Having experienced canker sores (almost every week) for the last 3 years, these simple steps have been effective in helping me prevent them
What are canker sores?
According to Mayo clinic, Canker sores, also known as aphthous stomatitis, are small shallow lesions that develop on the inside of the mouth, on or under the tongue, inside the cheeks or lips, at the base of the gums, and some times on the soft pallet. They usually go away on their own within a week or two. They are painful, usually making eating and talking difficult.
Most canker sores are round or oval with a white or yellow center and a red border.
Major canker sores occur les commonly. They are larger in size and deeper than minor canker sores, and are usually round with defined borders, although they may have irregular edges when very large, and may take up to six weeks to heal.
In this article, I would like to share my experience with aphthous stomatitis, and a very simple method that has helped in preventing the painful canker sores from recurring.
Keep in mind that this method is helpful only if what you have are true canker sores.
For other forms of oral ulceration, which may be due to an underlying disease, you should seek medical attention.
I’ve had painful, recurrent canker sores (almost every week) for the last 3 years. These simple steps have been effective in helping me live without a sore in my mouth for two and a half months now.
Two and a half months seems like a short time for me to proclaim success, but if you have gone through the pain of recurrent canker-sore, then you understand that even a few days without a sore is a huge relief.
My experience with canker sores
How I discovered the simple method for prevention
I've experienced many episodes of recurrent canker sores over the past 3 years. They started almost suddenly, as I had never experienced them before.
For a long time I looked for remedies and methods of prevention, on the internet and from other health care professionals.
Most of the suggestions for prevetion included avoiding tooth paste containing sodium lauryl sulfate. Others suggested identifying specific items in my diet.
I went out on a quest for different kinds of tooth paste. Unfortunately I failed to find any brand without sodium lauryl sulfate, and I couldn’t identify anything so drastically different in my diet.
I was miserable, getting one sore after another. Just as one was healing, another was forming in a different area in the mouth. Eating was a constant pain.
After many months of reflection, I remembered that before the sudden onset of the sores, my approach to oral care was different.
Initially, I brushed my teeth twice a day, ounce in the morning, and ounce just before bed. But just before bed, I wasn't using any toothpaste.
I only started using toothpaste to brush my teeth at bed time, after I developed a painful cavity, and had to make a dreaded visit to the dentist. Of course many other factors contributed to the development of the cavity, but I thought to my self, that If I added tooth paste to my night time brushing, I would significantly reduce the chances of developing another cavity.
This got me thinking, could it really be the toothpaste?
So, I decided to try out something very simple, only to prove to myself that toothpaste was to blame. The idea was to continue using toothpaste, but try to wash it out of my mouth completely (or at least as much as possible).
At bed time, I started using a tiny amount of tooth paste (I didn't want to get rid of the tooth paste completely, for fear of cavities).
After each time of brushing, I'd rinse the mouth out thoroughly like upto 10 times, rinsing with plain water at room temperature. I've been doing this every day, for the last three months.
To my surprise, these simple steps have worked tremendously for me. I haven’t had a new sore in two and a half months.
Here are the steps:
- Minimize the number of times you brush your teeth with tooth paste to only two times per day.
- Use only a small amount of tooth paste to brush your teeth before bedtime.
- Rinse the mouth thoroughly every time you brush your teeth. Use plain water (preferably at room temperature) and rinse between 5 to 10 times.
Doing this on a daily basis has kept the canker sores away from my mouth.
In my opinion, it is possible that something in the toothpaste is the cause of the sores. However I don't have a definite conclusion on what it is exactly.
What is certain is this: Whatever it is in the toothpaste that causes the canker sores, if you reduce the frequency of exposure, and also thoroughly wash it out of the mouth, the chance of developing canker sores will reduce significantly.
Etiology of canker sores
Recurrent canker sores or aphthous stomatitis is characterized by the repeated occurrence of benign non-contagious oral ulcers. The ulcers appear periodically and heal completely without scaring, usually lasting 6-8 days. Canker sores affects 20-60% of normal individuals (Rao et al., 2015).
Despite such a high prevalence rate, the etiology of canker sores isn’t well understood. It is suggested that stress could be a potential trigger factor.
A study on medical and dental students in India supports the association of stress and recurrent aphthous stomatitis. The results showed a higher prevalence in final year medical students. However, there is no evidence to suggest that reduction in stress levels can lead to reduction in the recurrence sores.
Aphthous stomatitis has been a big mystery for medical scholars for a long time. For example, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA – as far back as 1962, reveals that in 1937, a study was conducted to address speculation that canker sores may be due to foods like chocolate eggs milk or to drugs like phenolphthalein.
The results of the study disclosed that food allergy was not a major factor in the etiology of this disorder and the cause remained unknown. Citric acid and acetic acid were also excluded as factors in the development of the disease.
Additional literature from recent studies suggests that viral, bacterial or protozoan are not substantiated as potential factors in the etiology.
A randomized controlled trial to determine effect of multivitamin therapy on recurrent aphthous stomatitis found that daily supplementation with the essential vitamins did not result in a reduction in the number or duration of recurrent aphthous stomatitis (Spivakovsky and Keenan, 2013)
The exact cause and strategy for prevention of canker sores is therefore still a subject of debate. Various studies have been conducted to try and determine the most appropriate way to prevent them and various treatment options have been proposed.
Medscape.com for example advises that susceptible patients may benefit from avoiding tooth paste or mouth wash products containing sodium lauryl sulfate.
I have been using this simple preventive method for close to six months now, and I haven't developed a single canker sore.
I am planning to change to a different brand of toothpaste, but maintain my oral care routine and see if that will have an impact. I will be updating.
I continued getting a sore or two ounce in a while, despite reducing the number of times I use tooth paste for oral hygiene.
So I searched around for toothpaste that doesn't contain sodium lauryl sulfate and found sensodyne. Its been 3 months now, and I havent develpoed a canker sore.
It is a litle more costly than other toothpastes in the grocery store, but I will stick with it for a while.
Mayo clinic (2019) Canker sore. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/disease-conditions/canker-sore/symptoms-causes/syc-20370615
Medscape (2019) Pediatric Aphthous Ulcers Follow-up.
Rao Ak, Vundavalli S, Sirisha NR, Jayasree C H, Sindura G, and Radhika D (2015). ‘Journal of Indian association of public health Dentistry’. The association between psychological stress and recurrent aphthous stomatitis’s among medical and dental students’ cohorts in an educational set up in India. [Internet];13:133-7. From http://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2015/13/2/133/159047
Spivakovsky S. and Keenan V. (2013). ‘Evidence based dentistry’ No effect seen for multivitamin therapy on recurrent aphthous stomatitis patients. [Internet] 14, 26.doi:10.1038/sj.ebd.6400920
The Mystery of the canker sore. JAMA. 1962;180(11): 966-967. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050240062015
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Ian Batanda
Ian Batanda (author) on March 02, 2019:
Thank you Farrah Young for the comment.
I completely understand what you must be going through with those painful sores.
I hope the information in this article will help you as much as it has done for me.
Farrah Young from Lagos, Nigeria on March 02, 2019:
For someone who suffers from canker sores herself, this article is eye-opening.
It's good to know toothpaste could be a cause of it. And although I dont brush too often, I use a generous amount of toothpaste when I do.
Thanks for this.