Canker sore remedies?
January 11, 2006 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Canker sore remedies?

I'm pretty sure everyone has something different that works for them. Anbesol works for masking the pain temporarily, and a friend suggested rinsing with Amosan, but that merely made my mouth feel clean and sterile, and didn't seem to do much for the canker itself.
posted by Robot Johnny to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My doctor prescribed Triamcinolone Acetonide in paste form. While it's not exactly a miracle cure, it does seem to make them clear up faster.
posted by agropyron at 10:05 AM on January 11, 2006

If you want a home remedy, salt packed into the sore for 30 seconds or so kills the pain for a few hours.

Hurts like heartbreak though.
posted by o2b at 10:08 AM on January 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Abbreva is available OTC now I think. Kills the bugs that cause the pain and cuts the healing time in half.

I have also had success cleaning out the cold sore and soaking it in Listerine. Prepare for pain. I clean it off with a clean dry washcloth. You have to clean all the white junk out for this to be effective. It's two minutes of hell but if you do it early in the process you get it to heal up super fast. Then I soak a kleenex in listerine and hold it against the cold sore for a minute or so. I do this a couple of times.

If I do this before bedtime, and am thorough about it, in the morning I usually notice some pretty dramatic healing.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2006

Listerine works for me. Try swishing it around a couple times during the day, see if it helps.

Also try Zilactin. That stuff is awesome.
posted by eleyna at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2006

Canker sores are probably not caused by any sort of "bug"... I think they're more likely to be some sort of immunological thing, so I would second the triamcinalone, or even hydrocortisone OTC. Topical anesthetics like ambesal are also helpful, but it does hurt going on.
posted by mert at 10:22 AM on January 11, 2006

I'll second the salt recommendation. Yeah, hurts at first, but kills the pain for quite a while afterward.

My theory on that is that it makes your lizard brain say "Jesus H. Keee-rist! OK, let's ignore *that* nerve ending for a while."
posted by chazlarson at 10:24 AM on January 11, 2006

I used Glyoxide when I would get canker sores.

Side note - My girlfriend's mom is a dentist, and she thinks that people cannot have both canker sores and cold sores. You either get one or the other. My girlfriend gets cold sores, and I think I picked up canker sore immunity from her since I haven't had one in a long time. So maybe you should find yourself a Robot Jenny with herpes simplex.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2006

L Lysine supplements were recommended to me by a dentist for recurring canker sores. It won't help you if you already have one, but it does prevent them from forming. In fact, I bit my cheek really hard last weekend, upped my dose of L Lysine, and it healed completely in two days.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2006 [2 favorites]

You either get one or the other.

You're girlfriend's mom is crazy. Either that or I am a miracle of nature. I would glady trade cold sores for canker sores if anyone's interested?
posted by loquax at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2006

I think you salt people are insane.
posted by agropyron at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2006

I thought the lysine thing was for potentially treating HSV (cold sores) because HSV has a bias toward arginine. Or something. How does that relate to canker sores?
posted by rxrfrx at 10:37 AM on January 11, 2006

Baking soda works better than salt, and won't make you barf if you swallow it. It does hurt like a little bastard, though, and leaves your mouth feeling gritty and flabby.
posted by scruss at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2006

Some helpful information here. Incidentally, I used to get canker sores when I was a child, and my mother would but baking soda on them. Not sure if it cures anything, but it sure alleviated the pain!
posted by super_not at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2006

PUT not BUT. (duh)
posted by super_not at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2006

rxrfrx: I'm not aware of the arginine connection, and I'm not sure about the exact mechanism that allows L Lysine to work. I do know that cold sores and canker sores are both caused by an underlying infection, and that with canker sores, the underlying infection can be HSV.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:46 AM on January 11, 2006

This has been asked before, and my recommendation is the same: avoid acidic foods when you have one. I know, it's not a cure - but it helps.
posted by O9scar at 10:51 AM on January 11, 2006

Apparently I'm one of the many people who confuse cold sores and canker sores. Cold sores are inside the mouth and canker sores are outside (and are what this post is asking about). I commented on cold sores, which is what Abreva treats. And notice how this time I spelled Abreva right, too? Yay, me.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2006

Growing up my nurse mother and pharmacist father always gave me Glyoxide and it worked well. If I don't have Glyoxide I use warm salt water rinses and avoid acidic foods and drinks.

More information on canker sores and their causes.
posted by terrapin at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2006

Sorry - cold sores are OUTSIDE, canker sores are INSIDE. Abreva is for the cold sores (outside), and I did actually address the posters question above, when I said I scrubbed it out and listerined it.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:55 AM on January 11, 2006

I get really bad canker sores, and have been to the doctor for them more than once.

The answer to your question is "no." You'll find all kinds of folk remedies that may (or may not) treat the primary symptom of pain. You'll find a few remedies that may make them clear up sooner (like using Scope twice a day). You'll find a few recommendation about how to avoid getting them (chew carefully -- a bitten cheek will often turn into a canker sore; try Lysine; eat a healthy diet). These have varying degrees of medical evidence to back them up. And of course, avoiding acidic foods and such while you have them helps the pain.

But at the end of the day, there is no medically proven way to effectively prevent or eliminate canker sores. The best you can do is manage the pain.

My doctor gave me viscous Lidocaine, which is a very effective canker sore painkiller. It doesn't last for shit, though.
posted by teece at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2006

I have used a mixture of ½ hydrogen peroxide and ½ water with much success on my canker sores. They are usually gone, or not bothering me by the next day. YMMV.
posted by entropy at 11:18 AM on January 11, 2006

You can get a little vial of nastiness called Kanka at Walgreens that is dynamite on canker sores. After my second or third one, it stopped working as well ... I don't know if the Kanka deteriorates over time (I'm still on my first bottle) or if the sores become more resistant to it, but Kanka simply annihilated the first few sores I put it on. The stuff will make you want to brush your teeth afterward or scrub your sink if you drip some, because it's resiny, but, again, works like a charm.
posted by blueshammer at 11:22 AM on January 11, 2006

I'll second Kanka. I'm still on my first bottle (and have been for a couple years) and it works great.
posted by mr.dan at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2006

Canker sores are probably not caused by any sort of "bug"

Canker sores are in fact a viral infection, a member of the herpes family.

The infection can be chronic and only manifest itself in times of stress or poor health.

I used to get massive sores regularly, but something obviously changed and now I only get minor ones when I bite my lip or something.

In my experience, no matter what you do, they always last ten days, but topical treatments can make it bearable.
posted by o2b at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2006

Canker sores are probably not caused by any sort of "bug"

Canker sores are in fact a viral infection, a member of the herpes family.

No, you're thinking of cold sores.

posted by rxrfrx at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2006

o2b: you are incorrect. canker sores are NOT, in fact, a viral infection. They are currently thought to be autoimmune.

Canker sores are inside the mouth, and are wholly unrelated to cold sores, which are caused by a part of the herpes family of viruses.
posted by twiggy at 11:34 AM on January 11, 2006

Now, to add a thing or two:

1) While it doesn't shorten the duration, consider anbesol, it numbs them for a bit.

2) While it doesn't help for everyone - some people exhibit irritation to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a primary ingredient in almost all toothpastes. Find a toothpaste without it and see if you get them less often.

3) My canker sores seem to get the worst when I'm under stress. I can go months without getting one, then have 2 months straight where there's always 1 or 2 annoying the heck out of me. Consider doing things that lower your stress level, and consider sleeping better.

Because the sores are seemingly an auto immune function (or dysfunction...) the best thing you can probably do is make sure you're healthy, rested, and not stressed. Beyond that, try the remedies people have listed above. I'll have to try this Kanka stuff next time I get one. Sounds like it works!
posted by twiggy at 11:37 AM on January 11, 2006

My folks always used alum. Worked pretty well.
posted by lyam at 11:39 AM on January 11, 2006

I was just talking about this with my dental hygienist yesterday. I use Tom's of Maine because regular toothpastes give me canker sores. She said it's the phosphates that do it.

So try switching to a phosphate-free toothpaste for a while.
posted by blogrrrl at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2006

Campho Phenique - tastes nasty but numbs well.
posted by nyterrant at 11:48 AM on January 11, 2006

Gargle with warm salt water. Gargle with 50/50 hydrogen peroxide and water. Gargle with Aloe Vera Juice. Take Lysine. (it's primarily used for cold sores but is also thought to possibly accelerate healing and is given to burn victims for this reason. It's cheap and worth a try.) Take a B12, folic acid, iron combo. Don't stress. Eat yogurt. Avoid nuts.
If you're desperate: dab Campho-phenique gel on any that you can reach. This product is not indicated for internal use and tastes horrible but this will work to dull the pain and cause it to heal faster.
These are some of the things I have tried and had good results.
posted by tinamonster at 12:14 PM on January 11, 2006

I get them when I eat to many mangos, esp. on the underripe side. Also anything that causes mouth irritation like smoking a cigar.

Since I love mangos they do pop up now and again, and my cure has always been swishing hydrogen peroxide around the mouth. Seems to accelerate the healing process.
posted by Manjusri at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2006

I was just talking about this with my dental hygienist yesterday. I use Tom's of Maine because regular toothpastes give me canker sores. She said it's the phosphates that do it.

i read that it's sodium laurel sulfate, so i stopped using toothpaste with sls, and i don't get canker sores much anymore. when i bite the inside of my mouth hard enough to draw blood, i sometimes get them, but not always.

i'll add another vote in the listerine and kanka treatment columns. i also have to resort to ibuprofen for those horrible, horrible times when i get multiple sores simultaneously.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:34 PM on January 11, 2006

Get an aspirine (the real kind) and put it directly on the sore in your mouth. Be careful though, don't fall asleep like I did once and woke up with a fair size crater in my cheek, eaten away by the aspirine. Aspirine is acetyl-salicylic acid and I think it works on mouth sores (I am really confused as to which is which now) like salicylic acid works on warts: erodes and kills virus.
posted by 445supermag at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2006

mbd1mbd1 -- Your girlfriend's mom is way off. I have had cold sores and canker sores my entire life. One has nothing to do with the other because one is a virus and one is um, I don't know.

I'm a pro at treating cold sores. Cankers still leave me baffled though, so I try to avoid acidic or spicy foods until it starts to heal. I also brush the hell out of it (yes, painful) when I brush my teeth because someone told me canker sores are caused by bacteria. Of course, I have never bothered to confirm that, and the placebo effect is working quite nicely.
posted by suchatreat at 12:57 PM on January 11, 2006

I've found that taking a small mouthful of a nice single malt scotch and swishing it around like mouthwash works.
I had a canker sore for about 7 or 8 days, and nothing helped. I took a mouthful of scotch and there was this incredible pain for a second, and then the sore went numb. One day later it was gone. I think it's a similar effect to the hydrogen peroxide, as scotch has been used for medicinal purposes for some time and the relative purity and alcohol content does wonders. It's proabably a damn sight nicer than packing salt in your mouth, too. Also, unlike the hyd. peroxide, you can drink it.
Scotch. It's not just for breakf good for you.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:02 PM on January 11, 2006

Well, how about that. I've heard that canker sores were viral all my life.

Odd that they're so tough to get rid of.
posted by o2b at 1:06 PM on January 11, 2006

Dry it out using a hair dryer, and then apply a coat of Zilactin.
posted by Sara Anne at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2006

Okay, so I decided to finally pony up the dough for an account because I just had to answer this question. I've been a lurker for too long.

There is a big difference between cold sores and cankers which others have said above. Cold sores are from HSV (Herpes, almost always Type I) and canker sores are not caused by HSV or any other virus that has been detected so far. They're ulcers in your mouth. It's been my experience that most doctors don't even seem to know the difference unless they work with sexually transmitted diseases.

I used to get canker sores a lot and did a bunch of research. As mentioned above, Sodium Laurel Sulfate has been positively correlated with canker sores, so I quit using toothpastes with that ingredient. As far as I know, all Tom's of Maine's toothpastes have it. I use Arm & Hammer Advance White for Sensitive Teeth (pink label).

Also, I read that Vitamin B deficiencies are positively correlated with canker sores. Being a vegetarian, it seemed possible that was an issue for me so I started taking a multi once a day.

Results: I rarely get canker sores any more (I used to get them every other month) and when I do get them, they aren't nearly as painful and go away in a about four days, rather than two weeks.
posted by funkiwan at 1:13 PM on January 11, 2006

I will second entropy's hydrogen peroxide recommendation, although I don't dilute it with water. A few drops applied directly to the sore (by Q-tip) in the morning and at night, and the duration and severity of the sore is markedly decreased. (And it does that cool "bubbly" thing that makes you think it's really working some magic). It's very important to start this regimen as soon as you realize the sore is there, though.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2006

Rembrandt makes a toothpaste for canker sore-prone people too. It's expensive as a heart attack though.

The Kanka stuff now comes in a nifty pen-brush now too. I tend to get canker sores on my tongue (sweet agony let me tell you) and the pen-brush allows for a more accurate application of the goo.
posted by macadamiaranch at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2006


My grandmother had me sucking on damp tea bags because there is something in the tea that eases the pain.
posted by Makebusy7 at 1:31 PM on January 11, 2006

funkiwan is right: I've actually had a doctor tell me (mistakenly) that canker sores and cold sores were the same thing.

One of the reasons I've read that some of these remedies may make them go away quicker is this: while the sores are not caused by a bacteria, bacteria in your mouth may aggravate the healing process. Thus, many of the things listed in this thread kill bacteria, and might make the sore heal faster. But they don't attack the root of the problem, which is still actually something of a mystery, thought to be related to the autoimmune system.
posted by teece at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2006

Being able to bite the inside of your mouth sounds like an intelligent design flaw to me. That and putting the breathing tube right next to the drinking tube and it even being possible to inhale while you're drinking. Intelligent design, my ass.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:47 PM on January 11, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all your suggestions... here's hoping I never have enough canker sores to try them all.
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:51 PM on January 11, 2006

I have dramatically reduced my cankers by following a pretty strict brush/floss regiman:

- brush after breakfast & lunch
- at night, brush like normal, then floss, then bruss again for 2+ minutes with sonicare. I alternate various toothpastes with baking soda tooth powder.

getting my mouth super clean before I go to bed has really cut down on the number of canker sores I get, and when I do get them they tend to go away quicker rather than fester for a week or so like they used to.

some other things I do that I think help are cut back on sugar, soda and excessive carbs, eat cottage cheese, get plenty of rest, and try to reduce stress in my life.
posted by jacobsee at 2:54 PM on January 11, 2006

Try obtaining Vitamin A or fish oil capsules/perls, puncturing them with a pin and daubing the sores with the oil.
posted by Lynsey at 3:28 PM on January 11, 2006

Triamcinolone Paste at the first feeling of an outbreak works wonderfully.

Here's a PDF on the possible etiologies of canker sores (bacterial vs viral) and the three types, as well as possible treatments. In medical lingo, it's called apthous stomatitis. 500k warning!
posted by gramcracker at 3:57 PM on January 11, 2006

aphthous stomatitis. sorry.
posted by gramcracker at 3:57 PM on January 11, 2006

I get canker sores a lot. I actually think it's related to some sort of allergy - I always, always get them if I get pizza from a local place in town...

My advice is to see if there is something that causes your get canker sores and avoid it like the plauge. I have a lot less problems when I avoid that pizza place.
posted by Amanda B at 4:04 PM on January 11, 2006

Tom's of Maine Ingredient Fact Sheet: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

It's funny, I too finally forked over my five bucks so I could answer this question. I wanted to share what worked for me -- as long as I use Tom's of Maine, I don't get canker sores. Whenever I switch to a "regular" toothpaste, I start getting them again.

My dental hygienist seemed to think Aqua Fresh was one of the worst for causing canker sores.

I think it all boils down to: Any irritant (which varies from person to person) can cause canker sores, while bacteria delays healing. So, identify and avoid your particular irritants, and use antibacterial and other remedies to promote healing.
posted by blogrrrl at 4:14 PM on January 11, 2006

I'll just pipe up and "third" the "little vial of nastiness called Kanka" -- I bit the everloving hell out of the corner of my mouth recently and wound up with such a raw, painful sore I couldn't eat for two days. As it only got worse and worse, I went to Walgreens and picked out the Kanka because it said it was a special thick formula that would stay in place.

It does indeed. Pat the sore dry, apply a drop of Kanka, wipe away the resulting tears, and after a couple minutes it's so numb you can suck on a grapefruit if you want.

(And try not to drip it on anything, it is like pine tar.)
posted by Tubes at 4:45 PM on January 11, 2006

Response by poster: Does anyone know if Kanka is available in Canada? (specifically, anywhere in Toronto)
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:48 PM on January 11, 2006


Yes, it's expensive, but it really is a 10-second magic bullet.
posted by trevyn at 9:25 PM on January 11, 2006

Welcome funkiwan and blogrrrl. Thanks for contributing to this thread.
posted by Cranberry at 12:34 AM on January 12, 2006

Thank you, Cranberry!
posted by blogrrrl at 9:59 AM on January 12, 2006

Okay, I'm writing over ten days later... but for anyone who's reading this thread in order to get ideas on how to cure their cankers (as I was this morning), I must recommend Rincinol. I think I may have found my miracle cure. (Okay, it's not a cure, but a major pain reliever.) I currently have a total of NINE cankers. I get them all the time, but especially when I have a cold as I do now. I hate using Kanka and other topical anesthetics because it makes your mouth all numb and cottony, which is no good for me as I do a lot of speaking during the day. Rincinol is a rinse that I found at the drugstore this afternoon and it has totally helped. It does not hurt when you rinse like salt water and Listerine do. Although you can still feel the cankers in your mouth afterwards, they don't hurt. And best of all... no cottonmouth. As for "cures," I've always done well with the hydrogren peroxide/water solution.
posted by zharptitsa at 10:05 PM on January 23, 2006

This site though a little extreme sounding, has some good info. I use the L-lysine and it does seem to help.
posted by rubin at 8:42 PM on June 3, 2006

Just wanted to add to the long tail of the hive mind. I went to the doctor today for an unrelated ailment, but I told her about the zinger of a canker i'm currently sporting and mentioned that I've been gargling with H2O2/H20. The new conventional wisdom from the esteemed medical community is that the hydrogen peroxide / water gargle is pretty toxic to your mouth, and that it actually inhibits the healing process. They do recommend it as an antisceptic, such as right when you bite your cheek, etc., but it's detrimental when used as a regular treatment. I would sorta agree -- the gargle doesn't seem to help at all, but doing a pin-point QTip delivery has helped in the past.

Doc recommended the salt gargle to clean it and Aleve for the pain, which contains a good anti-inflamatory. Topical solutions like all those mentioned here are good too. My doc (Kaiser) also formulates a 'Magic Mouthwash' that contains an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal treatment. It tastes like cherry butt, but the hydrogen peroxide tastes like regular butt, so whatever.

As for no-SLS toothpastes, I looked all over the damn place. I finally found that OralB's Rembrandt line now carries a 'Canker Sore' variety that contains Xylitol and has no SLS.

But my my, that Debactoral looks plenty rad.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:28 PM on October 18, 2006

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