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7 Home Remedies for Canker Sores

  • They might be small, they might be temporary, but canker sores are definitely a nuisance.

    Also called aphthous ulcers, canker sores are small, shallow, persistent sores that appear inside the mouth on the tongue, soft palate, cheeks, base of the gums or on the lips. Their exact cause is unknown, but triggers include stress, immune deficiencies, illness or infection, tissue injuries (such as biting your lip), gastrointestinal disease, nutritional deficiencies and more.

    Canker sores are incredibly popular, affecting approximately 25 percent of Americans, with recurrence rates exceeding 50 percent. Although they can be painful and relatively long-lasting, canker sores are rarely a cause for concern or require professional treatment. However, if you are concerned about the color, shape or size of a mouth sore, you should consult with a dentist or doctor to rule out something more serious such as oral herpes or cancer. Even though you likely won’t seek professional treatment for common canker sores, that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to help promote quicker healing, or alleviate the associated pain.

    Here are seven home remedies that might help with your canker sores:

  • 1. Ice, Ice Baby

    If you’re experiencing throbbing pain or a burning sensation, then applying ice to your canker sore can help. Wrap a small ice cube inside a paper towel and rest it carefully atop the sore. Be careful not to put the ice directly on the skin. In addition to helping numb the pain, the ice can help stem any inflammation of the sore caused by irritation.

    This method is particularly beneficial for canker sores on the lips. Other areas of the mouth may be more difficult to reach with an ice cube.

  • 2. Benadryl

    Try rinsing your mouth with one teaspoon of Benadryl or another liquid allergy medicine containing diphenhydramine. Swishing the liquid around the canker sore(s) provides numbing relief. But be careful not to swallow the medicine. Rinse and spit.

    This can be combined with milk of magnesia for enhanced effect.

  • 3. Milk of Magnesia

    Dab a little bit of milk of magnesia on your sores several times a day, or rinse your mouth with a teaspoonful to help ease the pain of canker sores and promote healing. The antacid properties of milk of magnesia counters the acids in the mouth that worsen canker sore pain.

    This can be combined with Benadryl for enhanced effect.

  • 4. Baking Soda

    Try mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with half a cup of water to create an alkaline mouth rinse. The baking soda helps to neutralize the acids in the mouth and kill any bacteria, promoting fast healing.

  • 5. Tea Bags

    It might sound silly, but you can help promote canker sore healing by pressing a damp tea bag against it. Like baking soda, tea is an alkaline, meaning that it can neutralize the acids in the mouth that can irritate and prolong canker sores. Keep the bag in place for a few minutes to help speed up your recovery.

  • 6. Sage

    Use two teaspoons of dried sage as the base for creating a mouth rinse that can help kill bacteria and viruses in the mouth, with the added bonus of helping to treat inflammation. Steep the sage like you would a tea in boiling water, then allow it to cool. You can use the resulting solution as a mouth rinse multiple times a day to treat your canker sores.

  • 7. Salt Water

    Here’s one you may have heard of before. Salt water is great for helping to treat canker sores and other open wounds in the mouth (such as cuts or scrapes that could turn into sores). The sodium chloride creates an alkaline environment by altering the pH of the mouth, killing off bacteria. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in half a cup of warm water, then use it to rinse thoroughly.

    Check out our canker sores article for more information.

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