Have you ever had a canker sore? If so, you know that these
small mouth sores can cause major pain. You can get a canker sore
on the inside of your lip or cheek, or on your tongue or the roof
of your mouth. Usually canker sores form one at a time inside your
mouth, but you can get more than one in a little cluster.
Canker sores are round and usually about the size of a kernel of
corn (1/4 inch, or 6 millimeters), but they can be as big as a
quarter (1 inch, or 25 millimeters). If you look in the mirror at
your canker sore, it will be white or yellow with a red border.
What Do Canker Sores Feel Like?
Canker sores hurt, especially if you eat something hard, crunchy,
salty, or acidic (like orange juice). They usually go away on their
own and they are not contagious. So no one can catch a canker sore
by kissing you or sharing your drink.
Other Kinds of Mouth Sores
Not all mouth sores are canker sores.
or fever blisters are a different kind of sore, which is caused by
a virus called herpes simplex (say:
-pleks). Cold sores and fever blisters often form outside the
mouth, around the lips, on the cheeks or chin, or inside the
nostrils of the
. Unlike canker sores, those sores are contagious. Chickenpox are
another kind of contagious sore, and it's possible to get
chickenpox inside the mouth.
What Causes Canker Sores?
No one really knows what causes canker sores. But researchers
think stress may make a person more likely to get one. A canker
sore also may spring up if a person's diet doesn't contain
enough vitamins and minerals.
The inside of your mouth is delicate, so mouth injuries, such as
biting the inside of your lip or brushing your
too hard, also seem to bring on canker sores. But anybody can get a
canker sore and they may run in families, which means that if your
mom or dad gets canker sores, you might get them, too.
How Are They Treated?
Most canker sores don't hurt as much after the first few
days, but it may take 2 weeks for the sore to heal. While
you're waiting, you'll want to be careful when eating and
brushing your teeth. Scraping the sore can make it hurt worse. You
might need some medication to dull the pain. Your mom or dad can
ask your doctor about which one is best for you.
If your canker sore is large, lasts longer than a week, or is
keeping you from eating, you should see your doctor so he or she
can check it out.
How Can You Prevent Canker Sores?
There's no guaranteed way to prevent canker sores, but
it's a good idea to eat healthy, get enough
, and try not to get too worried or upset. Put canker sores on the
list of things you
have to worry about. They hurt for a little while, but before you
know it, you'll be a sore loser!
Garrett B. Lyons, Sr., DDS, and Lisa A. Goss, RDH, BS
Date reviewed: April 2006
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.