Treatment usually isn't necessary for minor canker sores, which tend to clear on their own in a week or two. But large, persistent or unusually painful sores often need medical care. A number of treatment options exist.
If you have several canker sores, your doctor may prescribe a mouth rinse containing the steroid dexamethasone (dek-suh-METH-uh-sown) to reduce pain and inflammation or lidocaine to reduce pain.
Over-the-counter and prescription products (pastes, creams, gels or liquids) may help relieve pain and speed healing if applied to individual sores as soon as they appear. Some products have active ingredients, such as:
- Benzocaine (Anbesol, Kank-A, Orabase, Zilactin-B)
- Fluocinonide (Lidex, Vanos)
- Hydrogen peroxide (Orajel Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse, Peroxyl)
There are many other topical products for canker sores, including those without active ingredients. Ask your doctor or dentist for advice on which may work best for you.
Oral medications may be used when canker sores are severe or do not respond to topical treatments. These may include:
- Medications not intended specifically for canker sore treatment, such as the intestinal ulcer treatment sucralfate (Carafate) used as a coating agent and colchicine, which is normally used to treat gout.
- Oral steroid medications when severe canker sores don't respond to other treatments. But because of serious side effects, they're usually a last resort.
Cautery of sores
During cautery, an instrument or chemical substance is used to burn, sear or destroy tissue.
- Debacterol is a topical solution designed to treat canker sores and gum problems. By chemically cauterizing canker sores, this medication may reduce healing time to about a week.
- Silver nitrate — another option for chemical cautery of canker sores — hasn't been shown to speed healing, but it may help relieve canker sore pain.
Your doctor may prescribe a nutritional supplement if you consume low amounts of important nutrients, such as folate (folic acid), vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 or zinc.
Related health problems
If your canker sores relate to a more serious health problem, your doctor will treat the underlying condition.
March 19, 2015
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- Canker sores. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/en/Home-MouthHealthy/az-topics/c/canker-sores. Accessed Feb. 15, 2015.
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- Recurrent aphthous stomatitis. The Merck Manual Home Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mouth_and_dental_disorders/symptoms_of_oral_and_dental_disorders/recurrent_aphthous_stomatitis.html. Accessed Feb. 15, 2015.
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- Stoopler ET, et al. Oral mucosal diseases: Evaluation and management. Medical Clinics of North American. 2014;98:1323.
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- Salinas TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 3, 2015.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 27, 2015.
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