Canker sores – small, shallow ulcers that appear in the mouth and often make eating and talking uncomfortable — can happen to anyone at any age. While simple canker sores are more common in those ages 10 to 20, complex canker sores can happen at any age. Complex canker sores are rare, but people with a history of simple canker sores are prone to them.
Are cold sores and canker sores the same thing?
No. Although cold sores and canker sores are often confused with each other, they are not the same. Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are caused by a virus and are extremely contagious. Also, cold sores typically appear outside the mouth, usually under the nose, around the lips or under the chin, while canker sores occur inside the mouth.
What causes canker sores?
Scientifically, there’s still an open and unsettled debate as to what precisely causes canker sores. Unlike most other dental or oral problems, canker sores do not have a surefire specific cause.
Some cases of complex canker sores are caused by an underlying health condition, such as an impaired immune system; nutritional problems, such as vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, iron or calcium deficiency; stress on the tissues or any type of injury in the mouth; or gastrointestinal tract disease, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
Ironically, some fruits that are considered to be very healthy due to their nutrients are actually not desirable when one has canker sores. Many citrus fruits are highly acidic and can cause or worsen canker sores.
Treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms. Warm saltwater rinses and a bland diet help minimize discomfort. Anesthetic medication, over-the-counter agents, and steroid medication may expedite healing. Most canker sores clear up within two weeks without treatment.