For most people, canker sore treatment options can be easily concocted by simply opening your kitchen cupboard or medicine cabinet. Fortunately, in most cases treatment by a medical professional isn’t necessary. These small ulcers that can appear inside the mouth can cause considerably pain but they are not dangerous. Most sores will heal by themselves within 7-10 days, but while they are present they can be quite aggravating.
Here are a few treatments you can try at home that may make your feel more comfortable, reduce the pain and help speed up the healing process:
- You can find a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines at the drugstore that may help relieve the pain of canker sores. One commonly used is Gly-Oxide, which is a combination of peroxide and glycerine. The peroxide cleans the sore while the glycerine coats and soothes it. OTC products containing numbing ingredients such as benzocaine may also help. The downside is that they require frequent application and you may feel a burning or stinging sensation upon application. However, they can take the edge off the pain by numbing the area and may help the sore to heal a little faster.
- A very popular treatment that seems to work involved a mixture of milk of magnesia and Benadryl Liquid Allergy Medicine (get the children’s formula without alcohol). Mix a small amount of the two ingredients and gently swab them on your sore with a Q-tip. The milk of magnesia coats and protects while the Benadryl reduces the inflammation and the pain.
- Make your own homemade mouthwash. One popular recipe is a mixture of two ounces of hydrogen peroxide and two ounces of water. Alternatively, combine four ounces of water with 1 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda. Swirl the mixture in your mouth for approx a minute and then spit it out. Do this up to four times a day and be sure not to swallow any of it
- Combine equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide and with a cotton swab apply apply the mixture directly to the canker sore. Next dab a small amount of Milk of Magnesia on the sore. You can use this treatment three to four times a day. In addition to soothing the pain, it may speed healing.
- Bee Propolis is one of my favorites because of its natural healing and antibiotic properties. Canker-Rid, from Durham Bee Farms, a very popular product containing bee propolis that really helps relive the pain and promote healing. After drying out your mouth with a tissue dab a little Canker Rid on your ulcer and the pain should soon disappear.
- Some health care professionals recommend putting a wet black tea bag on the canker sores. The tannin in black tea may provide some pain relief.
In-Office Dental Treatments
Laser Treatment – Laser treatments, done by a dentist, have been found to be very effective in treating canker sores and bring immediate and lasting pain relief. The mouth ulcer usually heals in 24-72 hours.
Another highly effective in-office dental treatment, Debacterol, also brings fast relief and quick healing. This is an acidic substance that chemically cauterizes the ulcer surface and covers the painful nerve endings.
While treatment by a doctor isn’t necessary in most cases, large or unusually painful ulcers that persist may need medical attention. Typical prescription canker sore treatments range from topical medicines and special mouthwashes to systemic corticosteroids.
Mouth rinse – If you have several canker sores your doctor may prescribe a chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash or a mouth rinse with dexamethasone to reduce the inflammation and pain.
Topical Paste – Most frequently prescribed is fluocinonide gel (Lidex) or a topical corticosteroid preparation such as triamcinolone dental paste, which is applied directly to the lesions and may help relieve pain and speed healing. If you are using a topical medication you should blot the area dry with a tissue first. With a cotton swab, apply a small amount of the medicine to the ulcer. To make sure that it doesn’t get washed away, avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes after application.
Oral Steroid Medications – If you are not responding to treatment or have severe, recurrent canker sores, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids (prednisone-type drugs), which are strong anti-inflammatory medicines. However, these drugs can have side-effects and should therefore only be used as a last resort when sores do not respond to other treatment options.
When to See a Doctor
If your canker sores are still not healing after a couple of weeks, if they keep coming back, or if you feel ill, you should check with your doctor or dentist. Your doctor may want to screen you for other conditions such as an immune system problem, a vitamin deficiency or a food allergy. There are blood tests available that may help determine an underlying issue.
In most cases, a home-made or over-the-counter canker sore treatment will do the trick. Keep in mind that while they can be extremely uncomfortable, canker sores are usually just a minor annoyance that you can easily treat at home and they will go away.