Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small white sores that develop on the inside of the mouth, gums or inside of the cheeks. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious, but they can be extremely painful. If you have a few of them at the same time in close proximity to one another, they may join up and become one massive canker sore. They typically last a few days to a few weeks.
Canker sores are caused by several factors including:
- emotional stress
- minor injury to your mouth- accidental biting of the cheek, spicy or acidic foods, sports mishap, etc.
- nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, folic acid, iron and zinc
- food sensitivities
- in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), canker sores are often a symptom of heart yin deficiency or heart fire (corresponding to more “heat” in the body)
- hormonal shifts during or before menstruation
- immune response to bacteria in the mouth
How do I get rid of canker sores?
- Ensure adequate rest. Use relaxation/ stress-reduction techniques to manage high stress levels.
- Herbal teas or formulas containing calendula, chamomile, licorice (use DGL, i.e. deglycyrrhizinated licorice, if you have high blood pressure or heart problems) and peppermint soothe and speed up healing of canker sores.
- You can make a paste with slippery elm and/ or baking powder and put it directly on the canker sores to soothe the inflammation and pain. It may also speed up healing.
- Topical over-the-counter pharmaceutical pastes are also available to ease the pain of canker sores.
- Find out if you have nutrient deficiencies. Dr. Yik is currently offering a complimentary zinc mineral nutrient test to new patients. Click here for more info.
- Seek a TCM practitioner to address the yin deficiency in your system.
- Vitamin C and zinc work synergistically to ensure the immune system is working properly, so take them together for an extra immunity boost.
- Stay away from chocolate, sugar, coffee, salty or acidic foods (and also anything you may be sensitive to).
- Having yogurt or taking probiotic supplements may help to reduce the incidence of canker sores.
Remember, if you have any sore on or in your mouth that lasts over 3 weeks, you should consult your doctor.