How to Treat and Prevent a Canker Sore

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Everyone who has had a canker sore knows how uncomfortable they can be. At Michael P. Giovannini DDS Family Dental, we want to help you understand what canker sores are and how can you treat them.

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores are small, shallow lesions in your mouth, lips, or at the base of your gums that can be quite painful. Unlike cold sores, canker sores do not occur on the surface of your lips and aren’t contagious. Anyone can be affected by canker sores, but they are more common in teens and young adults, and particularly in women. There are three types of canker sores:

  • Minor: Small, oval-shaped sores that usually heal in about one to two weeks.
  • Major: These sores are often larger than minor sores and have deeper, irregular edges. The healing process can take up to six weeks and can produce scarring.
  • Herpetiform: People usually develop these sores later in life. They are about the size of a pinpoint with irregular edges and appear in a cluster with anywhere from 10 to 100 sores. They heal in about one to two weeks.


The exact cause of most canker sores is not known, but there are a number of things that can trigger an outbreak such as stress; food sensitives; a diet lacking in vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron; toothpastes and rinses that contain sodium lauryl sulfate; an allergy to bacteria in your mouth; hormones; and even the sharp surface of a dental appliance. Canker sores can also be caused by medical conditions such as HIV, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease.


For minor canker sores, patients often do not need treatment because these sores clear up on their own. If you have more persistent or painful sores, make an appointment with us and we can determine the best treatment for you.

For more aggressive sores, we may recommend a prescription mouth rinse containing the steroid dexamethasone or over-the-counter topical products such as pastes and creams that can alleviate your pain while accelerating the healing process if applied early on. Other treatment options include prescription oral medications or cauterization, which chemically burns the tissue of the sore.


Although there is no cure for canker sores, there are a few things you can do to reduce how frequently you get them. You can try to prevent canker sores by avoiding foods that irritate your mouth like spicy foods, acidic fruits, and salty snacks. Choose healthy foods to help prevent nutritional deficiencies that may cause canker sore outbreaks. Maintaining good oral hygiene can also help keep the canker sores at bay.

At Michael P. Giovannini DDS Family Dental, we are dedicated to making you comfortable and providing you with quality care. You should come in and see us if you have canker sores that last more than two weeks, frequent outbreaks, difficulty eating and drinking, you’re running a fever, or you are in a lot of pain. Give us a call or contact us through our website. We want to help!