A Look at Canker Sores

Few things evoke a wincing quite like the mention of a canker sore.  Not to be used confused with cold sores (although those are equally disliked) canker sores are those annoying and painful sores that develop in your mouth, making it hard to eat, drink and even talk when they are at their prime. Canker sores are fairly common and short-lived (although it doesn’t seem like it while you have one). Here are some articles that discuss these pesky sores and how you can avoid them.

Having a canker sore is hard to ignore. A canker sore is an erosion of the inner membranes of the mouth and along with pain; they can also cause bad breath. What causes a canker sore? They occur because of bacterial infections but sometimes a small cut or other vexation is the culprit for inviting this microbial growth. What is the best way to try to avoid canker sores? Stay away from mouthwashes and toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or alcohol. These ingredients can irritate and dry out your tongue, checks and gums which can lead to inflammation of the delicate tissue in your mouth where canker sores occur.  These inflammations may attract bacteria, leading to a canker sore. Avoiding products with these ingredients can reduce your risk of getting an aphthous ulcer (which is what a canker sore is). If you do get canker sores frequently, you aren’t alone. An article in the British Medical Journal stated that canker sores are the most common condition of the mouth’s membranes in developed countries. Also, don’t worry about spreading the sores to your friends – they aren’t contagious.

Looking for another way to possible eliminate getting canker sores? David Zabriskie, a 32 year old road bicycle racer that participated in his sixth Tour de France this year told the UK Daily Mail what he plans to do to stop canker sores. He’s gone vegan! Not only has eliminating eggs, dairy products and meat from his diet and replacing them with protein-rich seeds and rice stopped his canker sores and saddle rash, but he also stated that this change in diet has actually boosted his performance. Is this just a rare occurrence that David is lucky enough to reap the benefits of? According to several sources, it has been noted that dietary changes can help stop and treat canker sores. Specifically, a study in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine found that by increasing one’s vitamin B12 levels can help to heal canker sores more quickly. No doubt a change in Zabriskie’s diet gave him a boost of B12, which is also known for increasing energy. Experts still aren’t fully endorsing becoming vegan to eliminate canker sores, but it could be a healthy side effect of making the switch. Rather, since these aphthous ulcers are caused by irritation, dentists are telling patients to avoid oral care products that contain harsh chemicals like SLS and alcohol which can inflame the tissue of the cheeks and gums where canker sores often appear.

Canker sores often don’t appear without other symptoms or these symptoms can lead to a canker sore – it’s really a chicken and egg type of deal. Dry mouth and halitosis can be equally as uncomfortable, although probably not as painful as a sore. For people that use specialty breath fresheners (depending on the products) while they are trying to treat one of these conditions, they maybe find they are naturally relieving the others as well. If you have dry mouth (which we all do now and then) it may be due to breathing with your mouth open. This happens when you exercise, sleep, are nervous, smoke or even speak in public. Dry mouth will lead to a dry tongue and bad breath or morning breath. Bad breath is caused by anaerobic bacteria that live on your palate, tongue and teeth and these anti-oxygen critters create halitosis. So if you do sleep with your mouth wide open (as many of us do) then morning breath is likely to greet you when you wake up. Treating dry mouth and bad breath may not be as simple as just using any toothpaste and mouthwash. If you use a regular toothpaste that has sodium lauryl sulfate in it, you may just end giving yourself canker sores. SLS is a foaming agent and detergent that is found in many toothpastes but also dries out your mouth.  Be sure to save yourself some unwanted sores by checking out the ingredients on your dental hygiene products.

But what is worse- dry mouth or canker sores? Your answer will probably vary depending on which affliction you have more often. As we discussed above, bad breath from dry mouth is one reason why people take special care in their oral care routines. One article discusses in more detail how an ingredient in many oral health products may lead consumers to unknowingly trade their dry palates for a more painful concern. By now you already know about sodium lauryl sulfate and how it is included in many ingredient labels of everyday toothpastes and oral rinses. SLS is a surfactant (a drying agent), a detergent and emulsifier depending on the concentration of the solution. Why is it used? It helps to keep a product from separating on the self and looking pretty. It’s like soap and helps create that foaming sensation when you brush.  When using it to brush your teeth, it can irritate the sensitive skin inside your mouth and may open up a piece of tissue where a canker sore can form and the infection can breed. Canker sores can also start with minor mouth injuries such as hitting or biting your mouth or an irritation from a retainer or braces. If you are prone to these, you definitely want to find a SLS free toothpaste.

Canker sores are almost impossible to avoid. Think of all the things that might damage the delicate tissue inside your mouth: eating and chewing, brushing too hard or an accidental bump into something can be the start of one of these pesky sores. The best thing to do is be aware of what you are putting in your mouth and doing your best to protect from canker sores.

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