It’s often not the sight of a canker sore that alerts you to its presence. These small, tender mouth sores are often discovered when eating or drinking something acidic or when brushing along the gumline. For some patients, an outbreak of cankers sores is a regular occurrence — spurred on by certain diet triggers or from continued bouts of stress. Identifying the cause of aphthous ulcers (canker sores) can be challenging as food choices, medications, lifestyle, trauma to the mouth, allergies, and hormones can all be factors in causing an outbreak. Monitoring frequency and noting any dietary or lifestyle influences can help reduce outbreaks and minimize any associated discomfort.
Signs and Symptoms Associated with Canker Sores
The primary sign of a canker sore is a small, whitish grey sore that can appear on any soft tissue within the mouth. Several things differentiate canker sores from cold sores. Primarily that canker sores aren’t contagious, and they only appear on the inside of the mouth — unlike cold sores which usually occur on the outside of lips, on the chin, and sometimes around the nose. If you’ve noticed a sore on the inside of your lips or cheeks, or on gum tissue, chances are high that you’re dealing with a canker sore. Symptoms associated with these ulcers can vary from patient to patient with most individuals reporting mild pain and discomfort from the ulcer, possibly swollen lymph nodes, and general tiredness. These signs tell you that your body’s immune system is hard at work healing the sore. Another big difference is that, unlike a cold sore which is viral in nature, a canker sore is neither viral nor bacterial, but it can sometimes be the result of an autoimmune response.
Living with Canker Sores
The first rule-of-thumb is not to stress about the occasional canker sore as stress is a known trigger. Avoiding foods that you know bring on an outbreak is recommended. Acidic foods have always had a bad reputation for irritating oral tissue, causing sores to develop and slowing their healing from constant re-exposure to the irritant. Staying away from tomatoes, citrus, and vinegars while a sore is present will help to reduce further irritation and speed healing. The ingredient sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, which is present in many types of toothpastes, can also cause canker sores – especially if a person is already sensitive to this chemical. Switching to a toothpaste that is SLS free can be a great start in controlling the frequency and duration of chronic canker sores.