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Canker Sores


The pain from a canker sore can prevent you from enjoying your favorite foods, and depending on where it is located it may even be preventing you from eating. Canker sores, also called apthous ulcers, while small are extremely painful.

The most common culprit for causing canker sores is your toothpaste. The product in your toothpaste that causes it to foam when you brush your teeth is called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and this can be very abrasive to your oral mucosa even producing apthous ulcers (canker sores). Most toothpastes have SLS in it, but there are several brands that don’t have it at all. (Check out Tom’s Natural Toothpaste: Sensitive Care SLS-free or Biotin products.)

Other causes can be from weakened immune systems. When our bodies are tired and stressed we are more prone to infections from bacteria and viruses. A small abrasion on the gum from brushing can lead to an infection when our immune systems are weak. The body will send signals to the area to fight the infection and in doing so the area can become red, irritated, and inflammed.

If you never get canker sores and have one for the first time it may also be a viral infection known as a herpetic lesion. These most often occur around the lips, but can also occur inside the nose and on the oral mucosa. These can occur when the immune system is weakened from overexposure to the sun, respiratory illness, stress, or contact with another person who has a herpetic lesion. In this incidence the best course of action is to get an antiviral prescription from your doctor.

For simple apthous ulcers treatment is to help with the pain until the ulcer heals. This usually occurs within 7 days. Some of the prescription medications help to speed healing. One is a prescription medication called “kenalog in orabase” this helps speed healing and helps minimally with the pain. Another medication that Dr. McCargar uses at Scottsdale Dental Arts is called “Debacterol” this medicine when placed on the ulcer temporarily stings, but then the pain is gone & the apthous ulcer heals in a matter of days. Over-the-counter medications that help with the pain are products like “Orajel” that contain benzocaine and help to numb the area. The saliva from the mouth washes these medications off pretty quickly but, they will give temporary relief. Another product to try is “Ulcerease” this is a liquid formulation to help with the pain, swish & spit this one for best efficacy.