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Canker sore - aphthous ulcers (aphthae)
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Canker sore - aphthous ulcers (aphthae)

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A canker sore appears as a round white spot with a red border. That's what canker sores are like for people who experience them. These shallow ulcers in your mouth can make eating and talking uncomfortable. They may occur on your tongue, on your soft palate, inside your cheeks or lips, and at the base of your gums.

Canker sores differ from cold sores in that they occur in the soft tissues of your mouth and aren't contagious. Conversely, cold sores rarely develop in the soft tissues of your mouth and are extremely contagious because they're caused by the herpes virus.

Canker sores are common, but the cause in many cases is unknown. Canker sores can occur at any age, but often first appear when you are between 10 and 40 years of age.

Often, treatment isn't necessary. Pain often decreases after several days, and canker sores usually heal within one to three weeks. Occasionally, severe canker sores can develop that are larger than 1 centimeter in diameter or last longer than two weeks or both. 

Self-care 

The following practices may provide temporary relief of canker sores:

  • Avoid abrasive, acidic or spicy foods, which may increase the pain.

  • Apply ice to your canker sores or allow ice chips to slowly dissolve over the sores to ease the pain.

  • Brush your teeth carefully using a very soft brush to avoid irritating the sore.

  • Rinse your mouth with salt water or over-the-counter preparations. Try diluted hydrogen peroxide or elixir of diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Banophen). Be sure to spit the Benadryl out so that the medication doesn't make you sleepy.

  • Dab a small amount of milk of magnesia on your canker sore a few times a day. This can ease the pain and may help the canker sore to heal.

  • Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). But don't give aspirin to children. Aspirin may trigger a rare but potentially fatal disorder known as Reye's syndrome.

 

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/14/08 07:16 PM