Mouth sores or canker sores are painful lesions in the mouth. They often occur in children and are usually harmless and temporary. Although not serious, it can give varying degrees of discomfort and
inconvenience. It can interfere with eating, drinking as well as brushing. When the sore is severe, it can even cause difficulty in speaking. There are different types of mouth sores:


  • Minor – simple canker sores that are smaller than an inch, usually healed with a week or
  • Major – irregularly shaped ulcers bigger than half an inch. Often seen in
    immunocompromised patients. May take more than two weeks to heal and leave scar tissue
  • Herpetiform canker sores – small clusters lesions, sometimes by the dozen, appearing in
    just one area.


Signs and symptoms of mouth sores

Mouth sores appear as round or oval lesions in your mouth. They are white, gray, or yellow in appearance with red margin. You will initially develop a tingling, sometimes burning sensation where the mouth sore begins to form. Areas where they usually appear are:

  • On the top surface or tip of your tongue.
  • On the floor of your mouth, sometimes at the base of your tongue.
  • Your inner cheek or lips
  • On your gums

Some experience fever before and during the development of the canker sore. Fever is usually low grade and will resolve itself in a day or two. On extreme cases, you may experience sluggishness or swollen lymph nodes.


What causes canker sores?


It’s not known what causes mouth sores to develop. However, several risk factors speed up their development.

  • Trauma – this can be in the form of severe brushing, abrasion from orthodontic braces, poorly fitted dentures, or accidental biting in your mouth.
  • Infection
  • Stress – often seen in teens and usually resolve in a couple of weeks.
  • Hormonal changes
  • Allergy
  • Acidic food and drinks
  • Vitamin deficiency – particularly Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, iron, folate, and zinc
  • Toothpaste and oral rinses
  • Burns from hot food and beverages
  • Acid reflux
  • Viral infections
  • Compromised immune system
  • Smoking as well as stopping smoking
  • Poor oral hygiene


How is mouth sore diagnosed?

A simple routine oral inspection of your mouth is enough to diagnose mouth sores. Your dentist will also asses your medical history and ask questions pertaining to your health and lifestyle. If the lesion is suspicious, your dentist will request for imaging tests and biopsy to rule out malignancy or cancer.

Mouth sores treatment

Mouth sores usually resolve on their own without any intervention from your 24-hour dental clinic. However, there are ways to help hasten their healing time.

Avoid touching it!

Mouth sores usually resolve on their own without any intervention from your 24-hour dental clinic. However, there are ways to help hasten their healing time.

Rinse with warm salty water

Salt water is a proven antiseptic and often what’s good for mouth sores. Warm up a bit of water and add salt. Your rinse should taste salty without causing stinging your sore. Do not cut corners by rubbing salt on the mouth sore. This will only make your sore worse. Rinse your mouth 2-3 times
daily until the sore is healed.

Use anti-inflammatory pain meds

NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) help ease down the swelling and provide canker sore relief. Follow your dentist’s recommendations on how to use NSAID’s. These are typically taken every 4-6 hours depending on how painful and tender your canker sore is.

Keep a healthy diet

Eat high nutritious food to boost your immune system and help your body cope with mouth sore. If you are taking immunosuppressant drugs, it is advised that you talk with your doctor about what to do with your prescription. The doctor may recommend a different drug or change the dose.

Lifestyle modification

Mouth sores treatment is often geared towards what precipitated its appearance. You may need some stress management techniques to prevent it from recurring. Dietary changes may be required, and that means sacrificing your favorite spicy or hot food.

Maintain good oral hygiene

Brushing and flossing can help reduce the incidence of mouth sores and even help improve healing time. Brush gently with soft-bristled toothbrush to lessen the trauma. Use your dentist-recommended anti-microbial mouthwash to help reduce the risk of infection. Make sure to keep your dental appointments, especially if you have a history of recurring mouth ulcers.

Most mouth sores are treatable and easy to manage. However, you do need to see your 24-hour dental clinic again if:


  • The sore does not heal after 14 days – mouth sores often go away even when you leave them alone. It’s a concern if the lesion is still there after a week or two. There may be an infection or a more serious health issue.
  • It keeps coming back in more frequent, shorter intervals – canker sores often recur, but they sometimes take weeks or months before it comes back. If you notice that the sore keeps coming back between shorter intervals (i.e., three outbreaks in a month) talk to your dentist.
  • The sore increases in size but the underlying tissue is numb – mouth sores are
    uncomfortable because of exposed nerves. Numbness means the nerves beneath are damaged.
  • The lesions are rough and hard – mouth sores are soft, smooth lesions. A rough and hardmass means you are dealing with more than just a simple sore.
  • There is the presence of bleeding and/or foul-smelling ooze– mouth sores are superficial lesions. If there is bleeding or yellowish ooze coming out of your sore, there may be an infection that caused the ulcer to ooze and bleed.
  • The ulcer is spreading – Ulcers often develop in just one area. Spreading or increasing in size means growing severity or development of a different condition.