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What are canker sores

Canker sores or aphthous ulcers are shallow ulcerations, yellow, red or white, which appear inside the mouth- on the tongue, inside the cheeks, on the gums and on the palate. They are usually very painful, especially when eating or drinking.

These sores look like little craters on the mucous lining of the mouth. They can appear anywhere inside the mouth but they are commonly found on the movable parts, such as inner lips, cheeks and tongue.

Canker sores are relatively common and they are believe to affect about 20% of all people. Anyone can have these sores but they are more common in women then in men. They also seem to affect teenagers more than older people. Some studies suggest that susceptibility to canker sores may be inherited.

Types of canker sores

Three main types of canker sores are minor, major and herpetiform sores or ulcers. Minor canker sores are the most common type and they measure from one to ten millimeters. They usually go away within a week or so. Major canker sores are bigger and take more time to heal, up to one month. They sometimes leaves scars after healing. Herpetiform ulcers are in fact clusters of several smaller ulcers. They heal within seven to ten days.

Symptoms of canker sores

The most common parts of the mouth that are affected by canker sores are the movable parts, such as the lining of the lips and cheeks, base of the gums and tongue. At first, canker sores look like small reddish swellings that burst within a day. After they burst, the crater is covered by a thin yellowish or white membrane and surrounded by a red halo. If they are touched or if a piece of food gets inside, the sores may bleed.

Canker sores are painful to touch, which makes eating and drinking painful and uncomfortable.

Treatment for canker sores

Canker sores can go away on their own within several days or weeks, depending on their type. During the healing time, it is recommended to avoid eating or drinking spicy, acidic and hot foods and beverages. Sipping ice-cold drinks, chewing on ice chips or eating popsicles can provide some relief.

It is also recommended to rinse the mouth several times a day, using medicated mouthwashes that can be purchased without prescription in drugstores and pharmacies. Applying the paste made from baking soda and water, directly on the canker sores, can also help. Some people use saline solution or diluted hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash too.

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