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How Are Canker Sores Treated?

How Are Canker Sores Treated?

Canker sores are a common problem, affecting about 25% of people worldwide at some point during their lives. While they can certainly be painful, the good news is most of these cankers aren’t severe — and prompt treatment can help.

Marvin Taylor, DDS, and the Dr Taylor’s Family Dental Center team offer same-day emergency visits for painful problems like canker sores, providing quick, long-lasting relief. Learn why cankers occur and what we can do to help.

Canker sores: what they are and why they happen

Also called mouth ulcers or aphthous ulcers, canker sores are painful lesions that form inside your lip, the inside of your cheeks, tongue, or palate — pretty much any soft tissue inside your mouth. They often appear as raised yellowish or reddish bumps or lumps.

Many people confuse canker sores with cold sores, but they differ in specific ways. First, cold sores form on your lips, while canker sores form inside your mouth. Second, while a contagious virus (the herpes virus) causes cold sores, canker sores aren’t contagious at all.

Researchers don’t know why canker sores happen or why some people tend to be more prone to these sores than others. They do tend to be associated with risk factors, like:

Canker sores also tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component.

For some people, canker sores develop as a symptom of an underlying disease or medical condition, like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, or infections. These conditions can wind up creating canker sores all over again.

Treating canker sores

Many canker sores will heal within a week or two, particularly if they’re very mild. If a canker doesn’t heal, gets worse, or goes away and then comes back, it’s time to seek medical treatment to relieve discomfort, protect the tissue, and determine the underlying cause.

Medications, such as antibiotics or antifungal medicines, can treat canker sores associated with bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Cankers tied to diabetes may respond well to better glucose management; however, cankers caused by the underlying autoimmune disease may require a multifaceted approach to help them heal and keep them from coming back. 

In the meantime, you can reduce painful symptoms with several simple precautions. Avoid using abrasive toothpaste to prevent irritation. Consider over-the-counter oral pain-relieving gel to relieve discomfort until your dental visit, and skip hot and spicy foods. To help reduce inflammation, you can rinse with salt water.

A note about oral cancer

While cankers are not cancerous, it’s important to note that some oral cancers can look like cancer in their earliest stages. If you have a lesion that’s getting worse or isn’t healing, having it evaluated by our team is critical for ruling out cancer and getting the most appropriate care as soon as possible.

Relieve your painful canker sores

Open seven days a week, our team of four dentists offers same-day visits for dental emergencies like painful canker sores. To find out how we can help you find relief, request an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Dr. Taylor’s Family Dental Center in Waterford, Michigan, today.

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