Canker Sores

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Canker sores are small, round mouth sores in the lining of the mouth or on the tongue, gums, or lips. You can have one canker sore or a group of them.

Signs & Symptoms

•  A burning or tingling feeling before the sore appears

•  Red-rimmed, shallow sores in the mouth

•  Discomfort when you eat and talk

Causes, Risk Factors & Care

Canker sores may be caused by any tear in the mouth’s lining, from an uneven tooth, rough tooth brushing, a burn from a hot drink, etc. Vitamin/mineral deficiencies, emotional stress, and family traits may also trigger canker sores.


Canker sores heal within 1 to 2 weeks. Self-care can help with symptoms and speed up healing. If needed, a mouthwash with tetracycline and/or an oral paste (amelxanox) can be prescribed.

Self-Care / Prevention

To Relieve Pain:

•  Mix 1/2 cup salt in 1 cup of warm water. Rinse the mouth with an ounce of this mixture 4 times a day. Don’t swallow the water.

•  Put ice on the canker sore or suck on a frozen popsicle.

•  Avoid spicy foods and acidic drinks, like citrus juices.

•  Use over-the-counter products, like Anbesol, Blistex, and aloe vera gel.

•  Swish Mylanta or milk of magnesia around the mouth to coat the sore. Then spit the medicine out.

•  Put the gel from a vitamin E capsule on the sore several times a day.

•  Take an over-the-counter pain medicine.


•  Avoid things that irritate the mouth, such as hot drinks and sharp objects.

•  Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulfate. Don’t brush too hard.

•  Take a daily vitamin/mineral supplement as advised by your doctor.

Medical Care

Contact Doctor When:

•  You have any of these problems with the canker sore:

– Fever and/or swollen glands

– Severe pain

– A sore on the roof of the mouth or white spots in the mouth that do not heal in 1 to 2 weeks

•  A canker sore disturbs your sleep or does not allow you to eat.

•  A canker sore appears only after you start a new medicine.

•  A canker sore has not healed after 3 weeks.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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