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What Causes Canker Sores and How Do You Treat Them?

What are canker sores and cold sores? How do tell them apart and how do you treat them?

Cold sores generally appear on the outside of the mouth, on your lips. Usually they appear in clusters, at first clear, then becoming cloudy. Canker sores only appear on the inside of the mouth, on the insides of your cheeks, tongue, lips, or even your throat. They can be painful and uncomfortable and can interfere with speech and eating.

Causes of Cold Sores

Cold sores are caused by a type of herpes simplex virus called HSV-1 or herpes labialis which causes sores around the mouth. A break in the skin around or inside the mouth usually creates an opportunity for the herpes simplex virus to enter the body. Kissing an infected person or touching a cold sore, an infected fluid, or a person’s saliva can lead to the spread of the infection.

Causes of Canker Sores

Unfortunately, no one knows why canker sores occur in the first place. However, some factors that may be attributed to them are: injuries to the inside of the mouth, like accidentally biting the tongue or cheek; overeating spicy or acidic foods, hormonal changes, and food allergies.

Preventing Cold Sores

Unfortunately, the herpes simplex virus permanently stays in your body. However, here are a couple of easy preventative tips:  do not come in contact with infected body fluids and don't share eating utensils, drinking cups, and other items used by a person with a cold sore.

You can also minimize the number of outbreaks you have by: avoiding stress, catching a cold or flu, use lip balm and sunscreen (too much sunlight can cause cold sores to flare-up), wash your hands often, and do not touch cold sores.

Reducing Canker Sore Pain

Gargling with mouthwash or salt water may help in reducing the pain of a canker sore. Additionally, you can try mixing hydrogen peroxide with water and apply it on the infected area with a cotton swab.

Treatment Options For Canker Sores And Cold Sores

There are a lot of over-the-counter medications for canker sores to relieve the pain and heal the sores. Medications usually come in the form of ointments or gels which can be directly placed on the affected area. Oral rinses are available as well. You can also try home remedies like rinsing with peroxide or salt water to clean sterilize the sore.

Meanwhile, for cold sores, you can buy topical creams and ointments which can also be bought over the counter. But, when cold sores are severe and extremely painful, doctors may prescribe pills or stronger ointment; at times they may also require medical attention and may take a long period to heal.

5 Common Canker Sore Triggers To Avoid

  1. Acidic food
    Nobody likes putting acid in a wound. It’s a surefire way to make the pain worse. That’s because acids are corrosive substances—they eat up the things they contact. Citric and malic acid are the most common acids that naturally occur within the food. But they’re not as corrosive as other the other types. Nonetheless, eating food that contains high amounts of these acids can trigger your sores. If you have a particularly severe bout of canker sores, then, you might want to stay away from citrus fruits and fermented vegetables.  5 Common Canker Sore Triggers To Avoid
  2. Spicy food
    Sour food isn’t the only thing you should be wary of. Spicy food can also aggravate your canker sores—even cause them, in some instances. Capsaicin, the compound usually found in spices, binds to specific receptors in your mouth. These receptors detect temperature, so when this compound does bind, you feel a burning sensation. You can imagine, then, what this could do to your sores. It might be a good idea to stave away from the chilies to prevent further irritation.  
  3. Salty food
    Many have documented the benefits of salt in treating shallow wounds. According to an article by stuff, its chemical composition forces out the liquid in cells from the body. Bacteria may linger in the injury via these liquids. So when salt is applied, these infections are purged out as well. But not all salty substances are suitable for your wounds. Some of them may contain bacteria or compounds that can exacerbate the problem. If you have canker sores, then, a good salt rinse can do your ulcers right. But you might want to stave off the chips for a while. 
  4. Sharp surfaces
    Minor wounds can cause canker sores, although it’s not clear why. It’s for this reason people with braces are more likely to experience these lesions. Aside from being a probable cause, however, sharp surfaces can also exacerbate your sores further. Consult your dentist on what you could do to lessen the blow. 
  5. Some non-steroidal medicines for inflammation
    While these types of medications can alleviate the pain for some, others might have an adverse reaction when they take them. Ibuprofen, in particular, is a usual suspect. If you’re still unsure about the effects of these anti-inflammatory drugs on your sores, consult your doctor. 

DIY Home Remedies for Canker Sores

Aloe Vera Juice Rinse the mouth with aloe vera juice at least three or four times daily to relieve the pain.

Baking Soda and Salt Mix a teaspoon of baking soda and two teaspoons of salt in a glass of warm water. Use it to rinse your mouth at least two to three times a day until the canker sores go away. Alternatively, make a paste by combining baking soda with a small amount of water, apply it to the affected area, and wash off after fifteen minutes.

Black Tea After dipping a black tea bag in warm water, take it out and place it on the affected area. Gently press on it to release the tea water. Do this for ten to fifteen minutes. Repeat as necessary.

Cilantro Boil two tablespoons of cilantro in one glass of water. After boiling, strain and allow the liquid to cool until it becomes tepid. Use this to rinse your mouth at least three times a day.

Grapefruit Mix five to six drops of grapefruit juice in water, and use it to rinse your mouth at least two times a day.

Onion Place a sliced onion directly on the canker sores, allowing it to sit for fifteen minutes. Afterward, rinse your mouth with cold water. Although uncomfortable, onions are helpful in relieving pain and healing sores.

Plum Juice Rinse your mouth with plum juice, or soak a cotton ball in the mixture and hold it against the affected area for 20 minutes. Do this twice or thrice a day.

Tea Tree Oil Mix three to five drops of tea tree oil with a quarter cup of warm water. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture, and hold it against the affected areas. Complete this three to four times a day.

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