What are canker sores?

Canker sore is the name for a painful, open sore in the mouth that is medically known as aphthous ulcer. The sores are not contagious and are small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in the mouth and gums.

Canker sores are more common in women than men. Most commonly, canker sores first appear between the ages of 10 and 40. Canker sores may result from mouth injury, viral infections, hormonal shifts, an abnormal immune system, or a diet low in nutrients.

Signs and symptoms of canker sores can last for about one week. The disease course varies among individuals. Some people with canker sores have one painful red spot that develops into an open ulcer that is usually white or yellow, while others may have swollen lymph nodes, fever, and more than one canker sore at a time. Fortunately, you can treat canker sores successfully with over-the-counter remedies to reduce pain. Even better, you can reduce your risk of canker sores by carefully brushing your teeth so as not to injure your mouth, eating a nutritious diet, and reducing stress.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for canker sores but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of canker sores?

Canker sores cause a local area of inflammation in the mouth that may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of canker sores

The most common symptoms of canker sores are found in the mouth and include:


What causes canker sores?

A variety of factors can cause canker sores, including injury during tooth brushing, dental work, trauma or emotional stress, hormonal changes, spicy foods, and nutrient deficiencies. The sores occur commonly with viral infections. In some cases, the cause cannot be identified.

Common causes of canker sores

It is not always possible to determine what caused a canker sor... Read more about canker sorescauses


How are canker sores treated?

Treatment for canker sores does not normally require medical care from your health care provider unless the symptoms cause you concern or are persistent. If you experience more than three canker sores in one year you should contact your health care provider.

Over-the-counter anesthetics and antimicrobial mouth rinses are the mainstay of treatment for canker sores and can be highly... Read more about canker sorestreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health