Home Remedies For Canker Sores
That little crater in your mouth causes more pain than anything so small deserves
to. Rest assured that in a week or two, your canker sore will most likely be history,
and you can chomp a chip, drink a cup of joe, or smooch your spouse without
regretting it. Meanwhile, here are ways to blunt the pain and become a sore loser
A mysterious condition known medically as recurrent aphthous stomatitis,
canker sores typically appear inside the lips or cheeks, around the gums, or on
the tongue. They are white or yellowish, with a halo of red, ranging from the
size of a pinhead to the dimensions of a quarter. Experts aren’t sure what
causes them, but an immune-system malfunction is thought to play a role. A
stressful episode or a mouth injury often precedes a breakout. Recurrent sores
can also be brought on by eating certain foods.
Seal the Sore
- Over-the-counter products such as Zilactin-B Canker Sore Gel and Colgate Orabase Soothe-N-Seal form a long-lasting protective coating over the sore to speed healing and provide fast pain relief.
- A form of licorice known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, also coats canker sores. It’s available in health-food stores. Chew one or two 200- milligram tablets two or three times a day.
- The sap of aloe vera—the ubiquitous “first aid plant”—can bring welcome
relief. Squeeze a bit of gel from an aloe vera leaf. Dry the sore with a cotton
swab, then dab on the gel. Repeat as often as you like.
- Cut open a vitamin E capsule and squeeze a bit of the liquid onto the sore.
Put It in Neutral
- Munch a chewable Pepto-Bismol, Tums, or Rolaids tablet or put it on the
sore and allow it to dissolve. The pain you feel from a canker sore is caused by
acids and digestive enzymes eating into the tissue in the sore. The tablets will
neutralize the acids and may also speed healing. Check the label for dosage
- Use a small amount of milk of magnesia as a mouth rinse, or apply it to the
canker sore three to four times a day.
- Apply a damp tea bag to the sore for five minutes. Tea is alkaline, so it
neutralizes acids. It also contains astringent compounds, which may help relieve
Get That Numb Feeling
- Dab on a topical anesthetic such as Anbesol or Orajel.
- Let a pain-relieving lozenge, such as Chloraseptic, dissolve in your mouth.
Should I call the doctor?
If the pain is too distracting or it’s keeping you from eating or drinking, call your
dentist. Definitely call the dentist if you have more than four sores at a time or
if the sores last longer than two weeks. Also, if you find that you’re getting
canker sores frequently, tell your dentist at your next visit so he or she can
recommend evaluation and treatment, such as an antibiotic mouth rinse, a
steroid ointment, a prescription oral paste, or chemical cautery of the sores.
- Mix two ounces of hydrogen peroxide with two ounces of water. Add one
teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt, and stir until they dissolve.
Swish the solution around in your mouth and spit it out. Hydrogen peroxide is a
strong disinfectant. That’s a plus, since a canker sore is an open wound that’s
vulnerable to infection, which increases the pain. And since baking soda is
alkaline, it provides extra relief by neutralizing acids.
- To speed healing, apply a liquid form of herbal goldenseal on the sore three
times a day, at least an hour before eating. Goldenseal has modest antibacterial
- Put a single drop of tea-tree oil, an antiseptic, directly on the sore
- Make a tea from calendula, better known as pot marigold, valued for
centuries in the treatment of minor sores. Pour a cup of boiling water over a
teaspoon or two of dried petals. Let it steep for 10 minutes, strain out the leaves,
and let the tea cool down until it’s barely warm. You can gargle and rinse several
times a day, or drink the tea.
- Eat yogurt that contains live acidophilus cultures (check the label). Have a
few teaspoonfuls daily for prevention—more when you’re having a breakout.
Take Extra Measures
- Many experts think lysine, an amino acid, may be needed to fix a deficiency
associated with canker sores. Take 500 milligrams of L-lysine three times a day on
an empty stomach until your sore is healed.
- Echinacea is an herb that strengthens your immune system. Take 200
milligrams two or three times a day when you first notice a sore starting to
- Vitamin C helps heal your mouth’s mucous membranes. Normally, we
would turn to citrus fruits for vitamin C, but these may actually cause canker
sores in some people. Instead, take vitamin C supplements. Try 1,000 milligrams
three times a day. If you develop diarrhea with dosages this high, switch to 500-
milligram supplements instead.
- Zinc may help mouth injuries like canker sores heal faster. As soon as you
detect a sore developing, take 30 milligrams of zinc lozenges each day until it’s
The Power of Prevention
- Stay away from foods that trigger canker sores. Potential troublemakers
include whole wheat, rye, barley, shell-fish, pineapple or citrus fruits, figs,
chocolate, tomatoes, green peppers, and strawberries. To find out which, if any,
cause your cankers, cut all of them out of your diet. Then slowly reintroduce
them, one at a time, and see which one makes the problem recur.
- Check the label of your favorite toothpaste for an ingredient called sodium
lauryl sulfate, or SLS. This foaming agent, found in many brands of toothpaste,
contributes to canker sores in some people. And it really isn’t necessary for teeth
cleaning. If you get frequent sores, look for brands that are free of SLS such as
Biotene and Arm & Hammer Dental Care Tooth Powder.
- Tiny cuts and scrapes inside your mouth can cause canker sores. Take care
when eating jagged foods like chips and pretzels. When you brush your teeth,
use a soft-bristled brush to avoid scraping your gums.
- See your dentist if you have any kind of tooth problem that could irritate the
inside of your mouth. Ill-fitting dentures, especially, can be a problem.
- People plagued with frequent canker sores may have a deficiency in certain
B vitamins or iron. Try taking a daily B-vitamin complex and a daily
multivitamin/multimineral for iron. To get more B vitamins into your diet,
look to beans, wheat germ, and fortified cereal. Lean beef is a good source of
- Stressful episodes trigger many cases of canker sores. If you tend to get a little
wired, try some of the classic methods of keeping your cool—meditation, yoga,
and aerobic exercise.