It’s there when you eat or take a sip of water–the painful, burning sensation in your mouth that just won’t go away. Who would have thought a small oval lesion could be so torturous and bring even the strongest of us to our knees?
That’s the power of canker sores, and if you’re one of the unlucky people who are prone to them, you’re aware of how badly they can hurt. Unlike cold sores, canker sores aren’t contagious and don’t occur on the surface of your lips. They can be found inside your mouth, on the cheeks, the inside of the lips, the base of your gums, under your tongue or on your soft palate. These sores can have a white or yellow center with a red border and last a few weeks.
Although genetics might be a cause of canker sores and stress tends to make them appear, experts are not sure what exactly causes them. Acidic fruits, braces, and dentures are also known to irritate the mouth and thus cause canker sores.
The pain derives from the nerves found in the lining of the mouth, which, when exposed to saliva, foods, drinks, and air when the tissue is broken, can aggravate the nerves and result in major pain. While canker sores usually go away on their own, there are several home remedies that can make them bearable.
Over-the-counter topical anesthetics like benzocaine are the best way to treat canker sores, as they numb the pain. When in doubt, visit your doctor. Asking your doctor for a prescription for topical steroids to reduce inflammation can be a great option, as you’re sure to be in safe hands.
Or you can choose to go the natural way and use a home remedy. Rinsing your mouth with milk of magnesia or placing a Tums or Rolaids (which contain milk of magnesia) on the sore can help neutralize acids in your mouth that are irritating the sore.
Putting a wet tea bag on the sore for about five minutes can also reduce the acids and inflammation. Alum can also help, as it dries out the area and reduces irritation by putting some on the spot for a minute. Rinsing your mouth with salt water to clean the sore can help ease the pain as well.
Often, canker sores are caused by a deficiency of the amino acid lysine, so taking supplements could help clear and prevent future canker sores. In the meantime, try to keep your mouth clean and avoid spicy foods when the bumps are present to avoid painful encounters.