6 Things to Know About Canker Sores

About 20 percent of the population has had a “canker sore,” officially called an apthous ulcer. It’s a painful sore that I see my patients dealing with frequently.

As a result, I get asked a lot of questions about canker sores. Here are six things that you need to know:

1. Canker sores and cold sores are not the same thing

Cankers sores are often confused with cold sores, but they’re not the same thing. Canker sores are only found on the inside of the mouth and a cold sore is found on the outside of the mouth – usually around the surface of the lip or around the lip and the chin. Cold sores are caused by the Herpes type 1 virus.

2. Canker sores are not contagious

Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious. Canker sores are not related to a virus, but more related to vulnerability and a person’s genetic susceptibility to them.

3. Canker sores start happening from a young age

If you are susceptible to canker sores, you probably started getting them as a child. It’s an unfortunate diagnosis, because you will likely continue to get them throughout your life.

4. Canker sores start off mild and then gradually get worse

A canker sore starts out as a little ulcer with mild discomfort and then goes through an ulcerative stage. The pain and discomfort will peak at about the one-week mark. The duration of the pain and discomfort can extend for two to three weeks. A canker sore can be very painful depending on how deep it is and how many there are. Some people will get a single lesion and sometimes there will be multiple lesions.

5. Canker sores are not caused by a bacteria or virus

The cause of canker sores is unknown. There’s some thought that canker sores are related to a type of bacteria that resides in a person. However, some studies say that they may occur as an allergy to specific strains of bacteria. The following are some of the things that have been associated with canker sores, although research doesn’t show a definite correlation:

  • Trauma (such as biting your lip or the inside of your mouth, dental procedures, abrasive foods)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress
  • Eating acidic foods
  • Overall decrease in immune system – a lot of times people will get them before or after they are sick
  • Gluten sensitivity

6. Canker sores can be treated/prevented through strengthening the immune system

Over many years, I have found that there is a right and a wrong way to treat canker sores. You want to avoid palliative treatments, such as gels and creams. These types of treatments serve as a Band-Aid, so to say, so the canker sores will keep coming back. The right treatments are the ones that work to build your immune system, such as:

  • Lysine – an amino acid you can get as a supplement. Lysine considerably shortens the duration of a canker sore. If you feel a canker sore coming on, within the one-week period start taking 1000 mg of lysine every day. Sometimes a canker sore won’t even develop. If it does, it won’t last as long.
  • CankerClear – a powder you can mix with water or saliva to swish over canker sores. It’s a mixture of natural ingredients, including lysine. It works at the site to help strengthen the immune system.
  • Monoplex – a natural supplement that assists in recovery and lessens the occurrence of canker sores. It contains strong formulations of vitamin B12, iron and vitamin C to address nutritional deficiencies triggering canker sores.

Canker sores are not a threat to your overall health, but they can interfere with your day-to-day quality of life. If you struggle with the pain of canker sores, follow my recommended treatment plan.

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