Canker Sore Treatment: 9 Ways To Get Rid of Those Pesky Canker Sores

BY Dr. McDowell  |  June 30th, 2023
Dr. McDowell
Dr. McDowell has always been focused on using the latest technology to improve the patient experience. From radiation-free imaging to laser dentistry, he has always been ahead of the curve and is dedicated to improving the practice of dentistry one ..

If you’re someone who experiences canker sores from time to time, you know how painful they can be. You also know how annoying they can be as they can get in the way of talking and eating, or at least enjoying talking and eating.

Luckily, most canker sores go away on their own. The question is when will they go away, and what can be done about them in the meantime? 

In this article, we’ll explore your canker sore treatment options, from home remedies to over-the-counter (OTC) and beyond. 

Find relief below.

What Exactly Is a Canker Sore?

The scientific term for canker sore is aphthous ulcer, which can be defined as a small and painful sore that appears on the inside of the mouth. Canker sores are typically round or oval in shape, and they’re characterized by their white or yellow centers with red outlines.

When canker sores crop up, they’ll appear on:

The good news is that canker sores only appear on the inside of the mouth, so no one will know that you have one unless you tell them. They’re also not contagious. However, they’re still sore, which means they’ll cause a lot of discomfort until they go away. 

Why Do Canker Sores Happen?

close up of canker sore treatment on a patient's lip

Up to 20% of the population gets canker sores. Some experience them on a recurring basis, while others will only see them once or twice throughout their lives. 

Both dentists and doctors are commonly asked why canker sores happen. The truth is— the medical community is still uncertain as to what causes canker sores directly.

This means there can be a number of causes, including:

Of course, plenty of people experience several of the above. Or they take certain medications associated with canker sores or use products that can cause irritation that leads to canker sores — but that doesn’t mean they end up with canker sores.

How Long Do Canker Sores Last?

While canker sores are usually pretty small, they can be large in some cases. The average canker sore can last between one and three weeks, but the larger sores can last up to six weeks.

More importantly, canker sores go through stages:

While the bump or ulcer may last a while, the pain of a canker sore usually improves within a week on its own. However, if you’re experiencing a canker sore that’s persistent in both pain and size for longer than two weeks, you’ll want to see your doctor.

9 Canker Sore Treatments You Can Try At Home

It doesn’t matter whether a canker sore is small or large; the pain alone is enough to ruin your entire day — or days, depending on how long it takes to heal on its own. Luckily there are several home remedies and OTC options that are effective for treating canker sore pain and minimizing their shelf life.

Below are the nine most common canker sore treatments that work for most people:

1. Salt Water Rinse

Saltwater is often the first go-to method to ease the pain and irritation associated with canker sores. Salt has a neutral pH level, which can help neutralize the acidity in your mouth and soothe the pain. It also speeds up healing time as the salt will dry out canker sores.

To create a salt water rinse, do this:

2. Baking Soda Rinse

Baking soda rinses work similarly to salt water rinses. However, baking soda — or sodium bicarbonate — is slightly more basic compared to salt on the pH scale, which allows it to reduce inflammation and neutralize acidity at the same time.

To create this type of mouth rinse, do this:

Don’t worry, the solution won’t harm you if you swallow it. In fact, this rinse doubles as a home remedy for a sour stomach.

mouth wash used as a form of canker sore treatment

3. Antiseptic and Medicated Mouthwashes

You can easily find OTC mouthwashes with antiseptic and numbing properties that help reduce the bacteria in the mouth while relieving canker sore pain.

Some of the best OTC mouthwashes for canker sores include:

Mouthwashes containing tetracycline, dexamethasone, antibiotics or corticosteroids can also be prescribed by your dentist or doctor if necessary.

4. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is known for its anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating effects, hence the reason it has been used since the beginning of time to treat wounds, aid in digestion, and to soothe pain topically — such as burns and lesions.

Drinking aloe vera can decrease the levels of acidity in the stomach to calm inflammation throughout the body. It can also be directly applied to your canker sores or used as a rinse for relief.

5. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is another ingredient well-regarded for its anti-inflammatory benefits. It also contains antioxidants and acts as a mild astringent and, therefore, can treat a variety of conditions to reduce pain and inflammation.

For canker sore relief with chamomile, all you need to do is:

You can also make a chamomile tea rinse to use throughout the day for relief as well as make yourself a cup of tea to sip on for the added benefits.

7. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide acts as an antiseptic that cleans up bacteria. Therefore, it can help to heal canker sores by eliminating bacteria in the mouth.

For this remedy, you’ll need to:

You can also make an equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water solution to use as a rinse — just remember, hydrogen peroxide solution is not one of the mouth rinses you can swallow!dentist performing canker sore treatment on a patient

8. Milk of Magnesia

Milk of magnesia contains magnesium hydroxide, which acts as both an acid neutralizer and a laxative. When applied orally, milk of magnesia can alter the pH level in your mouth, making it impossible for canker sores to survive. It can also coat the lesion to help relieve pain and prevent further irritation. 

All you have to do is apply a small amount to your canker sore, let it sit for a few seconds, and then rinse. You’ll want to do this up to three times daily until the sore is gone.

9. Vitamin B Complex and Zinc Supplements

If your immune system is low or weakened due to a vitamin deficiency, canker sores will have the opportunity to thrive. 

By supplementing your diet with the proper vitamins and minerals, you can prevent the frequency of your canker sores or even stop them from cropping up in the first place.

When to See a Doctor for Your Canker Sores

Most canker sores are simply minor annoyances that pass on their own. If you have severe canker sores that:

Or if you have multiple sores at once, you’ll want to see your doctor right away to figure out what the cause is and how to best treat canker sores that won’t go away.

If you experience frequent canker sores that are not persistent — but still annoying, you may want to consider canker sore laser treatment to relieve pain and help prevent canker sores from cropping up in the future. 

Get in touch with the dental experts at Wayzata Dental to learn more about canker sore laser treatments to get rid of those annoying lesions once and for all!

Dr. McDowell
Dr. McDowell has always been focused on using the latest technology to improve the patient experience. From radiation-free imaging to laser dentistry, he has always been ahead of the curve and is dedicated to improving the practice of dentistry one ..