have any sore or lesion in your mouth, including on the inside of your cheeks, tongue, lips, gums or palette that persists for more than two weeks, even if it is painless, you should also make an appointment with your Calgary dentist for further assessment.
Although most mouth ulcers are no need for concern and will resolve on their own, if your mouth ulcer or sore lasts for more than two weeks, occurs frequently or are particularly painful, you should always make an appointment with your Calgary dentist to have the sores examined to rule out any serious conditions and, if necessary, to provide recommendations for relief. Our Calgary dental office always welcomes your questions. Call our Calgary dentist today at 403.283.4252. We’re always here to help.
This blog written by our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, D.D.S., is for informational purposes only. It is not to be taken or used as a substitute for dental, medical or other professional advice, treatment or diagnosis. Always ask your dentist, physician or other healthcare professional for advice before altering your diet or healthcare routine. Individual patient needs and oral healthcare concerns vary so please consult your dentist for more informtion about your specific dental health requirements.
Copyright 2021: Dirk A. Thompson Professional Corporation operating as Advance Your Health Dental. Dr. Dirk A. Thompson, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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