No one knows what causes canker sores. The vast majority of people who develop the sores do not have another problem that can be pointed at as the cause.
In their research on what causes canker sores, oral health practitioners concluded that the disease probably results from a reaction of the immune system. Additional factors may include the following:
- Bacterial infections
- Hormonal disorders
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Deficiencies of iron, folic acid or Vitamin B12
Canker sores are little ulcer craters in the lining of the mouth that are often painful and sensitive. Women are more likely than men to have recurring canker sores.
The sores are typically found on the movable parts of the mouth such as the tongue or the inside lining of the lips and cheeks. Most people experience their first bout with canker sores between the ages of 10 and 20.
Canker sores appear in up to 50% of people, have a tendency to run in families, and are more widespread during the winter and spring. Probably the main trigger is stress, in the form of fatigue and lack of sleep.
If the sores are so agonizing you can’t eat, some dentists will prescribe a mixture of tetracycline, Benadryl, Mylanta, and xylocaine for you to swish several times a day.
What are the Symptoms of Canker Sores?
When the little shallow sores become visible in the mouth they frequently make eating and talking painful. You may have a canker sore if you have:
- Painful sores inside your mouth, tongue, soft palate, or inside your cheeks
- An itchy or prickly feeling before the emergence of the sores
- White or gray sores in the mouth that are round, with a red edge or border
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, canker sores are widespread, frequently painful and hardly ever linked with serious disease.
Allergies to foods like nuts or tomatoes or to a bacterium found in the mouth may be triggers. Dr. Donna Mager, a dentist at the Forsyth Institute in Boston, says, “Although some people worry that canker sores may be a sign of oral cancer, true canker sores are not linked to cancer.”
When Should You See a Dentist?
You should see a dentist if one of the following occurs:
- The sore persists for more than two weeks
- The sore is unusually large
- A persistent high fever accompanies the sores
- The pain is unbearable
- You experience difficulty drinking
Although a dentist may not be able to answer the question of what causes canker sores, he or she should be able to easily diagnose and recognize one based on where it’s located and how it looks.