Canker sores versus cold sores. Do you know the difference?


Aphthous ulcers, or canker sores as they are more commonly called, are annoying ulcers that can affect anyone. Not to be confused with cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus and which I will address in an upcoming blog, stress of one type or another often precipitates aphthous ulcers. They can arise singly or in small clusters on the inside surfaces of your cheeks or lips, on or under your tongue, at the base of your gums, or on your soft palate. They usually have a white or yellow center and a red border and can be extremely painful. They also occur more frequently in people using toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a chemical added to some toothpaste and acts as a detergent. If you suffer often from canker sores, make certain that the toothpaste you are using does not contain that ingredient! You can also help yourself by avoiding citrus juices and other acid containing foods like tomato sauces. Stick to a bland diet if you experience an outbreak.

Many people have also found various home remedies or products at health food stores that they find helpful in these situations, but there is no one product that works for everyone. There are also some topical medications I have available in the office, as well as my laser, that can provide some relief.

Canker sores are an uncomfortable nuisance but they are not serious. I usually tell patients that if I treat them they will go away in a week and if we leave them alone they will go away in seven days! That being said, don’t hesitate to call for an appointment if there is any doubt in your mind as to whether you have a canker sore or something more serious.