While this isn’t directly digestion related, I am here with a terrible pain in my mouth due to the evils of oral sores(may also be called canker sores) & it’s kinda the only thing on my mind right now. Not only do I have one sore, but I actually have two, on top of having two sores, they are both on my tongue! Normally I do not get sores on my tongue, but I guess I am just super lucky this time around. I thought I was getting over the one on the back-bottom of my tongue, only to accidentally bite down on my the front of my tongue, causing another sore to form. So instead of hearing about my woes, let’s get down to some basics and try to think of solutions to these sores, as I am sure if you’ve dealt with them, you already know that they’re a pain in the but… mouth…

What is an Oral/Canker Sore?

To put it bluntly, a sore is essentially an open wound that forms usually as a reaction to something. It actually seems to be worse than a cut or a gash caused by physical trauma(although physical trauma can lead up to a sore) because the interior of the sore is ultra sensitive & unlike wounds, they take their sweet sweet time to heal.

What causes an Oral/Canker Sore to form?

This is a good question, there is no definitive answer. There are illnesses/diseases that can cause sores, most notably people think of herpes. Just because you get oral sores, does not mean you have herpes. This association with herpes has lead to a stigma regarding oral sores which may prevent people from openly discussing it.

Other things that can cause sores are allergic reactions to things like toothpaste or mouthwash, auto-immune disorders, physical trauma or stress.

What are the symptoms?

Usually a person developing a sore will have mild soreness at a certain area, with redness. Usually sores start as a tiny red dot. This dot may tingle or even have an ‘itch’ to it. It may also taste somewhat metallic. As the sore develops the dot gets bigger and usually a ridge forms around the outer edge of the sore. The interior might develop a white film on it. If pressure is applied to the edges of the sore, it may start to bleed.

Usually pain is mild at first, however as the sore becomes bigger, it’s sensitivity increases dramatically. This leads to the sore progressively becoming more painful until pain levels peak for a few days and then the sore starts to heal, reducing in size and pain levels.

This entire process usually takes between 7 – 14 days, though it could be more or less depending on your situation.

How do you prevent oral sores?

While there is no 100% sure fire way to prevent oral sores, there are some things you can do that may help:

  • Try to reduce stress. This is something that would help the world in general. The problem is that the world can be a stressful place. I always feel that this suggestion almost puts blame on the sufferer. It is true that stress can lead to sores. Stress puts strain on the the immune system & in some cases the sores may be caused by an immune system related.
  • Get proper sleep. Another basic, that is easily said, not always easily implemented. This is a valid way of reducing stress. Try turning in a bit earlier so you are getting a full 7 – 8hrs each night.
  • Proper oral hygiene. Keeping a proper oral hygiene regimen can be very helpful. Try to find a toothpaste & mouthwash that works best for you. It has been suggested that the ingredient “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” can lead to canker sores, but this hasn’t been definitively proven. You could try Tom’s of Maine SLS Free Natural Toothpaste. I seem to have better luck with anti-septic alcohol based mouthwashes than the alternative alcohol free ones. Your mileage may vary though.
  • Get a mouth guard. Some people have reported that grinding their teeth at night exacerbates the problem. Getting a well fitted mouth guard from your dentist can help. These are not cheap though.
  • Supplement Lysine, Glutamine & Vitamin A*. Lysine & Glutamine are amino acids which are helpful with regards to healing. Lysine, has been shown in some cases to help with healing of sores. By taking them as part of a supplement routine you may be able to help prevent sores from forming. *Vitamin A is helpful with healing the skin, however most people get enough Vitamin A in their basic diets. Too much Vitamin A can be bad for you. I’d only suggest supplementing it if you already have a sore or know you’re lacking in Vitamin A.

What should I do at the onset of an Oral sore?

  • Start taking Lysine/Glutamine supplements.
  • Be extra diligent with your oral hygiene. If you’ve been slacking time to kick it into high gear. You can try some of the rinses suggested below. This doesn’t mean being brutal with your gums though! ;)
  • Avoid acidic foods. Not only can they be painful, but they may irritate and promote the sore to become larger.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is healing, especially for conditions where the body may be attacking itself. You may find yourself more tired when dealing with a sore as well, so this may not be hard. Indulge yourself and take those cat-naps or sleep-in.
  • Get a treatment option via prescription for either Kenalog(Triamcinolone, a steriod) in Orabase paste or Debacterol(chemical cauterizing & band-aid agent). Keep in mind that regular Orabase does NOT contain any steroid.  If you can’t see/afford a doctor, try ORA5. You might want to order these before you start to develop a sore as they could take some time to arrive in the mail or get from a pharmacy.

How do you treat an oral sore after it’s formed?

You can still try any of the above. I would strongly suggest keeping up with the Lysine, Glutamine & possibly the Vitamin A supplementation. Getting a prescription option like Kenalog in Orabase or Debacterol would definitely be of benefit, or ORA5 if you can’t get to a doctor. There are some other things you can try though.

Oral Rinses:

Keeping a clean mouth, reduces germs in the mouth which could further irritate the sore. This is especially important after a meal.

  • Mouthwash. I’d suggest an anti-septic mouthwash.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide. Mix equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide.
  • An Oral Wound Cleanser such as Amosan.
  • Salt rinse. Two teaspoons salt to one cup of warm water.

Pain Relief:

  • Menthol Throat Drops, preferably one that does not contain a citrus flavor. These worked surprisingly well at curbing the pain. Better than the Benzocaine which seemed to wear off after only a few minutes.
  • Benzocaine is found in many products. Similar to novocaine, it has a numbing affect. It can be a bit painful to put on at first. Some products have a bad flavor to them. Supposedly Orabase is pretty good. I don’t like how Ambesol tastes, plus it has a tendency to get all over your mouth and make random spots numb.
  • Canker Sore Covers are gel like patches that you can stick over dissolves over the sore and protects it, hopefully preventing pain.
  • Some suggested remedies “work” by overstimulating the nerves, thus they get “worn out” and the pain subsides temporarily because of this. So something that seems like it “works” may really just be irritating the sore and causing this reaction. Just keep that in mind. :)

Alternative Remedies:

There are some alternative remedies that I’ve read on the web which I am not quite sure about, but are here for your information.

  • Alum is a substance which you might find in the spice aisle of your local supermarket. It is suggested to roll a wet q-tip in Alum and then firmly press the q-tip against the sore. Alum looks to be an acidic compound which I think could possibly irritate.
  • Raisins. Some one suggested splitting open a raisin and placing it on the sore. Not sure how that’s going to help???
  • Silver Nitrate. This is an antimicrobial, it is also destructive to mucous membranes. Prolonged use or in high doses could be bad for your health.
  • Beeswax or cocoa oil. I don’t know enough about these, but I guess wax could form a seal around the the sore. It is very stiff though and I don’t want to be dragging something with the properties of a crayon across an open sore.

Hopefully this has been of some help, if you have any tips or remedies. Please, do leave a comment :)!