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11 Natural Remedies To Get Rid Of Canker Sores + Causes, Symptoms, And Tips

Medically reviewed by Dr. Thomas Connelly , DDS
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11 Natural Remedies To Get Rid Of Canker Sores + Causes, Symptoms, And Tips January 11, 2019

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Do you have inflamed and painful sores covering the insides of your lips and/or cheeks? Are you wondering what these sudden formations are? Well, chances are that you have developed canker sores.

Canker sores are outright painful. Although they can usually heal on their own, you might want to get rid of them as soon as possible. What causes such sores? How do you speed up the healing of these stubborn sores? This post covers all it all along with a lot more information. Read on.

What Are Canker Sores?

Cankers sores are painful mouth ulcers or sores. They are also referred to as aphthous ulcers (or aphthous stomatitis) and are the most common type of mouth ulcers. You may also notice them inside the lips or cheeks. Canker sores are usually white or yellow and often surrounded by red, inflamed tissues.

While canker sores are not contagious, they may take up to three weeks to heal completely. Serious cases of such sores may take as long as six weeks to heal.

Canker sores can be classified into different types.

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Types Of Canker Sores

  • Minor Canker Sores: These are the most common type of canker sores. They are usually small and oval-shaped with a red ridge. Such sores heal without scarring in one to two weeks. They can occur in kids aged 10 to adults aged 20.
  • Major Canker Sores: These are less common and often larger and deeper than the minor sores. They are usually round and defined, but they may sometimes have irregular edges when the sores are very large. Such sores are extremely painful and may take up to six weeks to heal. Major canker sores can cause extensive scarring.
  • Herpetiform Canker Sores: They are uncommon and are known to develop later in life. Such sores are not caused by the herpes virus and are usually pinpointed. They occur in clusters of 10-100 sores and can merge into one big cluster eventually.

While the exact cause of canker sores is unknown, here are some factors that can increase your risk of developing them.

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Causes And Risk Factors

  • A viral infection, especially from Herpesvirus
  • Increased stress
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Allergies to certain foods
  • Acidic foods like citrus fruits
  • A deficiency in vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid, or iron
  • Medical conditions like Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease
  • Hormonal changes that occur during your menstrual cycle
  •  An injury to the mouth due to braces, a sharp tooth, or something else

The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with canker sores.

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Signs And Symptoms

  • White or yellow ulcers
  • Oval-shaped ulcers
  • Red and painful areas inside the mouth
  • A tingling sensation inside the mouth

In a few cases, the following symptoms might also be present:

  • Swelling of your lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Fatigue and weakness

If you go to a doctor, they may opt for the following ways to diagnose a canker sore.

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How Is A Canker Sore Diagnosed?

Most often than not, a doctor can diagnose a canker sore just by examining it. Your doctor may also suggest further blood tests or perform a biopsy if there is a severe outbreak or if they suspect:

  • A viral infection
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • A hormonal problem
  • Issues with your immune system

In some cases, a cancerous lesion may also be mistaken for a canker sore. Also, the symptoms of oral cancer usually mimic those of canker sores – like the onset of ulcers and swollen lymph nodes. However, oral cancer may also exhibit other unique symptoms like:

  • Some of your teeth may become loose
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Constant earaches
  • Bleeding gums

In case you exhibit any of the above symptoms, see a doctor immediately to rule out the possibility of oral cancer.

If you are diagnosed with a canker sore, your doctor might prescribe any or a combination of the following treatments.

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Medical Treatments

While canker sores can heal on their own even without medical intervention, the following can help in speeding your recovery.

Over-the-counter topical formulations that can help are:

  • Hydrogen peroxide rinses like Peroxyl and Orajel
  • Fluocinonide (Vanos)
  • Benzocaine products like Orabase, Zilactin-B, and Kank-A
  • Antimicrobial mouth rinses like Listerine
  • Antibiotic mouthwashes or pills that contain doxycycline like Monodox, Adoxa, and Vibramycin
  • Corticosteroid ointments like Hydrocortisone hemisuccinate or Beclomethasone
  • Prescription mouthwashes that may contain dexamethasone or lidocaine

A few natural ingredients can also help in alleviating the symptoms of canker sores – like the ones listed below.

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Home Remedies To Treat Canker Sores

  1. Tea Tree Oil
  2. Honey
  3. Vitamin B12
  4. Chamomile Tea
  5. Aloe Vera
  6. Epsom Salt
  7. Alum
  8. Baking Soda
  9. Turmeric
  10. Oil Pulling
  11. Apply Ice

How To Treat Canker Sores Naturally

1. Tea Tree Oil

 Tea Tree Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1-2 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 1 cup of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one to two drops of tea tree essential oil to a cup of warm water.
  2. Mix well and use this solution to rinse your mouth.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

The antimicrobial properties of tea tree essential oil can fight viral infections that might be triggering canker sores. Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe inflammation and pain (1).

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2. Honey

Honey Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Organic honey (as required)
  • Cotton swab
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little honey onto a cotton swab.
  2. Apply it to the affected area.
  3. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and rinse it off with water.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 2-3 times daily.

Why This Works

Honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties (2), (3). While the antimicrobial properties can help fight infections that trigger the canker sore, the anti-inflammatory properties help in alleviating inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.

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3. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 Pinit

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You Will Need

2.4 mcg vitamin B12

What You Have To Do
  1. Consume foods rich in vitamin B12 like sardines, tuna, fortified cereals, mushrooms, and clams.
  2. You can also take additional supplements for this vitamin after consulting your doctor.
How Often You Should Do This

You may include small amounts of vitamin B12 in your daily diet.

Why This Works

Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the many risk factors for canker sores. Hence, restoring this deficiency can help treat and prevent such sores (4).

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4. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile Tea Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of chamomile tea
  • 1 cup of water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of chamomile tea to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for a few minutes and strain.
  4. Once the tea cools down a little, you can also add some honey to it.
  5. Drink the warm chamomile tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this twice daily.

Why This Works

The powerful anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile tea can help reduce the symptoms of canker sores and also speed up their recovery (5).

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5. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Aloe vera gel (as required)
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Apply freshly extracted aloe gel to the canker sore with a cotton swab.
  2. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 2-3 times daily.

Why This Works

The soothing, anti-inflammatory nature of aloe vera can do wonders in reducing pain, inflammation, and swelling associated with canker sores (6).

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6. Epsom Salt

Epsom Salt Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ¼ teaspoon of Epsom salt
  • 1 cup of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one-fourth teaspoon of Epsom salt to a cup of warm water.
  2. Mix well and rinse your mouth with the solution for a few seconds.
  3. Don’t forget to rinse your mouth with plain water after this.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 2-3 times daily.

Why This Works

One of the main constituents of Epsom salt is magnesium, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, Epsom salt can help alleviate the symptoms of canker sores (7).

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7. Alum

Alum Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ¼ teaspoon of alum powder
  • A few drops of water
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Take one-fourth teaspoon of alum powder and add a few drops of water to it.
  2. Mix well to form a paste.
  3. Using a cotton swab, apply the alum paste to the canker sore.
  4. Leave it on for a few minutes.
  5. Rinse it off.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily until the sore disappears.

Why This Works

The astringent, anti-inflammatory, and hemostatic nature of alum can help reduce inflammation and pain and speed up the healing of the canker sores (8).

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8. Baking Soda

Baking Soda Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½-1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water.
  2. Use this solution to rinse your mouth.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 2-3 times daily, preferably after every meal.

Why This Works

The antibacterial nature of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can help fight oral microbes (9). Its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce the swelling and pain in the affected area.

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9. Turmeric

Turmeric Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • A few drops of water
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a few drops of water to half a teaspoon of turmeric powder.
  2. Mix well to form a thick paste.
  3. Using a cotton swab, apply the turmeric paste to the canker sore.
  4. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

The active component of turmeric is curcumin. The healing activities of curcumin can accelerate the healing of canker sores (10).

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10. Oil Pulling

Oil Pulling Pinit

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You Will Need

1 tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Swish a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Spit the oil out and go about your normal oral routine like brushing and rinsing.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this once every morning before brushing your teeth.

Why This Works

Among the many potential oral benefits of oil pulling, one is its ability to reduce the symptoms of canker sores. This may have to do with the anti-inflammatory properties exhibited by the oils used (11).

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11. Apply Ice

Apply Ice Pinit

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You Will Need

An ice cube or crushed ice

What You Have To Do

Apply some ice to the canker sore for a few minutes.

How Often You Should Do This

You may do this several times daily.

Why This Works

Ice can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with canker sores.

Other than these remedies, your diet might also make a difference when it comes to helping the canker sores heal faster.

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What Foods Heal Canker Sores?

If you are suffering from painful canker sores, you may need to consume more of certain foods and avoid a few others to aid faster healing.

What To Eat

Foods that should be included in your diet are:

  • Iron-rich parsley
  • Vitamin B12-rich salmon
  • Spinach, which is a good source of iron and folate
  • Probiotic yogurt

What Not To Eat

Foods that are best avoided when you are suffering from canker sores are:

  • Snacks like salted nuts, chips, and pretzels
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic fruits like pineapples, grapefruits, lemons, and other citrus fruits
  • Soda
  • Coffee

Here are some additional tips that can help prevent the recurrence of canker sores.

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How To Prevent Canker Sores

  • Avoid consuming foods that you may be allergic to.
  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Practice good oral hygiene.
  • Restore your nutrient deficiencies.
  • Be careful when you chew your food to avoid unwanted mouth injuries.

A combination of these tips and remedies can help in speeding up the recovery of those painful canker sores.

Do you know any other remedies that have worked for you? Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How to make canker sores heal faster?

By following the tips and remedies provided above, you can definitely speed up the healing of your sores. You can also try out any over-the-counter topical products to assist in the healing of canker sores.

How long does it take for canker sores to heal?

Most canker sores heal in 1-3 weeks. More serious cases of canker sores may take up to 6 weeks to heal completely.

Are canker sores contagious?

No, canker sores are not contagious. However, sometimes, cold sores are confused for canker sores, and the former are contagious.

When to see a doctor for canker sores?

If there is an outbreak of sores or if you suddenly develop large sores accompanied by fever, diarrhea, rash, or headache, it is best to consult a doctor. You must also consult a doctor if the canker sores are not showing any signs of healing even after several weeks.

References

  1. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties” Clinical Microbiology Reviews, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of honey: the involvement of autonomic receptors” Metabolic Brain Disease, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Antimicrobial properties of honey.” American Journal of Therapeutics, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Effectiveness of vitamin B12 in treating recurrent aphthous stomatitis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future” Molecular Medicine Reports, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Evaluation of the therapeutic effects of Aloe vera gel on minor recurrent aphthous stomatitis” Dental Research Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Magnesium Decreases Inflammatory Cytokine Production: A Novel Innate Immunomodulatory Mechanism” Journal of Immunology, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Efficacy of alum for treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis” Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. The effect of sodium bicarbonate oral rinse on salivary pH and oral microflora: A prospective cohort study” National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery, US National Library of Medicine.
  10. Enhanced mucosal healing with curcumin in animal oral ulcer model. “ Laryngoscope, US National Library of Medicine.
  11. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.

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