It’s easy to understand your alarm upon discovering a spot inside your mouth, particularly if that spot is causing you pain. While there are several types of sores that can develop in or around the mouth, canker sores are known to be painful and can be worrisome. Still, it’s important to know what a canker sore is, how you develop canker sores, and how you care for your mouth if you have one or more.
The first question you may have if you develop a canker sore is simple: what is that? A canker sore is a small sore inside your mouth on the soft part or gums. They are also called aphthous ulcers. They can be painful, interfering with eating or talking.
Are they contagious?
No. Canker sores are not contagious, unlike cold sores which are highly contagious and appear on the lips and the outside of the mouth. Cold sores are caused by a virus, but canker sores are not caused by a bacteria or virus and can’t be passed from person to person.
So where do they come from?
Doctors are not 100% certain of all the causes of canker sores, but they seem to share some common triggers. They can result from injuries to your mouth. They can be a sign of sensitivity to certain foods or oral care ingredients. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including folic acid, B12, iron, and zinc are also frequent causes. Certain bacteria, hormone shifts, and stress can be contributing factors as well. Certain diseases associated with immune responses also tend to be associated with canker sores as well.
What can I do about them?
Most canker sores will clear up on their own in a week or two. Still, you may want help with painful sores that interfere with eating or talking. You can visit your dentist to have the sores evaluated. Antimicrobial rinses or salt water rinses can help keep the vulnerable sores from developing a secondary infection and may provide comfort. If a vitamin deficiency is to blame, it may be necessary to change your diet or take supplements of iron to correct the lack. Reducing stress also helps some patients avoid recurrence.
Do I need to see my dentist?
Maybe. You should consider having a canker sore checked if you’ve never had one before. It’s also a good idea to have a dentist check any sore that has not healed in a week or two or that is painful enough to interfere with activities of daily life, like eating, drinking, or talking. Your dentist will want to help you treat any sores effectively so you are as comfortable as possible and have the best possible outcome.