Canker Sores

Question: What are the painful sores I often get on the inside of my mouth?

Answer: Most likely you have what are commonly called canker sores. These sores, which can be quite painful, are also called aphthous ulcers. They are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. Canker sores appear inside the mouth, often found on the inside of the lips, cheeks, and under the tongue. They are not contagious, but can return frequently in some individuals. Some patients might have a single sore or multiple sores at any given time. Their exact cause is uncertain but some experts believe that immune system problems, bacteria, or viruses may be involved. Other theories suggest that certain foods or stress may play a role as well. Although there is no cure for canker sores, over-the-counter topical anesthetics and antimicrobial mouthwashes may provide temporary relief from the pain. Canker sores usually heal on their own after a week or two, so call your dentist if you have any sore that persists longer than 14 days.