Recurrent mouth canker sores
October 7, 2013 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone battled with recurrent canker sores in the mouth? They hurt like crazy and I get them sometimes as often as 2 times in a month. I discussed with the dentist and general doctor but I don't think they have a cure to stop getting them other than ease the pain when you do get them. What is your experience?
posted by barexamfreak to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Yes! I had these my whole life. They were horrible as a child, and anywhere from annoying to horrible as an adult...UNTIL...I started taking a multi-vitamin every day. Now I hardly get them at all. I've tested this by stopping the multi-vitamins, and every time I stop, I get a big canker sore. Hope this helps you!!
posted by nosila at 6:24 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I cannot wear a mouth guard (I actually have an AskMeFi about it but none of the solutions ended up helping) without generating canker sores. Do you use any dental devices?

Also my parents say taking zinc helps. I don't know if that's substantiated research-wise.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:24 PM on October 7, 2013

Switch to a toothpaste without sodium laurylate (common surfactant which can also be an irritant) - Biotene, Pronamel, and some kinds of Rembrandt brand toothpaste should fit the bill. I used to get canker sores quite often, but now that I switched toothpaste I only get them when I'm really run down.
posted by canine epigram at 6:25 PM on October 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

I used to get them much more often than I do now. They almost always were brought on by eating foods that were very sour, sugary or salty (all of those things in high concentrations in your saliva can abrade mucous membranes). I'd say avoid those types of foods if you can, and/or drink plenty of water when you do have them so as to reduce their concentration.
posted by Smells of Detroit at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

My canker sores became much less frequent when I started using a sodium-lauryl-sulfate-free toothpaste. The one I've used most often is Rembrandt Canker Sore Toothpaste, which I think has now been renamed Rembrandt Gentle White, but Biotene also works and there are a couple of other brands.

Read ingredient lists carefully, as even most "natural" toothpastes contain SLS.

I have also had some luck with a mouthwash containing low levels of dexamethasone, but you'll have to ask your doctor about that as it's prescription-only. (And canker sores may be an off-label use, I'm not sure about that.)
posted by fermion at 6:30 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

As canine epigram mentioned, SLS-free toothpaste can help a lot. There was a recent thread about that here.

Being stressed can affect them, as can certain foods. Keep an eye out for your triggers - mine tend to be oranges and tomatoes. If I have either of those, I try to brush my teeth and use mouthwash immediately afterwards so that it won't linger.

I know many people put alum on the sores to numb the pain and they tend to argue that it lessens the healing time. It definitely numbs the spot, but I haven't seen much effect otherwise. YMMV.
posted by JannaK at 6:33 PM on October 7, 2013

Another option is debacterol, which I've gotten from my dentist. It cauterizes the canker sore, hurts for 30 seconds, and then it feels much better and heals quickly.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:33 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Changing toothpastes helps. Taking L-Lysine also seems to help. It's an amino acid, you can buy it in the vitamin section of the drug store, pretty cheap.
posted by mareli at 6:37 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

My wife had these. Turned out to be an auto immune disease (pemphigus vulgaris). Probably not what you have. But it's a data point.
posted by pyro979 at 6:47 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hey there. I have these. Right now I have four. I've had them so badly that my mouth was so swollen I could neither speak nor eat solid food. Living on slushies sucks. I have maybe a day a month where I don't have at least one. For prevention I found that B vitamins seemed to help. Once they are there I found that a good analgesic that also forms a protective layer like Kanka is my best bet.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:54 PM on October 7, 2013

I get them when I eat a lot of sugar and junk food.

The only thing I know to do about them is to stop eating sugar and junk.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:57 PM on October 7, 2013

Mouth sores can absolutely be caused by autoimmune disease. Inflammatory bowel disease and Behcet's are some examples that come to mind but there are many. Something to keep in mind if you feel you have something deeper going on or other seemingly unrelated complaints.

Another possibility that hasn't been mentioned yet is folate deficiency, but you should be tested first as you don't want to over supplement either.
posted by telegraph at 7:01 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Folic Acid 1-5 mg a day and see what happens
posted by larry_darrell at 7:08 PM on October 7, 2013

I've been a frequent sufferer of them. In my case, I get them from accidentally biting the inside of my lip when I'm eating my food too enthusiastically. I also seem to get them from eating citrus fruits. There have been canker sores that have just popped up for no reason I can think of. I had one pop up right on the tip of my tongue over a year ago. It was so painful! It was awful for the first 3 days. It hurt to eat and talk.
posted by hazel79 at 7:08 PM on October 7, 2013

Have you been stressed lately? I used to get these a lot as a kid, but now they're mostly stressed triggered. Taking Lysine when I start to feel one coming on seemed to shorten the duration.

I also found Canker Covers to help them heal much faster. I was pretty skeptical at first but they worked for me!
posted by astapasta24 at 7:10 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Swishing with chlorhexidine gluconate helps a lot for me- they don't hurt any more but my mouth isn't numb and I don't have to worry about any kind of paste. Plus they seem to heal faster.
posted by dilaudid at 7:15 PM on October 7, 2013

Switch to a toothpaste without sodium laurylate

This. Worked for my wife and a friend who had them all their lives. Switching to Biotene resolved it (no other changes).
posted by rr at 7:16 PM on October 7, 2013

I had severe canker sores (like 12+ at a time, half my tongue was raw) and I traced it back to Wellbutrin SR. I know this could be anecdotal, but am throwing it out there. This went on for over a year and half and then I ran out of my meds for 5 days and they began to heal. Switched to Wellbutrin XL (extended release) and they didn't come back.
posted by jmmpangaea at 7:21 PM on October 7, 2013

Just a datapoint: back when I was a kid, like in the 70s, I was really prone to canker sores, especially if I had anything like a cold or fever. My mother also was in a fairly dismal dental period before getting most of her teeth replaced, and got sores really easily.

Our doctor had us get Acidophilus tablets at the pharmacy (from behind the counter, where they were refrigerated) and chew them to paste and get the paste all up in and around the sores. Work it around, and then swallow. Twice a day, I think.

It stings for a second, but the improvement was obvious within 24 hours.

So...probiotics? I would say also switch to Biotene.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:23 PM on October 7, 2013

The prescription drug Apthasol works very well for me in treating them -- they go away in a day or two after application. Ask your doctor.
posted by iamscott at 7:24 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like the first commenter, I came in to say that persistent mouth sores is a sign of vitamin deficiency, and frankly, it's the first thing your dentist and doctor should have told you!

posted by jbenben at 7:34 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

L-Lysine, give it a try - but you have to take it all the time, not just when you have a canker sore; it's one of the amino acids your body doesn't store.

Replace your chapsticks and toothbrushes.
posted by lemniskate at 7:42 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a cheaper option, we use Trader Joe's All-Natural Toothpaste. My boyfriend used to get canker sores constantly, but as soon as we switched, he's almost completely stopped getting them. The Rembrandt toothpaste also works for him but the Jason brand doesn't, though it is SLS-free and "natural," so you might want to try a couple options.
posted by ohkay at 7:44 PM on October 7, 2013

I get canker sores if I use one particular brand of toothpaste. Switching to another brand solved the problem, even though both have SLS. I assume it's a sensitivity to a flavoring or something? I sometimes travel with the small tubes of the old toothpaste and if I use it for more than a few days, the canker sores reappear.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2013

The SLS thing works for me, but I still get them sometimes if I have too much citrus. Which is a shame because I love me some citrus.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2013

I'm sure you've already thought about this (as has your dentist), but sometimes canker sores can be diet related. I get them if I eat too many walnuts, for example.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2013

Walnuts and almonds in large quantities gave me them.
posted by gorbweaver at 8:07 PM on October 7, 2013

For me, it was stress that brought them on. And acidopholus keeps them at bay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 PM on October 7, 2013

Less sugar, more multivitamins
posted by Jacqueline at 8:28 PM on October 7, 2013

multivitamin works for me
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:52 PM on October 7, 2013

I've traced my canker sores back to stress and toothpastes with SLS, as others have mentioned before me. Switching toothpastes was easy, eliminating stress... Not so easy. This has been a crazy month and three blossomed in the last week. The only treatment I've found that remedies the canker sores once they're here is a homeopathic product by - Heel that used to be called Vinceel but has recently been re-branded as "Reboost Sore Throat Spray". Usually gets rid of my sores in a couple days and starts to numb them immediately. (After the initial painful shock of applying the medication--it's in an ethanol carrier) I've also tried applying Vinceel as soon as I feel that pre-canker sore tingle and not ONCE has the canker sore actually ulcerated. Not quite preventative, but darn close.

Canker Covers didn't work for me; I found them gooey, difficult to apply, and really terrible tasting.

Good luck! Hope you find some relief.
posted by possumbrie at 10:25 PM on October 7, 2013

I get canker sores if I use one particular brand of toothpaste. Switching to another brand solved the problem, even though both have SLS. I assume it's a sensitivity to a flavoring or something? I sometimes travel with the small tubes of the old toothpaste and if I use it for more than a few days, the canker sores reappear.

Had them all my life until I switched toothpaste brands. Same as above, if I use the old brand even once, I will get a sore. Just another data point, when I switched to shampoo without SLS, my head quit itching all the time. So maybe an allergy to SLS. You might try just using baking soda to brush with for a few weeks and see what happens.
posted by tamitang at 10:29 PM on October 7, 2013

Tom's of Maine makes a toothpaste with fluoride but without SLS, called "Clean & Gentle."

But more importantly, consider auto-immumity issues, as mentioned above, including food intolerances. Consider an elimination diet or other exploraion of food sensitivity. I'm definitely gluten-sensitive, though not enough to be celiac. When I start eating gluten, my canker sores re-appear. Celiac websites mention canker sores as a common symptom.

Good luck!
posted by quinoa at 11:01 PM on October 7, 2013

I used to get them all the time as a kid. When I started taking vitamin C they cleared up. Since then any time I revert to the highly peppery diet of my childhood the ulcers come back. So, could be vitamins, could be harsh stuff irritating the mucous membrane.
posted by glasseyes at 1:17 AM on October 8, 2013

I used to get them all the time, and they were the really severe kind that sometimes were accompanied by a fever and yucky sick-all-over feeling, too. I've developed a routine that has so far beaten them back completely:

- I keep my mouth pristinely clean - no flopping into bed without brushing, flossing and mouthwashing

- I take a really good-quality multivitamin (Garden of Life), as well as fish oil and extra vitamin D

- I take a curcumin capsule every day. Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory - my mom's very conservative doctor recommended it for her arthritis - and it seems to really work on keeping the canker sore inflammation at bay. Fish oil is also an anti-inflammatory.

(Incidentally, I also take Wellbutrin SR. I wonder if Wellbutrin dries out the mouth and raises susceptibility to canker sores? I drink lots of water and that helps with the dry mouth, and Biotene makes a line of dry-mouth-relieving products that also help.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:16 AM on October 8, 2013

A few people have mentioned this but I just want to throw in my support for switching to a toothpaste without sodium laurel sulfate/SLS. I have been plagued by chronic cranker sores since birth until I switched 4 or 5 years ago, and I've only had ONE since - during a vacation where I didn't have access to my regular toothpaste.
posted by srrh at 6:16 AM on October 8, 2013

I used to get canker sores all the time as a child, and someone recommended rinsing twice a day with about a tablespoon of baking soda mixed with warm water. Not sure how long I did this for, but it really seemed to do the trick! As an adult, I hardly ever get canker sores, but when I do, I break out the baking soda again for a couple days, and they clear up.
posted by LolaGeek at 6:50 AM on October 8, 2013

I get them from drinking cheap orange juice and eating "fruit" flavored candy like Starburst, etc. Now I only drink Simply Orange (or the Aldi equivalent) and lay off the candy and I don't get them.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:07 AM on October 8, 2013

Crushed aspirin directly on the sore can help healing.
posted by cass at 7:46 AM on October 8, 2013

Vegemite is really good at healing canker sores. Of course the taste can be a little intense if you are not used to it, just but apply it like a cream to the sores, this is what we did as kids. You might try a salt water gargle if Vegemite is not readily available where you are. As I imagine it was the B vitamins and salt that did the good.

I have an English aunt that swears by a wet tea bag applied to the sore, something about the tannins in the tea help help heal them.

A good quality multivitamin taken daily could help stop them coming back.
posted by wwax at 8:29 AM on October 8, 2013

What are you eating? If I eat pineapple or kiwi, I am guaranteed a cancer sore. It's just too acidic for my mouth.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2013

I too have an excruciating treatment, but it works. I pack the sore with salt and leave it for a few minutes. Hurts, but tomorrow, no sore. Also seconding a multi-vitamin.
posted by PJMoore at 11:14 AM on October 8, 2013

What I do for canker sores: take l-lysine, as many have mentioned above, and apply the oil
from a Vitamin A gel cap (puncture the gel cap, spread oil on sore) whenever I get them. Works like a charm.
posted by Lynsey at 11:16 AM on October 8, 2013

I get canker sores from the combination of stress and accidentally biting or cutting my mouth with sharp foods (e.g. chips, hard candy). Rinsing with saltwater and/or placing a wet black tea bag on the sore helps with the irritation and pain, but I have not noticed any decrease in healing time. Most likely because my primary cause is stress, and neither remedy does much for the stress.
posted by jraenar at 3:39 PM on October 8, 2013

My friend suddenly started getting a lot of canker sores, and it was B12 deficiency.


B12 supplements sorted it out.
posted by Elysum at 4:41 PM on October 8, 2013

In addition to switching toothpastes, if you use mouthwash you might want to try alcohol-free ones; alcohol dries out the mouth and heightens the chance of canker sores.

Nowadays I hardly get canker sores, save for stressful days or when my diagonally-aligned wisdom teeth decide to hate me :/
posted by curagea at 6:06 PM on October 8, 2013

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