Before tackling the topic of canker sore home remedies let’s first of all clearly define the difference between canker sores and cold sores:
“canker sores are painful ulcers, or open sores, on the inner membranes of the mouth and cheek, or can resemble pimples on the tongue. Canker sores are not considered to be contagious and are of uncertain origin.
Cold sores, on the other hand, are small red blisters that generally affect the mouth and facial areas, but usually appear on the lip and outer edge of the mouth. In contrast to canker sores, cold sores are extremely contagious and are most often caused by the Herpes Simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). More importantly, when oral herpes lesions and/or its contents come into direct contact with the genital area through oral-genital sex, genital herpes most likely will develop.” Read more on how to treat cold sores here
Cold sores are also known as fever blisters, while canker sores are often referred to as mouth ulcers (aphthous ulcers). This article deals with canker sores; specifically with home remedies for canker sores.
So, how do you get canker sores? Unbelievable for this day and age, even the experts have not yet been able to ascertain why canker sores develop. Some speculate that stress, acidic foods (strawberries, apples, figs, pineapples, oranges, lemons and tomatoes) and ill-fitting dentures and braces are causes. Other health conditions which may cause complex canker sores include gastrointestinal tract diseases (Celiac and Crohn’s), iron deficiency, nutritional problems or an impaired immune system.
They most commonly appear on the inside of the mouth on the lips and cheeks, as well as on the soft palate (roof of mouth at the back). Canker sores on the tongue are possible also. They are painful mouth ulcers, generally the size of a pencil eraser. They appear in simple variety (means the canker sores appear 3-4 times a year and last about a week), and complex variety (these are less common; usually affect those people who already experienced canker sores). Canker sores generally affect adolescents and those in early adulthood. Frequency becomes less as we get older.
Canker sore symptoms include annoying painful burning or tingling feelings in your mouth whenever you eat and drink, even before these mouth ulcers are visible. They start out as small red bumps which develop into mouth sores which are either white or grey in color with a red border.
The good news is that they do heal on their own within a week or two; you can however get some relief from painful mouth sores. Whenever you administer any of the home remedies for canker sores advised on, refrain from eating or drinking for about 30 minutes to ensure the benefits of the remedy is not washed away.
Some of the most popular canker sore home remedies which are commonly used include, but are not limited to the following:
- Swab a mixture of 1 part water with 1 part hydrogen peroxide (strong disinfectant) unto the canker sore(s). Follow with a dab of milk of magnesia (you may prefer to use MoM only – just dab on mouth sores with q-tip 3-4 times during the day). Apply this canker sore treatment 3-4 times daily. Daily rinsing with mouthwash will keep the ulcer(s) clean. Prepare a homemade mouthwash by mixing 3 parts water to 1 part hydrogen peroxide. Use twice daily.
- Use toothpaste and mouthwash which do not contain the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). One such product is Sensodyne Pronamel toothpastes and mouthwashes.
- Powdered alum for canker sores! I found many testimonies singing the praises of alum to treat canker sores; this one almost made me wish I had a canker sore so I could put it to the test:
“The first time I ever had a canker sore, I was 8 or 9, and it was a Friday during Lent, and my mom was taking classes at a university a couple of hours away, which meant my dad was taking care of the three of us, which meant that we were eating Vandecamp’s fish sticks and oven french fries for dinner because that was pretty much the only thing he knew how to cook. I loaded my plate with probably too much ketchup, dipped a crunchy, salty fry in, and took a big bite — to searing pain. I was sort of a kid who cried a lot anyway, but this was Serious Business discomfort, and I bawled. I felt like my mouth was full of cuts. I had to eschew tartar sauce and ketchup that meal. Worst Lenten Friday ever. (Well, I mean, besides the original bad Lenten Friday, with the crucifixion and stuff.) When my mother returned home later, I told her what was wrong, and she proceeded to teach me one of the most valuable lessons of my tiny life when she handed me a small jar of alum and a baby spoon. Go look in the mirror, she said, and find where the white spot on the inside of your mouth is. Put a little bit of this white stuff on your canker sore. Count to 100. Rinse your mouth. By tomorrow, you’ll be able to eat ketchup and tartar sauce again. She was right. When I woke up the next morning, the canker sore was gone. Vanished. Kaput. On the rare occasion that I’ve suffered a canker sore since, I’ve always treated it with alum, and it’s always gone away by the next day.”
- Baking soda treatment for canker sores is another natural remedy to get rid of canker sores fast (one of the best homemade remedies for sore throat also). Add enough water to make a paste to 1 teaspoon baking soda. Use a q-tip and apply the paste to the canker sore(s). Let it dry. You can also rinse with 1 teaspoon baking soda added to ½ cup warm water.
- A simple home remedy for canker sores is to press a wet black tea bag against the mouth sore for several minutes – theory behind this home remedy is that the tannic acid it contains changes the pH in your mouth; making it less accommodating to the bacteria which causes canker sores.
- Ice brings welcome canker sore pain relief. Hold ice over the sores, allowing it to melt. Ice numbs the pain and lessens the inflammation.
- Rinse with aloe juice a few times a day or dab gel from fresh aloe vera leaf to the ulcer (dry the canker sore with a cotton swab first).
- Rinsing your mouth with 1-2 tablespoons of plum juice for 2-3 minutes (or soak cotton ball with plum juice and hold against canker sore for a few minutes) or eating fresh papaya sounds like rather delicious canker sores treatment methods.
- A tried and tested remedy for many ailments is tea tree oil. Use a q-tip and dab a single drop on the mouth sore a few times during the day. Alternatively, rinse your mouth with a solution of 10% tea tree oil and 90% water twice daily.
- Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) as canker sore remedy is quite effective. Prepare a mouthwash by mixing powdered DGL with water and rinse. DGL tablets can alternatively be dissolved in the mouth.
- Vitamin E capsules: cut open and squeeze little bit of the liquid onto the cold sore several times a day
- Calendula (aka pot marigold): Steep 2 teaspoons of dried calendula in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain and leave to cool down. Drink or gargle and rinse with the tea several times during the day.
- Lysine for canker sores is another favorite with many. Before I propose any remedy, I always look for testimonies from people who successfully used such remedy. I found Carolyn Preston-Sloan, her experience speaks for itself:
“It was after the wire-clipping incident that the orthodontist gave me the one piece of information which turned out to be vital: L-lysine he’d heard did seem to provide some cure for the common mouth-ulcer.
I hightailed it directly to my local Phar-Mor pharmacy and bought a bottle of L-lysine in the vitamin section. L-lysine is an amino acid which is not produced in the human body but can be obtained from protein, legumes, wheat germ and dairy products and can be purchased in tablet form in most stores which sell vitamins. It seems most of the tablets are HUGE so I did discover that I had to be careful where I bought the stuff or it was impossible to get down my throat. The results, however, were astounding. I stopped getting canker sores-I mean I completely stopped getting them. Every once in awhile I would feel the old familiar sting and be certain one was beginning and then nothing would come of it. Even in times of great stress I remain sore free.
During my early research I discovered that if I searched for canker sore cures sites would often mention l-lysine but always with the caution that nothing had been proven. Well, I no longer need anyone else’s proof. Lysine may not be a cure all for canker sores but it is certainly a cure.”
- One of the best known canker sore remedies must be to rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of 1 tablespoon salt in a glass of warm water. Salt quickly dries up a canker sore.
- A chunk of onion pressed against your mouth sore for a few minutes is another canker sore home remedy many swear by – if this is a remedy you have experience with, let us know about it…
- Sorrel, a bitter herb, is another great canker sore cure. A pinch of sorrel placed on your mouth sore until it is soggy brings welcome relief from the pain and speeds up the healing process. Do this several times a day.
- Sage has powerful drying agents which will quickly dry out your mouth ulcers. Brew some sage tea. Swish around in your mouth before swallowing. Drink 1-2 cups daily. Alternatively, place powdered sage directly on the ulcer.
- Grapefruit seed extract has antimicrobial and disinfectant properties. As a cure for canker sores, just add 5-6 drops to a glass of water and rinse your mouth with the solution once daily.
- Taking 200mg of Echinacea 2-3 times daily the moment you become aware of canker sores developing will boost your immune system.
- Take up to 30mg of zinc lozenges daily as soon as mouth sores start to develop until they are gone.
- Reduce the frequency of canker sores by 1) avoiding foods that can irritate your mouth, i.e. chips, pretzels, salty and spicy foods 2) eat plenty of healthy foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies 3) refrain from eating and talking at the same time 4) heed good oral hygiene and 5) reduce stress where possible.
When should you consult a doctor?
Even when you do not treat canker sores, they should clear up naturally. Contact your dentist when:
- you have unusually large sores
- the sores are spreading
- sores last longer than 3 weeks
- find it difficult to take in enough liquids
- appearance of sores bring about high fever