Canker Sores Symptoms, Causes, Home Remedies

women with canker sore

Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums. Unlike cold sores, canker sores don’t occur on the surface of your lips and they aren’t contagious. They can be painful, however, and can make eating and talking difficult.



You may have a canker sore if you have:

  • A painful sore or sores inside your mouth — on the tongue, on the soft palate (the back portion of the roof of your mouth), or inside your cheeks
  • A tingling or burning sensation before the sores appear
  • Sores in your mouth that are round, white or gray, with a red edge or border


In severe canker sore attacks, you may also experience:

  • Fever
  • Physical sluggishness
  • Swollen lymph nodes



The cause of most canker sores is not well understood, and multiple factors may cause sores to appear. Some possible causes of canker sores include the following:

  • Injury to the mouth may cause simple canker sores. Injury could be from vigorous tooth brushing, dental work, braces or dentures, or a sports accident.
  • Acidic foods, including citrus fruits, may trigger a canker sore or make it worse.
  • Food sensitivities or allergies (anything from highly acidic foods to chocolate and coffee)
  • Diets low in vitamins B12, zinc, folate (folic acid), or iron
  • Toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Allergy to certain bacteria in the mouth
  • Hormones
  • Emotional stress
  • Smoking
  • Gastrointestinal tract diseases such as Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease
  • Autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus or Behçet’s disease
  • Other immune system weakness such as a cold or the flu, HIV/AIDS, or an organ transplan
  • Systemic conditions such as Crohn’s disease or nutritional deficiencie
  • Oral cancer


Certain drugs may cause canker sores, including:

  • Aspirin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Oral nicotine
  • Chemotherapy medicines
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Penicillamine
  • Sulfa drugs
  • Phenytoin
  • Anticholinergic bronchodilators
  • Platelet aggregation inhibitors
  • Vasodilators
  • Protease inhibitors
  • Antibiotics
  • Antiretrovirals
  • Antihypertensives



Baking Soda

Baking soda is an alkaline and will neutralize acids that irritate the canker sore; it also helps kill bacteria to help your sore heal quickly.


Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is an effective natural remedy for canker sores. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and curative properties that help ease the pain and inflammation as well as speed up the healing process.


Milk of Magnesia

Sip a small amount and use it as a mouth rinse, making sure to rinse the canker sore itself. This treatment takes advantage of milk of magnesia’s antacid properties, neutralizing the acids in the mouth that cause your canker sore to sting.



Coriander is one of the best ingredients for treating a canker sore. It contains anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antifungal properties that can effectively help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with canker sores.


Tea Bags

Tea is an alkaline, so it will neutralize acids that irritate the sore; tea also contains compounds that may help relieve pain.



Honey is an extremely soothing substance and has antiseptic as well as antibacterial properties.



Sage kills bacteria and viruses, and contains compounds that reduce inflammation. Steep 2 teaspoons of dried sage in a cup of boiling water, covered.



Salt will help draw the fluid from a canker sore and also speed up the healing process.


Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a strong disinfectant and will protect your canker sore from becoming infected. Use hydrogen peroxide the same way you would use mouthwash, making sure not to swallow any of the liquid.


Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that work as effective skin disinfectants to help cure canker sores.



Munch a chewable Pepto-Bismol, Tums, or Rolaids tablet or put it on the sore and allow it to dissolve. The pain you feel from a canker sore is caused by acids and digestive enzymes eating into the tissue in the sore, and the tablets will neutralize the acids to help cure the sore. Check the label for dosage directions.


Cayenne Pepper

Another ingredient commonly used in the treatment of canker sores is cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin that can temporarily numb the nerves, giving instant relief from the pain and inflammation.


Licorice Tea

Sold in most health-food stores, licorice tea is an excellent home remedy to treat and eliminate canker sores. Use one tea bag per cup of boiling water and step, covered for 10 minutes, then drink.



Onions contain sulfur that helps heal canker sores and reduce pain and inflammation.


Vitamin E

Cut open a vitamin E capsule and squeeze a bit of the liquid onto the sore. The oil will coat the sore to help protect it from infection and help it cure it more quickly.

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