Canker Sores, and Their Triggers and Treatments

canker soresFirst, I want to clarify that canker sores and cold sores are different.  This short explanation was taken from WebMD:

 Although cold sores and canker sores are often confused with each other, they are not the same. Cold sores, also called fever blisters or herpes simplex type 1, are groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are caused by a virus and are extremely contagious. Also, cold sores typically appear outside the mouth — usually under the nose, around the lips, or under the chin — while canker sores occur inside the mouth.

Symptoms may include:

  • canker soresTingling or burning sensation in the mouth.
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Canker sores appear inside the mouth, on the tongue, inside of the cheek and the back portion of the roof of your mouth.  They can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks in extreme cases.
  • The sores are usually white or grey with a rounded look with a red edge or border.

Although doctors don’t know the exact cause here is a list of things that can trigger them:

  1. preventing a canker soreStress.  In small children, this could be travel and a change in their environment.
  2. A weakened immune system.
  3. Tissue damage, such as biting your gum or scraping the inside of your mouth.
  4. Certain Foods–including citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables.
  5. Braces or ill-fitting dentures.

In some complex cases where the canker sores would last longer than a few days the things listed below could also be some triggers:

  1. Again, a weakened immune system or health condition.
  2. Vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid or iron deficiency.
  3. Gastrointestinal tract disease, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.

How are canker sores prevented and treated?

Besides a dental laser which can offer almost complete relief, there are painkillers but no cure other than natural treatments.  Through diet and preventing the triggers listed above one has hope in combating and getting rid of the sores.


  1. Prevent extra stress.
  2. Be careful when taking antibiotics or other types of medications that can weaken your immune system.  This is especially important in children.
  3. Eat foods rich in B12 such as dairy products, eggs, meat, and poultry.  For Folic Acid and Iron eat leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli.  Also, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and dried fruit are high in both vitamins.  For your Zinc eat fish, beef, nuts, garlic, dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds.  There are other foods than the ones I have listed which have these vitamins, but this will give you a start.
  4. homemade yogurt Yogurt is a great way to keep probiotics in your system and therefore help with a healthy immunity.
  5. Avoid foods that irritate the mouth such as spicy, salty, fizzy drinks or fruits high in acidity.
  6. I have heard that alum powder can help dry out and remove the pain from the sores but have not tried it personally.  Apply the alum and leave on for about 60 seconds then spit out your saliva.  Do not rinse out as the idea is the dry out the sores.  This cannot hurt you and would suggest trying it to relieve some of the pain naturally.
  7. In the book “Home Remedies:  What Works” (now out of print), a saltwater rinse was one of the top canker sore remedies.  People with sores saw relief after swishing salt water around in their mouths for a few minutes 2-4 times per day.  To use, dissolve two tablespoons of salt in a six-ounce glass of warm water.  Sip and swish gently over the affected area for several minutes, spit. Repeat as needed. The consulting doctor for the book says that salt water helps draw fluid through tissues, speeding healing.
  8. Mix Apple Cider Vinegar with a 1/2 cup of warm water and swish around in your mouth for 30-60 seconds, 2x a day. Your canker sore will go down or disappear quickly.
  9. Turmeric is always a great healer and can help with your sores by making a paste.  Take a few drops of coconut oil and add turmeric until a paste is made.  Apply to the sores and leave on as long as you can stand.  Spit out when finished and take a paper towel to remove any residue.  Remember turmeric stains so be careful of clothing.

 Caring for canker sores:

  • drink lots of fluidsBrush with a soft-bristled toothbrush after eating, keeping your mouth as clean as possible.
  • Avoid chewing gum as this could irritate the sores.
  • Be sure to drink enough liquids even though the sores can be very painful.

Things to watch out for:

If you develop a high fever while having canker sores, are not able to keep enough liquids down or your sores last up to three weeks or longer then I would suggest going to your dentist or doctor.

I hope this article helps not only clarify the difference between cold sores and canker sores but has also given you knowledge of how to prevent and treat the canker sore.

Wishing you comfort, fast healing, and health.

Heather Earles

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