Aphthous Ulcers: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Canker sores are also known as aphthous ulcers but shouldn't be confused with cancer. These small painful ulcers can cause bad breath and typically cause craters in the lining of the mouth. Canker sores occur in about one fifth of people. Typically they occur on the inside lining of the lips and cheeks or under the tongue. They will often take two weeks to heal and rarely leave permanent scars, during this time they have a red top and are yellow or white in color.

Groups of Aphthous Ulcers

Minor, major and herpetiform sores are the three main categories. The floor of the mouth and the soft palate are common locations for the minor sores which are typically small and shallow. Scars are more likely with the major sores which are larger and deeper. The third type, herpetiform, are the most numerous and intense. People who get many of these ulcers should get tested for HIV since it is a major cause of these ulcers.

Who Gets Aphthous Ulcers?

These canker sores are more common in women than men. People are more likely to get them on a regular basis if they have a family history of canker sores. Mostly they occur from the age of ten years onwards but children as young as two years old can get them. Some will get the sores more often, but typically they occur only once or twice a year.

Causes of Aphthous Ulcers

Scientists have agreed that they are not caused by viruses although they are uncertain what does cause them. Some of the possible causes include the following:

  • Certain types of food allergies.
  • Certain types of bacterium which cause allergic reactions.
  • The body may attack the normal cells in the mouth when there is a faulty immune system.
  • Deficiencies of Vitamin B, iron and folic acid.
  • Certain cereals have the inability to be digested.
  • Gum injuries.
  • Bechet's syndrom and Chrohin's disease or other autoimmune disorders.
  • Dentures that don't fit properly.
  • During menstruation and the resulting hormonal changes.


The mouth lining or the tongue can have clusters or a single ulcer. Typically these sores will look red and swollen. Underneath there is tissues that is both extremely sensitive and red. A burning or tingling sensation is felt. The sores will appear suddenly and after two weeks disappear. In severe cases fever and swollen lymph nodes will occur.

Treatment of Aphthous Ulcers

If caused by another illness they will clear up when the illness is treated. To cure recurring canker sores you can try switching to a toothpaste that stop bacterial growth and not irritate your gums. To relieve the pain associated with these sores there are several ointments and mouth rinses. Foods that are abrasive and stick to the gums such as chips should be avoided. Spicy food should be avoided.

Herbs and Aphthous Ulcers

To treat canker sores there are several herbal remedies that can be used.

  • Licorice: Curing canker sores is helped by the glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhetinic and tannin.
  • Sage: To shorten the healing time you can add this with licorice in an herbal tea. Since it can cause convulsions sage should be consumed in very small amounts.
  • Echinacea: The properties of this herb are both antiviral and anti-inflammatory.
  • Chamomile: The mouth lining can be smoothed when this is used as an herbal tea.
  • Tea tree oil: Infections and candida are fought with this herb. Once or twice a day you should use a piece of cotton and apply it directly to the infected area.
  • Aloe Vera: Twice a day you can use this as a part of your mouth rinse. Golden Seal: This helps treat canker sores through astringent and antiseptic chemicals. Twice a day this can be used as a mouth rinse. Tea: A few cups a day of this, which is rich in tannin, can help increase the healing process.
  • Myrrh: Mild infections of the gum and floor of the mouth are helped and it is rich in tannin. You can use it as part of a tincture or in a powdered form.

Avoid eating wheat and grain products if you are sensitive to gluten. The occurrence of ulcers can be increased with certain toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. It will help is you avoid these types of toothpastes. The outbreaks of canker sores can also be helped by reducing your stress levels. In your regular diet you should increase your intake of Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, iron, zinc and folic acid. Within four to seven days with treatment aphthous ulcers will disappear and they are not contagious.

Leave a comment

Latest Articles

Any Query?