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Canker Sores: A Dental Practice’s Comprehensive Guide

Canker Sores: A Dental Practice's Comprehensive Guide


A canker sore, or aphthous ulcer, is an open sore inside the mouth – usually on the inner cheek, lips, or tongue. Most are oval-shaped or round with a markedly white or yellowish center. The border is red.


Here is our comprehensive guide to what canker sores are, how you get them…and how to get rid of them, too.


How to Identify a Canker Sore


You may first notice a tingling or burning sensation on an area inside your mouth prior to when the blister actually appears.


The most common locations for a canker sore include the inner cheek or lips, on or around your tongue, and at the base of your gums.


There are three primary types of canker sores: minor, major, and what is known as herpetiform canker sores.


Minor Canker Sores


  • Oval-shaped or round
  • Measure three to 10 mm in diameter
  • Heal without scarring within 14 days


Major Canker Sores


  • Irregular in shape
  • Larger than 10 mm across
  • You may experience intense pain
  • Often take six weeks-plus to heal, sometimes leave scarring


Herpetiform Canker Sores


  • Clusters of pinpoint-sized blisters (10-100 tiny sores)
  • Sometimes sores merge into one large ulcer
  • Irregular shape when merged
  • Heals without scars in 1-2 weeks


Contrary to what the name might insinuate, this type of canker sore isn’t caused by herpes. So what are the causes of these and the other types?


Common Causes of Canker Sores


Canker sores are so common because there are all kinds of different causes. In fact, even family history can be a risk factor in canker sore development. Here are four common links:




Both viral infections and other issues related to the immune system (like Celiac and Chrone’s diseases) can present as canker sore development on the delicate tissues inside your mouth.


Mouth Injury


When you wear braces or dentures, bite the inside of your lips and cheeks, or find yourself brushing overzealously, sometimes you can develop a canker sore in the area, too.


Hormonal Fluctuations


As our body is constantly working to maintain a level of homeostasis, risk factors such as stress, pregnancy, menstruation – even age – cause hormonal fluctuation which, among other things, can surface as canker sores.


Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency


Deficiencies in B-vitamins like niacin, folic acid, and cobalamin can leave you prone to developing canker sores. When you don’t get enough zinc, iron, and calcium in your diet, deficiencies can actually trigger and worsen them.


Depending on the factors that you believe may have contributed to your canker sore development, there are a number of ways you can treat them.


Treating Your Canker Sores at Home


Often, canker sores will disappear on their own within that two-week window.


Additionally, there are a number of effective in-home treatments you can administer as well. Here are some easy ways to treat them at home:


  • Topical gels or pastes can numb and/or protect the area (aloe vera works great, too!)
  • Warm salt water, clove oil, or other proven antiseptic rinses
  • Switch to a softer toothbrush and maintain good oral health habits
  • Take vitamin B-12 supplements
  • Avoid foods that seem to irritate the area


When you’ve attempted to self-treat, but your canker sores won’t heal – and especially if they seem to worsen – call your South Florida dentist.


When It’s Time to Visit Your Dentist


We often receive calls when patients are experiencing recurring sores and new ones that develop before the previous ones can heal.


Fever or extreme difficulty eating or drinking is grounds for an immediate in-office visit. If you have pain or headaches that don’t subside with pain relievers, don’t continue to suffer, either.


Canker Sore Treatment


Ultimately, canker sores are the most common form of irritation inside the mouth, and curing them can be fairly easy once you’ve begun the proper treatment.


If you experience canker sores and aren’t sure why then talk to your dentist about options for treatment – and prevention.