Aphthous ulcers or canker sores, era lesions that develop on the soft tissues of your mouth such as lips, inside of your cheek, tongue and also the gums. They are usually small and shallow, and unlike cold sores, they are not contagious and they are not located on the outside area of the lips.
However, they can be quite painful and annoying, and make eating or talking difficult. They usually go away in within a week or two.
What do they look and feel like?
In the majority of cases, canker sores are round or oval shaped lesions with a white or yellowish center with a bright red border. They occur inside your mouth, which is why eating, brushing your teeth or talking can become a painful experience.
Some people report feeling a burning or tingling sensation in the area a couple of days before the sores do appear. Canker sores have more than one type, but the most common ones include minor, major and herpetiform sores.
- Minor Canker Sores: these are the most common of them all, and they are normally small, oval or round with a red edge and they heal without leaving a scar in about one or two weeks.
- Major Canker Sores: these are larger and deeper than the minor canker sores, they can be round and have defined borders, however, if it too big, the edges can the irregular. They are extremely painful and can leave extensive scarring after they heal, which can take as long as six weeks.
- Herpetiformcanker Sores: herpetiform canker sores are the least common of these three and they usually occur later in life, but despite the name, they are not caused by the herpes virus. They are very small, almost pinpoint and they form in clusters, going from ten to up to one hundred and they sometimes merge to form one large ulcer. They have irregular edges and they heal without leaving a scar within two weeks.
What causes canker sores?
While the exact cause is still not clear, there are a few factors that researchers think can contribute to canker sore outbreaks. Some of these factors include:
- Trauma to the tissues of the mouth, sometimes caused by dental work, sports accidents, brushing too hard or accidentally biting on your cheek, tongue or lip and tearing the tissue.
- Some toothpastes and mouthwash that have sodium lauryl sulfate.
- Food sensitivities, for example to chocolate, strawberries, coffee, nuts, eggs, cheese, spicy or acidic food.
- Bad eating habits that doesn’t have enough amounts of certain nutrients, like vitamin B-12, zinc, iron or folic acid.
- Hormonal changes.
- A bacteria that is known to also cause peptic ulcers called Helicobacter pylori.
They can also be one of many symptoms of certain diseases and conditions:
- Celiac disease.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases.
- Behcet’s disease.
- A defective immune system that attacks healthy cells and tissues in your mouth.
For minor canker sores, treatment isn’t usually required. They normally heal on their own within a week or two. However, if the sore is too large and persistent or too painful, they might need medical care.
Your dentist will prescribe a course of treatment depending on your case, and it can include mouth rinses that contain dexamethasone or lidocaine, topical products that you apply directly on the ulcer and in some cases oral medication.