Canker sores (aka aphthous ulcers) are one of life’s little mysteries. Experts estimate that roughly one out of five people put up with these painful mouth lesions. Some suffer more than others:
“My husband has canker sores in his mouth all the time. The specialists we have seen say it is not curable and he just has to live with them. We have tried many topical remedies plus some prescription drugs without benefit.
“He is not sleeping well because of the pain and desperately needs some relief. We enjoy reading the remedies you share and wonder if you might have some suggestions that could help us now.”
What Causes Canker Sores?
Oddly, scientists do not know the exact cause of canker sores. Citrus fruits, trauma to the mouth and weakened immunity have all been blamed for these painful mouth lesions. Some research suggests that nutritional deficiencies (B vitamins or iron) may be partially responsible in certain cases.
Although they normally last about a week to 10 days, some people are plagued by these sores for much longer periods of time. The pain and irritation can be so severe that eating solid food can be almost impossible.
Is Toothpaste Responsible?
Some readers believe that a foaming agent (SLS or sodium lauryl sulfate) found in many toothpastes contributes to the problem:
“My sister and daughter suffered from severe canker sores for years. My sister’s doctor told her to stop using toothpaste with SLS. Now, both my daughter and sister have very few outbreaks.”
Despite such a testimonial, research is equivocal regarding the benefits of using SLS-free toothpaste (Oral Diseases, Jan. 1999). One study found that people using a toothpaste without SLS got just as many canker sores (Shim et al, Oral Diseases, Oct. 2012). However, the sores healed more quickly with SLS-free toothpaste.
Could Sugar Be a Problem?
Others are convinced that sugar is the culprit and cutting back on cookies and candy is the answer. That certainly is healthful advice for anyone, canker sores or no.
No Nuts to You:
Some readers believe nuts trigger an attack:
“I also suffered from massive canker sores. I finally realized that five days after eating walnuts the cankers would appear. Now I never touch the nuts and no sores!”
Treating Mouth Ulcers at Home:
Many people believe the solution lies in the amino acid supplement L-lysine despite a lack of scientific evidence:
“I had troubles for years with canker sores. A friend told me to start talking L-lysine twice a day at the first sign of a canker sore. It stops canker sores from getting larger and heals them within a day or two.”
Although these home remedies have not been tested, some people report success with swishing their mouths with an ounce of sauerkraut juice in the morning and evening, then swallowing about a tablespoonful:
“It is an unusual cure for canker sores, but I had a recurring sore that went away overnight after the first use of sauerkraut juice. And, you can have wieners and kraut with the leftovers.”
Another option is buttermilk:
“My oldest son used to get canker sores a lot. My mother-in-law gave us the ultimate cure that worked overnight. Swish cultured buttermilk in the mouth and hold it for about a minute then spit it out. We don’t know why it works, but it does.”
We have even heard that kiwi fruit helps:
“My husband got a canker sore on Thursday and we bought a few kiwis to try this cure. He ate one kiwi in the morning, and by the mid-afternoon the sore was dried up. A second kiwi wasn’t needed. Amazing.”
One reader shared this experience with a very old-fashioned remedy from generations back.
“I occasionally get a canker sore, especially if I’ve eaten too many sweets. For the past 75 years I’ve always gotten immediate relief within 24 hours by taking one tablespoon of baking soda with a glass of warm water, just like my grandmother taught me. One dose does the job.”
While we appreciate remedies passed down from grandmothers, this one is not appropriate for everyone. A tablespoon of baking soda contains a lot of sodium-too much for some people. The “dose” recommended on the box for heartburn is a half teaspoon of baking soda in a 4 oz. glass of water. We would suggest starting with a lower amount than a tablespoon to see if it helps heal the canker sore.
Since there is no standard medical cure for canker sores, we see no harm in trying an inexpensive home remedy. You’ll find many in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.