Canker sores are small, shallow sores inside the mouth or at the base of the gums. Although small, they can bring about a lot of pain and irritation. They are easy to care for at home, but sometimes you should see a doctor. We at Mira have compiled a list of home remedies to heal your canker sores.
Home Remedies for Canker Sores
More minor canker sores will usually go away within a week or two. However, home remedies may help alleviate pain or irritation and quickly heal the canker sores. Canker sores are understudied, so it is essential to use these home remedies cautiously. If you have any questions, you should call your doctor.
Antiseptic mouthwashes use ingredients that help to prevent infections that can cause plaque buildup and gum disease. They help clean the area where your canker sores are and further prevent germs from spreading and worsening your canker sore. Alcohol can irritate your sore, so you will want to avoid using mouthwash that contains alcohol.
Baking Soda Rinse
Baking soda is said to help reduce inflammation. The steps for a baking soda rinse include:
- Dissolve (~1 tsp) baking soda in a 1/2 cup of water
- Swish the solution around in your mouth for about 30 seconds
- Spit out the solution
- Repeat every few hours as needed
Salt Water Rinse
Rinsing your mouth may help dry out your canker sores. However, itʻll likely be a little painful when the salt hits your canker sores. To complete a salt water rinse:
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon (tsp.) of salt in 1/2 cup of warm water
- Swirl this solution in your mouth for 15 to 30 seconds, then spit it out
- Repeat every few hours as needed
Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse
It is important that you do not swallow the hydrogen peroxide when completing this rinse. Hydrogen peroxide can minimize the bacteria in your mouth while reducing pain and inflammation associated with the canker sore. Steps include:
- Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with one part water.
- Gargle the solution
- Rinse out your mouth with water
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Coconut oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. They may be useful in treating canker sores while also preventing them from spreading. To use coconut oil for canker sores:
- Apply a generous amount of coconut oil to the sore(s)
- Reapply several times per day
One study investigated the effects of echinacea on the treatment of canker sores. Their results showed that Echinacea tablets as an herbal medicine positively affected the number of "lesions, the intensity of pain, complete improvement and recurrence rate in patients." You can also try liquid echinacea by following these steps:
- Mix equal parts liquid echinacea to warm water
- Swish the solution around your mouth for a few minutes
- Spit out or swallow the mixture
Milk of Magnesia
Milk of magnesia is an acid neutralizer and a laxative. Milk of magnesia is said to change the pH in your mouth so that your canker sore cannot thrive. Additionally, it coats the sore to help prevent irritation and relieve pain. To use milk of magnesia for canker sores, follow these steps:
- Apply a small amount of milk of magnesia on the sore
- Let it sit for a few seconds
- Repeat up to three times daily
Applying, or chewing on ice, can significantly reduce pain and inflammation associated with your canker sore. Sucking on ice chips can also help temporarily numb the area around the sore.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Products
These gels can be beneficial in reducing irritation caused by sores. You'll want an OTC topical gel specific for oral lesions. Look for active ingredients such as benzocaine and lidocaine. Additionally, some OTC throat lozenges have been shown to reduce pain associated with canker sores. Some common OTC products include Orajel, Cepacol Sore Throat, and OTC benzocaine and lidocaine topical gels.
About Canker Sores
The leading cause of canker sores is minor injuries to the mouth, such as bites on the cheek from sports or dental accidents. It's also possible to be caused by reactions from specific bacteria in the mouth, hormonal changes due to the menstrual cycle, or even stress. Canker sores appear as small white or yellow center sores with a red border.
Although canker sores will usually go away on their own, you should see a doctor if you experience:
- Unusually large canker sores
- Recurring sores
- Sores lasting two weeks or more
- Sores that extend into the lips themselves
- Extreme difficulty eating or drinking
- High fever along with canker sores
Source: Mayo Clinic
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Frequently Asked Questions About Canker Sore Home Remedies
Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding canker sores and home remedies.
How Can I Prevent Canker Sores?
You can reduce your likelihood of getting canker sores in a few ways. Although these are not 100% preventative, they can significantly reduce their frequency. These include:
- Avoiding foods that can irritate your mouth due to allergies or sensitivity such as spicy, salty, or extra acidic foods (e.g., chips, pretzels, nuts, pineapple, oranges, and grapefruit).
- Practicing good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing daily
- Reducing your stress levels
- If you have braces or other dental appliances, protect your mouth with orthodontic wax to cover sharp edges
How Can I Heal A Canker Sore Fast?
There is no proven way to heal canker sores quickly, but to ensure proper healing, it is recommended to:
- Avoid foods that are abrasive, acidic, spicy
- Applying ice
- Reduce your stress levels to promote healing
Can I Brush a Canker Sore?
No, brushing the canker sore can make it worse as you can irritate the affected area. You still want to brush your teeth daily, but a way to help is by using non-foaming toothpaste and by avoiding toothpaste and mouthwashes containing sodium lauryl sulfate.
When Should I Seek Out Professional Medical Care?
You should seek professional medical care when your canker sores are much larger, persistent, or unusually painful. Your doctor may recommend a variety of treatments such as:
- Prescription mouth rinses
- Topical products
- Oral Medications
- Cauterization of the sores
- Nutritional Supplements
Canker sores are common mouth sores and can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. Luckily, you can use several home remedies to reduce pain and inflammation and promote the healing of your canker sore. However, if you do not experience any reduction in pain or even start to experience worsening symptoms, it is essential to call or see a doctor.
Kendra Bean is from Maui, Hawaiʻi. She is currently enrolled at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, specializing in Epidemiology. She is passionate about improving health literacy and access to care, specifically in rural areas.