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Canker Sores (Aphthous Stomatitis or Recurrent Mouth Ulcers)

A small, shallow sore inside the mouth.

Blog Highlights

  • Canker sores are unsightly and painful round sores that develop in your mouth
  • Doctors and dentists are still not sure what causes canker sores
  • Occasionally canker sores may be misdiagnosed

Canker sores are painful round sores that develop in your mouth. About 50% of people will experience a canker sore at one point in their life. They can appear on the inside of your lips or cheeks, on the tongue or gums, and even on the roof of your mouth.

Canker sores can occur one at a tim, or you can contract multiple canker sores at the same time. People who experience canker sores are likely to suffer from them multiple times each year. Typically, canker sores are small and heal within a couple of weeks, but a person may develop a larger canker sore, which can take longer to heal and could leave a scar. Though they can’t be prevented, canker sores are not contagious.


Doctors and dentists are still not sure what causes canker sores. It is believed that the sores run in families and can be linked to certain diseases. Many professionals believe that a compromised immune system, emotional stress, and general injury to the mouth make a person more susceptible to canker sores. Some suggest that menstruation may also lead to canker sores.

Occasionally, canker sores are misdiagnosed. They are often mistaken for cold sores which are caused by a virus. Sometimes canker sores can resemble sores related to other conditions, such as vitamin or mineral deficiency, allergies, Crohn’s disease, HIV, or Lupus. If you suspect your sore may be a sign of something more serious, speak with your doctor.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Usually before a canker sore fully forms, you will start to feel a burning or tingling sensation. It takes about three days for the sore to mature.

In most cases, you won’t need medical attention when you have a canker sore. However, if it’s your first canker sore or you start experiencing an increase in or worsening of sores, you should seek medical advice to rule out any possible underlying diseases. Likewise, if your canker sore is accompanied by other symptoms such as rashes, fever, diarrhea or joint paint, you should contact your dentist or doctor immediately.

Unfortunately, you can’t treat canker sores, but you can take steps to reduce the resulting pain and discomfort: Avoid spicy or hot foods, rinse your mouth with warm water, and if the pain is extreme, you can use pain relievers or over-the-counter creams. If you are dealing with a large sore or an unusually painful sore, you can speak to your doctor about injected steroids or prescription medicines.


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