Canker sores and cold sores are often confused for each other. However, they are not the same.
Canker sores are also known as mouth ulcers and they are not contagious. A canker sore is a shallow painful, open sore you might get on the inside of your lips, the insides of your cheeks, the base of your gums or under your tongue. Canker sores are white or yellow and surrounded by a bright red area. Sometimes they may have a white coating over them. The first symptom is usually a tingling or burning sensation that you feel before other symptoms develop.
Anyone can get canker sores but they occur in women more often than men. They may occur at any age, but usually first appear between the ages of 10 and 40. Doctors don't know what causes canker sores, but they can be triggered by emotional stress, dietary deficiencies (iron, folic acid, or vitamin B-12), menstrual periods, hormonal changes, or food allergies.
Unfortunately, doctors don't know of anything that prevents canker sores from forming. However, using a toothpaste that does not contain SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) may help reduce mouth irritation. If you have a canker sore, you should not eat hot or spicy foods.
In most cases, the canker sores go away by themselves. For pain relief, you can try taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Other medicines, such as Anbesol, Orajel, Orabase and Zilactin-B, might keep your canker sores from becoming irritated by eating, drinking or brushing your teeth.
The easiest home remedy is a mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water. Use a cotton swab to apply the mixture directly to the canker sore. Then, dab a small amount of Milk of Magnesia on the canker sore, three to four times a day. This is soothing and may also help it heal.
Another home remedy is to mix half Milk of Magnesia and half Benadryl liquid allergy medicine. Swish this mixture in your mouth for about 1 minutes, then spit it out. If you do this every 4 to 6 hours, your canker sores may hurt less. Other treatments for more severe cases include applying fluocinonide gel (Lidex) or chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash. Powerful anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids are sometimes used.
Some people think that sucking on zinc lozenges, taking vitamin C or vitamin B complex, using a sage-and-chamomile mouthwash or taking a lysine supplement helps their canker sores heal faster.
If your canker sores are large, last longer than 2 weeks or are so sore that you can't eat or drink, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. You should make an appointment with your doctor, too, if you also have a fever or feel sick when you have canker sores. Tell your doctor if you have canker sores more than 3 times a year.
Anastasia L. Turchetta RDH, www.AnastasiaRDH.com, http://twitter.com/AnastasiaRDH
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MC Ortega is a senior communications and messaging executive specializing in media relations, social media, program development and crisis communications. Ortega is the former publicist for the late Walter Payton and Coca-Cola. Also, Ortega is an avid traveler and international shopper. Ortega resides with her partner, Craig, dog, Fionne and extensive shoe collection. Ortega also enjoys jewelry design/production and flamenco dancing.