- 9 Frequently Asked Questions About Canker Sores, Answered
- 4. How Can I Get Rid of Canker Sores?
- 5. Are Canker Sores Contagious?
- 6. Are Canker Sores Herpes?
- 7. How Long Do Canker Sores Last?
- 8. What if My Canker Sore Isn’t Going Away?
- 9. How Do You Prevent a Canker Sore?
- Are Canker Sores Contagious Through Kissing?
- What canker sores are (and aren’t)
- But are canker sores contagious?
- Are Canker Sores Herpes?
- What Are Canker Sores?
- What Are Cold Sores?
- Similar But Different
9 Frequently Asked Questions About Canker Sores, Answered
4. How Can I Get Rid of Canker Sores?
Canker sores are treatable at home and may not require checking in with your doctor or dentist. Gargling and rinsing the mouth with salt water, hydrogen peroxide, or a baking soda solution can help. These remedies can soothe inflammation, neutralize acid in the mouth, and remove bacteria, which all promote healing. (4,5)
The area around the sore is sensitive, so be careful when eating, brushing, and flossing. Even just tickling the spot with your tongue can irritate it and make it worse, says Jennifer Silver, DDS, a dentist based in Calgary, British Columbia.
She further notes the importance of staying away from acidic or spicy foods, which may exacerbate an existing sore.
Pain is also common with a canker sore. To relieve tenderness, take ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), suck on ice, or apply oral numbing creams directly to the sore. (4)
5. Are Canker Sores Contagious?
Canker sores aren’t contagious; it’s not possible to give a canker sore to someone through kissing or sharing food and drinks. (3)
Even so, two people living in the same household may develop a canker sore at the same time if they eat the same trigger foods, or if they have similar allergies or intolerances to foods that cause sores.
6. Are Canker Sores Herpes?
The herpes virus can cause cold sores (fever blisters), but these aren’t the same as a canker sore. (2)
The difference is that cold sores are contagious, so the virus responsible for them can pass from person-to-person through physical contact. Also, recurrent cold sores form outside of the mouth while canker sores form inside of the mouth. (2)
7. How Long Do Canker Sores Last?
Canker sores generally don’t last long, with most sores clearing on their own in about one week, explains Dr. Rawdin. It might take longer for a major or severe canker sore to heal — up to six weeks. (2)
Sores typically heal without scarring, although scarring is possible with a major lesion. (2)
8. What if My Canker Sore Isn’t Going Away?
Some canker sores don’t respond to home remedies and over-the-counter products. If a sore worsens or doesn’t improve, see your primary care doctor. Some deeper or larger lesions may need a prescription oral steroid medication (dexamethasone) or a medicated mouthwash. (3,4)
Depending on the severity and duration of a canker sore, your doctor may suggest a cautery procedure. (4) This involves burning or destroying the tissue around the sore to promote healing. This might be an option for canker sores that cause severe pain.
9. How Do You Prevent a Canker Sore?
There’s no way to prevent canker sores, but modifying your diet might reduce the number of occurrences. (3)
For example, if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, supplement with a multivitamin and eat a balanced diet. Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as lean meats and whole grains.
If you’re prone to canker sores, Dr. Silver suggests keeping a food diary and tracking what you eat and drink. “You may start to notice that eating certain foods or drinks, typically things with high acidity or lots of spice, will correlate with a canker sore outbreak,” she continues.
You can also discuss allergy testing with your doctor to identify a food intolerance.
Protecting your mouth is another way to prevent lesions. Practice good oral hygiene — brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day. But be gentle to avoid irritating the skin inside of your mouth. (2)
While canker sores are unpredictable, understanding their specific triggers might reduce the frequency of outbreaks and help speed the healing process.
Are Canker Sores Contagious Through Kissing?
They’re unsightly, they’re painful and most people suffer from them off and on: canker sores. These slimy, white, odor-causing blisters can really ruin a party, especially if you’re hoping to eat some spicy BBQ or do some smoochin’ this Memorial Day. So how about it: Are canker sores contagious? Can you get them from kissing or sharing food?
What canker sores are (and aren’t)
First, it’s important to know what these sores – also called aphthous ulcers – are, and what causes them. Canker sores occur inside your mouth, usually on the delicate tissues of your gums, tongue or inner cheeks. They start when a small nick, cut or irritated area gets infected by oral bacteria (the same odor-causing germs that are responsible for bad breath).
After a few days, these spots turn into small, white, painful patches. Any irritation – be it spices, tobacco smoke or alcohol-based mouthwashes – can cause searing pain.
Canker sores are not cold sores, which are the small, blister-like ulcers that occur on the outside of your mouth, usually around the lips and under the nose. The latter are caused by a virus and are definitely contagious.
But are canker sores contagious?
They are not. Thankfully, you can’t catch canker sores from kissing or sharing food or toothbrushes. However, the Nemours Foundation warns that susceptibility to aphthous ulcers runs in families, so if your parents get them, you probably will too.
To treat them and banish the bad breath they cause, consider using specialty, alcohol-free rinses and oxygenating toothpastes. Also, avoid pastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent that is known to cause canker sores.
Are Canker Sores Herpes?
“Are canker sores herpes?” is a pretty fair question to ask if you’ve never experienced a herpes outbreak before. If you’ve developed a canker sore, it’s easy to assume it’s part of a larger viral infection such as HSV-1. While canker sores and cold sores have similar names and affect similar body parts, the two types of sores are completely different in nature.
In this guide, we’ll answer the question, “Are canker sores herpes?” and explain how canker sores and cold sores are different, as well as the causes of each type of oral sore.
What Are Canker Sores?
Canker sores are small, painful ulcers that develop in the mouth. Most canker sores develop on the gums, typically near the teeth. However, they can also develop on the roof of your mouth or towards the back, near your tonsils.
Canker sores can be simple or complex. Simple canker sores tend to affect people in their teens and early twenties, although they can affect people of all ages. Simple canker sore outbreaks usually occur every three to four months and can be triggered by a variety of events.
Complex canker sores can affect people of any age. These sores usually develop in people with compromised immune systems, such as people with lupus, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and immunodeficiency viruses such as HIV/AIDS.
While scientists haven’t yet discovered the precise cause of canker sores, several factors are thought to contribute to canker sore outbreaks:
- Stress is one of the factors most closely associated with canker sores. People who are overworked or stressed are more likely to develop canker sores than people with lower levels of stress.
- Poor sleep or lack of sleep may also contribute to the development of canker sores, particularly if you get too little sleep over an extended period of time.
- Tissue injury to the gums and mouth can cause canker sores to develop. Biting into a sharp object in food, cutting your gums on braces or accidentally biting your gums can also potentially trigger a canker sore.
- Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and certain juices, are also believed to increase your risk of developing a canker sore.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by poor eating habits can also contribute to the development of canker sores.
- Cigarette and cigar smoking may also increase your risk of developing a canker sore.
One of the most popular questions about them is: “Are canker sores contagious?” The answer, of course, is “Absolutely not.” Canker sores are not contagious, meaning there’s no risk of you “spreading” a canker sore from your mouth to your partner’s through kissing. They’re also not an STD, meaning you don’t need to be worried about spreading canker sores to a partner’s genitals through oral sex.
Treating canker sores is simple. Most sores will heal on their own over the course of a week. To treat the discomfort caused by a canker sore, you can apply a topical ointment with benzocaine, lidocaine or another topical anaesthetic to your gums.
In general, while almost everyone will experience canker sores from time to time, focusing on a healthy, low-stress lifestyle and eating a nutritious diet will reduce your risk of getting outbreaks.
What Are Cold Sores?
Cold sores are sores caused by the herpes virus that can form on or around your lips. They’re caused by the HSV-1 variant of the herpes virus, which is estimated to affect around two thirds of all people under the age of 50.
Unlike canker sores, which can affect everyone, cold sores only affect people with the herpes virus. HSV-1, the form of herpes that causes oral cold sores, is highly contagious and can spread easily through direct oral contact with an infected person.
Despite the prevalence of HSV-1, many people with the virus never experience any symptoms, meaning you may have the “cold sore virus” but never notice it.
This means that if you experience cold sore outbreaks, there’s a risk of you passing the HSV-1 virus on to your partner through kissing. HSV-1 can also spread via oral sex, resulting in genital herpes. It’s even possible to spread the HSV-1 virus if you don’t have any symptoms.
Like canker sores, cold sore outbreaks can be triggered by certain activities. Spending too much time in the sun, getting too little sleep or other activities that reduce the strength of your immune system can all potentially trigger a cold sore outbreak.
Cold sores usually heal on their own over a period of two to three weeks. For faster healing, you can use antiviral medication such as valacyclovir during an outbreak, or apply a topical ointment containing docosanol.
There are many different types of herpes out there, but canker sores aren’t one of them.
Similar But Different
So, are canker sores cold sores? Nope. Not even close.
While canker sores and cold sores might sound similar, they’re very different in reality.One is an oral sore caused by lack of sleep, tissue injury or immune system issues, while the other results from infection with the HSV-1 virus.
Whether you have canker sores or cold sores, there’s usually no reason to panic. The one thing both types of oral sore have in common is that they’re both easy to treat—using a topical gel or ointment for canker sores, or a safe, effective oral medication like valacyclovir for cold sores.