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Canker Sores

Canker Sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small, painful lesions that develop inside the mouth. They can appear on the tongue, inside of the cheeks, or on the gums. Canker sores are usually round or oval-shaped with a white or yellow center and a red border. They are different from cold sores, which typically appear on the outer lip and are caused by the herpes simplex virus.


  1. Pain: Canker sores are often painful, especially when eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth.
  2. Round or oval sores: Canker sores typically have a round or oval shape with a white or yellowish center and a red border.
  3. Size: They are usually small, ranging from a few millimeters to a centimeter in diameter.
  4. Location: Canker sores can develop on the inside of your cheeks, lips, tongue, gums, or the roof of your mouth.
  5. Redness and inflammation: The area around the canker sore may be red and swollen.
  6. Discomfort while talking or eating: Due to their location and pain, canker sores can make activities like talking and eating uncomfortable.

What causes canker sores?

The exact cause of canker sores is not well understood, but several factors may contribute to their development:

  1. Trauma or Injury: Minor injuries to the mouth, such as accidental biting, dental work, or aggressive tooth brushing, can trigger the formation of canker sores.
  2. Stress and Hormones: Emotional stress and hormonal changes, particularly in women during menstruation, can be associated with the onset of canker sores.
  3. Certain Foods: Acidic or spicy foods, as well as those high in citrus, may contribute to the development of canker sores in some individuals.
  4. Weakened Immune System: A compromised immune system can make a person more susceptible to canker sores.
  5. Genetics: There might be a genetic predisposition, as canker sores often run in families.
  6. Underlying Health Conditions: Conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and immune system disorders can increase the likelihood of canker sores.
  7. Vitamin Deficiencies: Lack of certain vitamins, such as B12, folic acid, and iron, may contribute to the development of canker sores in some cases.

Are canker sores contagious?

No, canker sores are not contagious. Unlike cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus and can be spread through direct contact, canker sores are not caused by viruses and cannot be transmitted from person to person. Canker sores are typically small, shallow ulcers that form inside the mouth, and their development is influenced by various factors such as trauma, stress, genetics, and certain foods. Since they are not caused by a contagious virus, you cannot “catch” canker sores from someone else through close contact or sharing items like utensils or towels.

Can I prevent canker sores?

  1. Maintain good oral hygiene:
    • Brush your teeth regularly with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
    • Use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), as it may contribute to the development of canker sores in some individuals.
  2. Rinse your mouth:
    • Use a mild, non-alcoholic mouthwash or a saline solution to rinse your mouth regularly.
    • Avoid harsh or abrasive mouthwashes that may irritate your mouth.
  3. Choose the right toothpaste:
    • Consider using toothpaste without added irritants, such as SLS.
  4. Avoid trigger foods:
    • Identify and avoid foods that may trigger canker sores in your case. Common triggers include spicy or acidic foods, citrus fruits, and certain nuts.
  5. Manage stress:
    • Practice stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, as stress can be a contributing factor.
  6. Ensure a balanced diet:
    • Consume a well-balanced diet with sufficient vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and folic acid.
  7. Protect your mouth:
    • If you engage in activities that may result in trauma to the mouth (such as playing sports), consider using a mouthguard to prevent injuries.
  8. Be cautious with dental work:
    • Sharp dental appliances or braces may irritate. Ensure that dental work is properly fitted, and consult your dentist if you experience any issues.
  9. Check for food sensitivities:
    • Some people may develop canker sores due to food sensitivities. Keep track of your diet and consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect a connection.

By Mehfooz Ali

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