Canker Sores
May 23, 2005 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I chronically get canker sores, does anyone know of any remedies or treatments?

I have gone to the doctor, tried mouthwashes, changing to a toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulphate, tried over the counter numbing treatments(benzocaine), prescription dental pastes, l-lysine supplements, and changing my diets, yet I still have multiple sores in my mouth at a time (sometimes as bad as 5 at a time, to where it hurts to talk). Does anyone have any home, prescription, otc, basically anything uner the sun remedies.
posted by sicem07 to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I get them chronically, too. For me, it's stress-induced. Avoid stress helps, exercise more.

Recently, I've tried a triamcinolone paste that may be working for me; I can't tell yet. If I catch one early and apply it often, it seems stop it from erupting, but I don't have enough experience to say for sure just yet. (You'll need a prescription from your doctor, and you want to get the paste so that it'll adhere in your mouth.)
posted by gramcracker at 5:08 PM on May 23, 2005

YMMV, but split open a raisin (green, not red) and rub it over the sores.
Also, see a doctor.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:24 PM on May 23, 2005

You ready?

This hurts like a MFer (umm... "MetaFilterer"), but it's cured every canker sore I've had in 2 treatments or less. I *shudder* just thinking about it.

Do this right before going to bed, and no midnight snacks.

1) OK, mix a cup of hot tap water with two teaspoons of plain Morton salt (don't know if Iodized matters, but mine is). Stir together to make a saltwater solution.

2) Swish about half of it in your mouth for at least 20 FULL seconds (again, it'll hurt, but seriously), then spit it into a sink.

3) Wait a few seconds before swishing with the other half. Make sure that, at the end of this swish-and-spit, you have removed all food particles and extraneous spit from your oral cavity.

4) For each canker sore you have, get the end of a Q-tip wet, and dip and coat in Alum (get it in the "little used spices" aisle of your supermarket).

5) Firmly press alum-coated Qtip to affected area and really roll it around.

Good luck; I know they're a pain. And remember, this is only treating the symptom, not the root cause (heaven help you if it's genetic or something).

posted by chota at 5:34 PM on May 23, 2005

It sounds weird but I've found that getting a good, long night's sleep helps a lot to make them go away.
posted by bendy at 5:35 PM on May 23, 2005

Try mouthwashing with 3% Hydrogen Peroxide. Works well for me. If you're worried this isn't good for your mouth, read the labels on all the H2O2 your pharmacy has. Chances are you'll find one that says it's safe for this purpose (although they ALL are, if they have the same standard concentration).

For the tougher ones, I use Amosan.
posted by shepd at 5:44 PM on May 23, 2005

I'll second the steriod paste above -- my dentist prescribed it for me and it's worked very well when sores are caught early.

Also, resisting the urge to poke at the sore with my tongue every couple minutes seems to help.
posted by Hlewagast at 5:54 PM on May 23, 2005

I used to get those a lot when I was a kid. Curiously, I haven't had one in years. I remember my pharmacist uncle would get silver nitrate sticks, which were like long cotton swabs except with silver nitrate at the end. He would get it wet, then swab it all over the sore. It burns like hell, but it forms a sort of skin over the sore so that it doesn't hurt to eat or talk. Of course, this was some time ago and silver nitrate will probably give you cancer or cause you to grow a third eye or something. But it works.
posted by kamikazegopher at 6:25 PM on May 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

I brush with baking soda toothpaste. It seems like I get them less often as a result, but I can't say for sure. I've found that things that drop the pH in my mouth help. And definitely no acidic things like tomatoes, citrus or even soda.

But I still end up waiting for a week or more to pass before they disappear.
posted by O9scar at 6:37 PM on May 23, 2005

Like bendy, I find that sleep is the best cure for canker sores. Similarly, I find that lack of sleep is a sufficient condition for contracting the sores.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:50 PM on May 23, 2005

Like bendy, I find that sleep is the best cure for canker sores. Similarly, I find that lack of sleep is a sufficient condition for contracting the sores.

I find this is true, as well when chronic sleep deprivation is combined with accidently biting the inside of my lip or cheek. Without fail, a day or two later: canker sore. The only cure I've found is excess sleep and not irritating the sore any more than absolutely necessary.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:07 PM on May 23, 2005

Here's some info from the Doctor's Book of Home remedies.

This site lists the best known folk remedies...some duplicate info with the source above.

Also note that if you have access to some beeswax, a hard oil like cocoa, shae or coconut and a pouring oil (in this case I'd recommend sweet almond), then you can make a lip balm so you could carry your herbal remedy of choice around in your pocket...ala carmex.
posted by dejah420 at 7:12 PM on May 23, 2005

I second 09scar. Reducing acid is key.

I don't know if this is a folk remedy or science, but I do have some other practical advice for stopping cold sores. Before I get a sore, I feel a tingling in, or outside my mouth that itches. I apply ice as soon as possible, and for as long as I can stand it. If I get ice on it quickly, I do not get a sore.

Like I said, I don't know if there is any science to this, but it often works for me.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:20 PM on May 23, 2005

I just put a little salt on my fingertip and dab it directly on the canker, and that always works - the next time I think about it, it's gone. But maybe my canker sores are a lesser sort than those of others in this thread. Mine seem to be occasioned by my eating too much sugar.
posted by orange swan at 8:01 PM on May 23, 2005

Certain inhalers can cause canker sores, especially if you don't rinse your mouth after using.

I have found that Amosan really helps heal mouth wounds quickly.
posted by lobakgo at 8:14 PM on May 23, 2005

My dentist has always had me use plain old Listerine. He says if I use it daily (I'm really prone to cankersores too) I can get rid of them altogether, but it tastes so nasty I don't do it. When I do have sores, holding Listerine in my mouth on the sore for 30 seconds (pure hell!) leaves them slightly numb afterwards (relief!) and they heal a lot faster.

The relief is questionable - perhaps it's only due to the removal of the painful Listerine. They heal within a day or two though, if I rinse morning and night.
posted by routergirl at 9:16 PM on May 23, 2005

I get Vitamin A capsules (or cod liver oil capsules), puncture them with a push pin and squeeze some of the oil onto the canker sore. Works like a charm. I find mine are also caused by eating too much sugar, darn it!.
posted by Lynsey at 9:46 PM on May 23, 2005

I used to get these a lot when I was a kid too and I always used ORAJEL. I continued using baby orajel for a while, but it seems as if they have it for adults now too. This is not a cure, but it does numb the crap out of canker sores so at least you can have some relief from the pain.

When I had my wisdom teeth removed I had to rinse my mouth out with saltwater regularly. It assisted in healing and prevented infections. This seems like it would be a good remedy as well.
posted by ebeeb at 11:46 PM on May 23, 2005

I've had outbreaks of canker sores as long as I can remember.

As others have noted, keeping them clean (antiseptic) and not biting/abrading them is the key to reducing the length of outbreaks.

You say you've tried changing your diet -- Do you eat a lot of tree nuts with husks (e.g., chopped walnuts, pecans)? These and underdone potatoes (e.g., undercooked french fries) will almost always cause an outbreak for me. Eliminating these plus ditching the SLS toothpaste has reduced my outbreak frequency from almost continuously to once or twice a year. Keeping the stress down (exercise) helps, too.
posted by Opposite George at 12:53 AM on May 24, 2005

Oh, and another thing... Do they seem to reoccur in the same spots? They can be caused by irritation from bites or rubbing against teeth. Your dentist might be able to help out if that's the case.
posted by Opposite George at 1:01 AM on May 24, 2005

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate-free toothpaste and a good mouthwash, both twice daily.

It won't stop you having them completely, but they'll show up half as often, hurt not a squit of the old ones and they'll fade out in a week or less. I haven't changed diet or watched what I eat, haven't seen the dentist or needed any treatment.
Keep your mouth clean. And that's all.

Good luck, because I was hysterically happy when I stopped my plague.
posted by NinjaPirate at 1:47 AM on May 24, 2005

Sleep and vitamin c at the first inkling of one coming on.....They really are a drag.....I thought for years that they were related to the herpes virus and the same as Cold Sores. Evidently this is not so. Good news I guess, I don't have to worry so much about contagion.
posted by flummox at 7:39 AM on May 24, 2005

Hydrogen Peroxide morning and night -- applied with a Q-Tip directly on the sore. Most important to do this as soon as you notice the sore coming on.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:22 AM on May 24, 2005

Regular Listerine use has reduced the number of canker sores I get dramatically.
Using Listerine when I have one helps numb it, as said above, though I can't say it shortens its life. I recently tried Kanka, an anesthetic that also creates a sort of skin over the sore. It works pretty well for temporary relief.
Canker sores are the worst thing ever.
posted by PhatLobley at 9:36 AM on May 24, 2005

I take those little single serving packets of salt, and pour them directly on the offending sore, pack it in and hold it for 30 seconds. It hurts. I can't do it without tears running down my face and drooling all over the place. I don't even know if it does any good, but damn is it fun! If your idea of fun is excruciating pain anyway. But seriously. After the onslaught, I can barely even feel it anymore. No more annoyance.

Oh man, I have such good advice sometimes.
posted by recursive at 11:17 AM on May 24, 2005

God I hate canker sores. I have two of them right now. I get some every month or so.

Here's what works:
1. Debacterol. (
Debacterol is a chemical cauterizing agent. It's basically sulfuric acid that only works on dead skin. You apply the stuff to the sore for 5-10 burning seconds (hurts, but I think less than listerine or ORA5 or Zilactin), and then you rinse it out with water. When it works, it kills the sore. Completely. There's a little white film, and the pain is all gone, and your canker sore is gone. The skin heals up in a few days.

The problem with Debacterol, is that it only seems to work (for me) at the VERY first instant of a canker sore, and if I catch it too late, then it doesn't work, and I have a canker sore for the next 10-14 days. Technically, you have to have a dentist apply the stuff, but I got a dentist friend to order me a pack of them. ($50 for 12 applications).

2. Kenalog (or other steroid) in Orabase. Numbs the pain temporarily, and maybe the kenalog shortens the length of the sore or something. Not sure.

3. ORA5 ( You can order this stuff from the website without a prescription. It cleans out the sore and leaves a long lasting protective film. You dip a q-tip in it, apply it to the sore for 1.5 minutes.
Pros: Your canker sore stops hurting for 24-36 hours after every application. A 1oz bottle will last a *long* time.
Cons: There are few things in the world that hurt in the same way as ORA5. It stings when you put it on, but that's bearable. Over the next 5 minutes, it starts to ache increasingly until it's nearly unbearable for hte next 5-15 minutes. I've had some success with applying the ORA5 and then doing something like physical labor so that I don't get a chance to feel the pain. That seems to work.

4. SLS, as people have mentioned, is supposed to help, though I haven't noticed any difference.

Good luck!
posted by sirion at 2:20 PM on May 24, 2005

Oops! SLS *FREE* stuff is supposed to help.
posted by sirion at 11:20 PM on May 24, 2005

Check to see if you grind your teeth at night. This could be causing you to get canker sores.

I used to get canker sores **all** the time until my dentist gave me a plastic mouth guard to wear at night. Now I rarely if ever get them.
posted by Brussels at 5:18 AM on May 26, 2005

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