What Are Canker Sores?

Many people who are otherwise in good health suffer from canker sores. Canker sores are painful blisters that are located inside the mouth. While they cause no serious or permanent harm, they are painful, and make eating and drinking difficult. The dental office of Dr. Frantz Backer in Jackson Heights, New York, Advanced Dentistry of New York, often sees patients with canker sores. Dr. Backer explains the best way to treat canker sores and the best way to ease the pain, should one of the sores develop in your mouth.


Dr. Backer assures patients that canker sores are not related to cancer in anyway, and that they are not contagious. Canker sores are yellow or white colored and have a flat, round shape. Usually a red circle is radiating from the yellow or white sore. They typically infect the inner soft tissue area of the mouth, and both the dentist and patient are able to see the sore. There is no official cause for canker sores, but many doctors and dentists believe the sores may be caused by bacteria, an immune system reaction, a reaction to certain drugs, or stress.

Easing the Pain

There are numerous ways to ease the pain of canker sores, but all of them are temporary. If a canker sore develops, you will most likely need to let it run its course, which is typically 7 to 10 days. Some remedies like prescription medications may speed the healing time. In the meantime, it is important to avoid foods that will irritate the sore, like anything spicy or salty.  If you have mild discomfort, you can choose from a variety of at-home methods to help ease the pain while waiting for the prescription medications to work. Baking soda can be mixed with a few drops of water to create a paste that is then smoothed over the sore. This cleans the area and creates a barrier so the sore does not bump into your teeth and tongue. Each of these methods provide temporary relief, but they can be performed as frequently as needed.

Two other at-home remedies include using a hydrogen peroxide solution or milk of magnesia. Hydrogen peroxide should be diluted with water and used as a mouth rinse, but it should never be swallowed. Milk of magnesia is an antacid meant to soothe upset stomachs, but when applied directly to the sore, it reduces the pain and speeds healing. Use a cotton swab and not your finger to apply the milk of magnesia to the sore in order to avoid adding bacteria to your mouth.

Certain over-the-counter remedies also help alleviate the discomfort of canker sores. Liquid antihistamines can be used as a rinse by diluting the liquid with water or milk of magnesia. Swish the solution in your mouth — focusing on the sore — for about a minute, and then spit, taking special care not to swallow any of the solution. Certain antiseptic dental rinses are intended to remove bacteria from the mouth and provide a numbing sensation to ease the pain. Gels or liquids intended to help babies cope with teething can offer relief for the canker sore, but they may burn a great deal with the initial application.

Treating More Severe Sores

Sometimes patients come to see Dr. Backer and their canker sores are intensely painful. If you are suffering from an extremely painful canker sore, you can speak with your dentist about your various treatment options. Your dentist can prescribe additional medication if the canker sore causes a bacterial infection such as cellulitis or Ludwig’s angina, which is a serious mouth tissue infection. Note that some of the antibiotics used to treat canker sores may lead to oral thrush. Depending on whether you have one or several canker sores, your dentist may prescribe tetracycline or an antiviral drug to clear the infection. The at-home methods can be used at the same time as the prescription medication to help ease the pain of the sore. Your dentist may prescribe dental rinses, but speak with him about potential side effects, your level of pain tolerance, and whether or not the sores are an ongoing problem before using these medicated rinses.

Most patients Dr. Backer sees for canker sores are in pain, but are able to cope with the problem without relying on medication. If you are suffering from a canker sore, you can choose to treat it on your own, or speak with your dentist about potential remedies. If your sore does not heal within two weeks, it is important to speak with a dental professional because the sore may be a symptom of a more serious infection. If you are looking for a dentist who can help you ease the pain of canker sores, contact Dr. Franz Backer at the Advanced Dentistry Office of New York.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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