What Causes Canker Sores?

Cankers sores, sometimes called aphthous stomatitis or aphthous ulcers, are tiny but rather painful breaks in the skin inside an individual’s mouth. They can present themselves in the different areas of a patient’s oral cavity.

woman in pain holding her left cheek

Cankers sores, sometimes called aphthous stomatitis or aphthous ulcers, are tiny but rather painful breaks in the skin inside an individual’s mouth. Canker sores can cause significant amounts of pain and can adversely affect the quality of life of patients. But what are some of the causes of canker sores? In this article, we will look at the possible causes of canker sores and what individuals can do to alleviate the pain associated with canker sores.

Canker Sores: a Brief Overview

Canker sores are one of the common lesions of the mouth encountered by people from all walks of life. Women are more likely to develop canker sores than men. It is also possible that some people may also have a genetic predisposition to developing canker sores compared to others

Canker sores can present themselves in the different areas of a patient’s oral cavity such as the cheeks, throat, and lips. Canker sores can appear as white, yellow or gray spots framed by a red swollen circular border.

What Are Some Types of Canker Sores?

Cold sores are different from Canker sores. Cold sores or fever blisters can be brought about by an infection caused by the herpes virus and can be passed on from one person to the next. On the other hand, canker sores may not be passed on to other individuals or in short, they are not contagious. Canker sores can also be categorized based on the following:

Minor sores (3-10 millimeters in size)

These minor canker sores are some of the most common types of canker sores and will usually resolve on their own after two (2) weeks without leaving any scars after healing

Major sores (more than 10 millimeters in size)

Major canker sores are generally bigger and deeper than minor canker sores. These kinds of cankers sores may take longer to heal, have jagged borders and may leave a scar after being completely healed.

Herpetiform Sores

These canker sores are usually small in size but may appear as clusters made up of 100 or so canker sores. Fortunately, this kind of canker sores heals without any trace of scarring.

What Causes Canker Sores?

Experts are still not sure as to why canker sores develop. It is believed however that a number of different factors contribute to the development of canker sores. Listed below are some  of the possible reasons for the development of canker sores:

  • Mouth Injuries: Mouth injuries may lead to the development of canker sores or mouth ulcers. These injuries can be from the installation of braces and dentures, heavy brushing of teeth, and other forms of sports-related accidents.
  • Foods that are Acidic: Citrus fruits can initiate the development of canker sores or worsen any existing canker sores.
  • Allergies or sensitivities to certain foods: Coffee, Chocolates and other acidic foods may cause the development of canker sores
  • Vitamin deficiency: Vitamin B12, folate, Iron and Zinc deficiencies
  • Bacteria in the mouth that can lead to allergies
  • Stress caused by emotional events or incidents.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract diseases like Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, and other.
  • Autoimmune diseases such as Brechet Disease, Systemic Lupus erythematosus, and others.
  • Factors that contribute to Immune system weaknesses such as organ transplants, Human Immunodeficiency Virus or the Autoimmune Infectious Disease System (HIV/ AIDS), flu, and colds.
  • Medications that can cause the development of canker sores such as antihypertensives, antiretrovirals, antibiotics, protease inhibitors, vasodilators, platelet aggregation inhibitors, anticholinergic bronchodilators, Phenytoin, sulfa drugs, Penicillamine, immunosuppressants, medicines for chemotherapy, nicotine, beta-blockers, nonsteroidal  anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and Aspirin

Other causes of canker sores:

  • Toothpaste that contains sodium  lauryl sulfate
  • Certain hormones

Signs and Symptoms of Canker Sores

Canker Sores are generally painful ulcers inside the mouth.Some of the common symptoms are:

  • Tingling or burning feeling right before the canker sores appear
  • A yellow, gray or white crater-like ulcers framed with a red swollen border
  • The appearance of a painful sore,
  • Difficulty eating, drinking and speaking properly.
  • Thrush infections in the throat and mouth
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Feeling of sluggishness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever

When to Contact your Doctor or Healthcare Professional

While canker sores are not usually a cause for major concerns, there are a number of possible reasons that may warrant some form of coordination with the patient’s healthcare professional or doctor.

Individuals are advised to contact their doctor for further medical assistance if they observe canker sores that go hand in hand with fever, when canker sores are already preventing people from hydrating by making it difficult or painful to drink fluids, once Canker Sores still exhibit or give out tremendous amounts of pain even after taking pain relievers that are over-the-counter (OTC), if and when the canker sores have lasted for more than three (3) weeks, if the patient determines that the canker sores are spreading and if the patient notices that the canker sores are spreading.

However, canker sores generally do not need any major treatment. Certain topical medications, mouthwashes and pain relievers can already address the more serious adverse effects of regular canker sores. Aside from these topical solutions, patients may also avoid certain food items such as spicy foods or citrus fruits to prevent the worsening of canker sores.

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