Natural Canker Sore Remedies

© 2015 by Kate Parker, RDH, BS-DH, RF

cancer sore remedyNatural canker sore remedies appeal to just about everyone who has had a canker sore

Natural canker sore remedies appeal to just about everyone who has had a canker sore. Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are generally very painful and can last for up to 10 days. They are renowned for being sensitive and uncomfortable, usually affecting a person's ability to eat, drink, and even talk. 

The exact cause of the development of canker sores is not yet pinpointed, but multiple factors tend to affect the likelihood that someone will develop them (detailed below.)

Generally speaking, the development of the ulcers can be reduced or avoided in the first place by boosting the immune system and avoiding chronic irritation in the mouth and body. However, if you do develop them, various home remedies can speed healing to as little as 2-3 days. 

List Of Canker Sore Symptoms

canker sore remediesCanker sores present with a red, inflamed border and white or opaque center either alone or in groups
  • Benign, non-contagious, often recurrent mouth ulcers
  • Often suffered in childhood with recurrence multiple times annually
  • Generally resolves or lessens by adulthood, with decreased symptoms over time
  • Occurs on the lips, tongue, cheeks, soft palate, in the vestibule, or on the gums
  • Single or multiple round or oval lesions, sometimes irregularly shaped
  • Erythematous, red, inflamed border
  • White or opaque center than can be rubbed off
  • Range in size from small to quite large
  • Burning, itching, and/or stinging of affected area
  • Generally painful with increased pain upon contact
  • Sensitive to pH (acidic food and drink)
  • Sensitive to temperature (hot/cold)

Causes Of Canker Sores

Canker sores are caused by an autoimmune reaction in the body. Typically this is preceded by chronic irritation to the tissues in the mouth in one fashion or another (internal, external, mechanical, or chemical.)

Many people with autoimmune conditions or compromised immune systems develop canker sores. Ongoing irritation and inflammation can cause the tissues to break down, leading to the development of canker sores.

Form and frequency of the ulcers varies between individuals and can vary within an individual as well. Especially in childhood, recurrent ulcers may develop, also known as aphthous stomatitis. Over time the symptoms diminish and eventually disappear, usually by adulthood. If they do not resolve in adulthood, possible autoimmune conditions should be explored. Meanwhile, natural canker sore remedies will help alleviate the symptoms and will speed their healing time, sometimes considerably.

Factors that affect the development of canker sores:

canker sore remediesAvoid SLS-containing oral health products
  • Toothpastes and/or mouth rinses that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Food sensitivities and food allergies
  • Vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies (zinc, B-12, folic acid, iron)
  • Helicobacter pylori in the mouth, the same bacteria that cause peptic ulcers
  • Stress or emotional stress (compromising the immune system)
  • Viral infection (not related to the herpes virus)
  • Hormonal changes or imbalance
  • Habitual use of smokeless tobacco
  • Genetic predisposition triggered by inflammatory lifestyle
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Anemia

Natural Canker Sore Remedies

canker sore remediesZinc lozenges are often considered the best natural remedy for canker sores
  • Zinc lozenges: these are often considered the best natural canker sore remedies. Zinc lozenges that dissolve quickly, such as Nature Made VitaMelts, can be moistened and placed over the canker sore or sores. Leave the tablet over the ulcers until it is fully dissolved and absorbed by the oral tissues. Do not rinse the area, and repeat a few times a day until ulcers disappear. May take 2-3 days to resolve, but will often see significant results in as little as one day. 
  • Vitamin B-12 (cobalamin): a deficiency in the B-vitamins can lead to the development of anemia and canker sores. Take a daily liquid dose of B-12 under the tongue, such as Pure Advantage B-12 Spray. One spray per day is all that is needed. Though not as effective at healing canker sores as zinc lozenges, continued use does speed the healing process by a few days.
  • Remove sources of inflammation: if you have recently switched toothpaste or mouthwash, check to see if it contains SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate.) This is a common irritant in the mouth and is responsible for many of the tissue reactions we see in dentistry. Along with canker sores, an SLS allergic reaction often causes sloughing tissues on the lips, cheeks, and under the tongue. Try this instead. Also ensure that you are brushing the gum line properly.
  • To decrease pain and sensitivity: apply eugenol oil (clove oil) to the affected area/s. This can be found in the dental aisle of most pharmacies and big box stores. Eugenol will naturally numb the tissues affected by the ulcer. This is often useful when the ulcers make it difficult to eat or drink. Apply lightly with a clean cotton applicator as needed. Ground cloves can also be used in a pinch, but will not be as effective as pure eugenol oil and might stick to the ulcer. Ice also helps but takes longer and is more difficult to keep in place.

How To Prevent Canker Sores

canker sore remediesAvoid chronic irritations such as cheek biting and ill-fitting dental fixtures
  • Boost your immune system naturally by eating an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Avoid vaccines, antibiotics, and other things that tax the immune system
  • Keep your mouth clean and maintain good oral hygiene
  • Avoid SLS-containing oral health products (avoid sodium lauryl sulfate)
  • Take zinc daily, and get enough B-vitamins, folic acid, and iron in your diet
  • Find ways to alleviate stress, which can compromise the immune system
  • Avoid chronic irritations such as cheek biting, plaque, and ill-fitting dental fixtures
  • Avoid foods that you have a sensitivity or allergy to (gluten, lactose, nuts, etc.)
  • Avoid harsh habits such as lemon sucking and aggressively acidic drinks
  • Maintain an alkaline systemic and oral pH
  • Maintain an alkaline diet

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