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What Is A Canker Sore? And How To Prevent It?

January 5, 2022

You might have experienced soreness in your mouth or ulcer formation during exams or before appearing in a competitive job interview. But have you wondered what these sores are and why they develop? These ulcers are called canker sores. Your dentist at Litchfield Smiles, Dr. Moreira, explains everything you need to know about canker sores. In this article

What are Canker Sores?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, these ulcers, also called cankers sores or aphthous ulcers,  are shallow, painful lesions that develop inside the mouth. Usually, these lesions are red and have a white coating over them. The American Academy of Oral Medicine estimates that more than half of the US population suffers from canker sores at some stage in life. 

What is the Cause of Canker Sores?

The exact cause of aphthous ulcers is not clearly understood. However, it is thought that one’s immune system plays a role in their formation - by activating the body’s white blood cells to attack the mucosa that lines the oral cavity. Canker sores can also develop due to anxiety, gastric problems, or systemic conditions like Crohn’s disease and malnutrition. In other cases, they may also appear due to an allergic reaction to certain foods or medication. 

What are Different Types of Canker Sores?

There are three main canker sores: minor, major, and herpetiform aphthous ulcers. 

  • Minor Aphthous Ulcers are the most commonly occurring type of canker sores, affecting over 80% of the individuals who suffer from canker sores. These ulcers are usually less than 1 centimeter and heal in about one week - without causing any scarring. 
  • Major Aphthous Ulcers are more severe ulcers, occurring in about 15% of canker sore affectees. Major aphthous ulcers usually last for more than two weeks and are typically larger than 1 centimeter in diameter. These ulcers can sometimes be excruciating and usually heal by themselves, leaving behind scars. 
  • Herpetiform Ulcers - these are the least common types of ulcers. These ulcers develop as clusters of minute ulcers (less than 1 millimeter in diameter). These ulcers usually heal within one week. 

What is the Treatment for Canker Sores?

According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, canker sores are primarily self-limiting, meaning they will heal by themselves. However, your dentist may prescribe medication to relieve the pain and discomfort. The management of recurring aphthous ulcers involves the identification of the underlying cause. If the cause of aphthous ulcers is a systemic disease, your dentist may refer you to your physician for further treatment. Improving the quality of life, eating a healthy diet, and ensuring optimal oral hygiene help prevent these ulcers. Using SLS-free toothpaste in individuals with SLS allergies may also prove helpful in reducing the incidence. 

Canker sores are preventable and manageable. However, if they occur recurrently, it may indicate an underlying medical or dental issue. If you have canker sores, visit us at Litchfield Smiles to advise appropriate treatment.