A sore inside your mouth can be a big inconvenience. It can be uncomfortable even when you’re not doing anything, and it can make things like eating and talking painful and difficult. Canker sores are some of the most common sores to show up inside of the mouth, often on the gums or on the inside of the lip or cheek.
What Causes Canker Sores?
Although canker sores are common, it’s not known exactly what causes them.
It’s not entirely clear what causes canker sores to occur in the first place. It’s widely believed that there may be a genetic component to them – if your parent got canker sores, you may get them as well.
There are two types of canker sores: simple and complex. Simple canker sores are common among patients between the ages of 10 and 20, and those who have simple canker sores are more likely to develop complex canker sores as well, which can happen at any age.
Small injuries to your mouth are one thing that might trigger canker sores. Hard brushing, sharp foods, and dental equipment like braces or dentures can cause small bruises or inflamed areas that become canker sores. It’s also believed that deficiencies in vitamins and other nutrients can cause canker sores, as can as a weakened immune system.
How Are Canker Sores Treated?
First the good news: canker sores are not contagious, so you can’t spread them to anyone else. They also aren't pre-cancerous or indicative of a more serious condition, so there’s no need to panic when you see them.
The bad news is that there’s no permanent cure for canker sores. If you have one, it will go away eventually, but there’s no way to guarantee that it won’t come back.
Treatment for canker sores usually involves treating just the symptoms – the pain and discomfort associated with the sores. You can purchase pain-relieving ointments over the counter that relieve pain and help protect the sore so that it can heal more easily. Washing your mouth with an antibiotic mouthwash can also help relieve discomfort.
While your canker sore is healing, you may want to avoid certain foods that are likely to aggravate it. Heavily-spiced food and acidic foods like citrus fruits are common irritants that can make a canker sore more painful.
Can You Prevent Canker Sores?
While it may not be possible to permanently cure canker sores, you can certainly lessen your chance of getting them in the future. Avoiding injuries or infections in your mouth is a good start. If you wear braces or dentures, be sure to have them inspected and adjusted on schedule. Avoid harsh brushing, but pay close attention to your oral hygiene.
It can also help to ensure that you’re getting the right nutrients for a healthy mouth. Some of the nutrients your mouth needs are vitamin B-12, calcium, iron, zinc, and folic acid. You may need supplements if you aren’t getting enough of these in your diet. A healthy diet combined with exercise and adequate rest can also help keep the rest of your body healthier, which can keep your immune system strong enough to help prevent canker sore outbreaks.