Understanding Canker Sores and Treating Them – Oral Health

Canker sores can be one of the more painful oral maladies that plague our patients. These lesions are extremely common, yet not much is understood about what they are and how they appear. New research has determined that canker sores are a symptom of bodily imbalance than a condition on their own. With this research dentists and scientists hope to find more effective ways to treat these lesions and help at-risk patients from developing them.

What Are Canker Sores?

To be honest, neither dentists nor scientists know exactly what canker sores are. They manifest as open lesions, or ulcers, on the oral mucosa. They cause the sufferer pain and difficulty eating and speaking while they are flaring, they typically clear up within two weeks. They are commonly treated as a virus – much like herpes simplex 1; however, there are many other causes of canker sores that have nothing to do with a virus. Allergic reactions to foods, hormonal shifts, injuries like biting one’s cheek, a diet lacking in iron, zinc, folate, and B12, bacterial outbreak, stress, IBS, immune disorders, and even celiacs disease area all known triggers for canker sores. Treating them as a virus is wishful thinking. Because of the plethora of causes of canker sores, they are very common occurrences. They manifest as round lesions that are white or yellow in the center and red around the outside. They can form on the lips, inside the cheeks, gums, tongue, or even on the soft palate. Minor canker sores are normally small and heal within two weeks. Major canker sores can take up to six weeks to heal and can cause scars. It is extremely important to have all sores that do not heal within two weeks examined by your Jacksonville, Florida dentist. It may just be a major canker sore, but this is also a sign of oral cancer and should not be taken lightly.

The New Research

One of the most important findings about canker sores, or as they’re medically known – recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS), is that they are greatly related to oral bacterial flora and genetics. Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy came to these conclusions when they were looked into the reason why treatments for canker sores are so inefficient. They found that canker sores are a sign that something is not right in the body, they are a symptom of an imbalance. And, that genetics play a major role in a person’s susceptibility to developing canker sores. Understanding that genetics play a part in this is extremely interesting as and can help those who suffer from frequent RAS to learn how to keep their body in balance by learning and avoiding triggers that cause them to develop these lesions.  Oral microflora also play a large part in the development of RAS. People who commonly have canker sores have a disparity in oral bacteria when compared to those who are largely unaffected by these lesions. The bacteria that resides in the mouth seems to act as another barrier for triggers like food allergies that can cause canker sores to flare. This research is far from over, yet the scientists involved hope that their findings can be a springboard for new research that can aid dentists in better treating RAS.


Now that we are aware that canker sores are not caused by a virus we can work to find a better treatment. If you come to your Jacksonville, Florida dentist with a canker sore, Dr. Shields will try to discover what triggered this lesion, and what she can do to alleviate the symptoms while it runs its course. If we can determine a food allergy or stress triggers your RAS, it may be worth it to work on your whole-body wellness to help reduce your chances of developing them in the future. However a topical barrier will most often be provided to keep outside bacteria from contaminating the ulcer.

This new research on understanding canker sores and how to treat them is welcome in the dental community

We are not surprised however that it reinforces our belief that the whole body is connected and that practicing dentistry is a practice in wellness. If you are working to keep your mouth healthy, mind your body! Eating a healthy diet, avoiding stress, and brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing once each day can keep your mouth healthy and may help to curb canker sores as well.


Contact us

Smiles by Shields
3940 San Jose Park Dr.
Jacksonville, FL 32217