A  Canker sore (aphthous stomatitis) is a tiny lesion that appears in the mouth. They can be identified by their color which is usually gray, yellowish or white with a reddish color on the outside of them. Canker sores most often appear on the inside of the cheeks, along the gums, on the lips or tongue. These painful sores can also be found on the soft palate and the tonsil areas.

A lot of people think canker sores are contagious but this is, in fact, a myth. They are thought to be caused by a problem within the immune system. So, rest assured, you do not need to worry about ‘catching' a canker sore from kissing or eating after someone.

There are many causes for canker sores in the mouth, and most are preventable.

Causes of Canker Sores

Bacteria in the mouth is a leading cause for canker sores. Make sure that you use a high quality mouthwash or gargle with salt water twice a day, at least. Be sure that you also brush and floss twice a day. Use a soft tooth brush and do not push too hard while brushing because this can upset the gums and make developing a canker sore more likely.

An injury such as biting the inside of the cheek can turn into a painful canker sore.  An immune system that attacks healthy cells in the mouth instead of viruses and bacteria can also cause these types of mouth ulcers.

If you are deficient in vitamins or minerals such as zinc, folic acid, iron or B12 you may develop canker sores.

Food allergies or certain foods which are highly acidic can cause canker sores in the mouth.  These include:

  • Chocolate
  • Acidic foods, oranges or pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Coffee

Emotional stress and hormonal changes also cause canker sores, as well as some toothpastes and mouth rinses. Intestinal disorders, Chrohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases may also cause this mouth disorder.

Home Remedies for Canker Sores

Cures for these painful sores include eating three kiwis each day, drinking unpasteurized goat’s milk, or using Aloe Vera juice as a mouth rinse.  Sound too exotic?  If so, here are a few more remedies that you are more likely to find in your kitchen cupboard.

  • Rinse your mouth with baking soda or warm salt water.  Put a dab of horseradish on the sore, eat raw tomatoes or drink tomato juice.  You may also want to mix cinnamon and water and then gargle the mixture.
  • Onions become your friend when you have canker sores.  Apply a bit of raw onion to the sore or place an ice cube on the ulcer site.  Apply a dab of cinnamon to your canker sore to help it heal faster.
  • The remedy my grandmother used with me was Alum – and it always worked. It will sting somewhat, but I've found nothing faster at clearing up canker sores. To effectively use alum (Ammonium Alum), which can be found at most pharmacies, simply wet a clean finger tip, dip it in the powder and apply a small amount directly to the sore(s). Do this several times a day and you'll soon find your mouth free and clear from those painful mouth ulcers.
  • You can also make a salt water/baking soda mixture to rinse your mouth with by combining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of warm water.  You also may make a paste of baking soda and apply to each sore.  Dabbing a bit of milk of magnesia on your sore several times a day will help ease the pain and make healing go faster.
  • Several more exotic home cures will send you to your local health food store.  Buy carob honey or raw tehina and dab it on the sore or buy ingredients to make barley tea.  Plum juice is said to reduce the pain of canker sores, as does carob juice.
  • Soak coriander leaves in warm water, and then strain the mixture and use as a mouth rinse.  Another effective mouth rinse is made by pouring two cups of boiling water on two tablespoons of Marjoram.  Let it sit for ten minutes and use as a gargle.  Coriander leaves can be used in the same way.
  • Additional vitamin B12, iron and folic acid help to bolster your body's defenses against canker sores. Mercurius Solubilis can be used to strengthen the health of your throat and mouth.
  • Give your immune system the support it needs by using herbs such as Hypoxis Rooperi, Astragulus and Buchu.

One preventive measure for stopping canker sores from forming is to not use any toothpaste or mouthwash which contains sodium laurel sulfate.  Canker sores are uncomfortable and painful and tend to grow quickly.

Without using any remedies or medical treatment, canker sores can take a week to 10 days to clear up on their own. Use one of the above remedies as soon as you realize you have a canker sore forming.

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