Canker sores, which should not be mistaken for cancer, are benign and small ulcers inside the mouth. They are usually very sensitive, tender and painful and as such they make it difficult to eat, drink or even speak.
Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers or aphthous stomatitis, are very common. It is estimated that 20% of all people have had canker sores once in their life.
About chronic canker sores
These ulcers tend to reoccur, which is called chronic canker sores. Chronic canker sores are more typical for women than for men. They are also more common in teenagers.
There are three basic types of canker sores. Minor canker sores, major sores and herpetiform ulcers, which form clusters.
Canker sores usually go away spontaneously after ten to 14 days. During that time, it helps to avoid very salty, sour or spicy foods that irritate the lining of the mouth. It is also recommended to brush the teeth very gently and to use saline solution as a mouthwash. There are many natural remedies and over-the-counter solutions that can speed up the healing process.
Symptoms of canker sores
Canker sores can be found anywhere inside the mouth, but they are particularly common on those parts that can move, such as the tongue and the inside of the lips. They may also develop on the inside lining of the cheeks, on the roof of the mouth and on the gums.
The ulcers are first in shape of red, oval or round swellings. Those swellings burst within a day or two, forming a crater coated with white or yellow layer, with red edges, like a halo. The ulcers go away after no more than two weeks and they do not leave a scar. However, in chronic form of this condition, the ulcers soon come back, at the same or at a different place.
Canker sores, even the chronic ones, are rarely associated with another condition. Aside from the ulcers, there are no other symptoms.
Chronic canker sores usually start appearing between the ages 10 and 20. The frequency of recurrence varies from person to person. Some people have canker sores once or twice a year, while other may suffer from them each month.
Causes of canker sores
It is not completely clear what exactly causes canker sores. They do not seem to be infectious, although some bacteria can trigger their development. Some experts believe that food allergies have something to do with canker sores, while others associate them faulty immune system. Emotional stress, nutritional deficiencies, injury to the mouth and hormonal changes are also considered by some to be factors when it comes to canker sores.