Have you ever brushed your teeth and felt a stinging sensation on your gums or tongue? This is a common reaction to canker sores. If you are unfamiliar with canker sores, here are some of the basics. 

What are canker sores?

Canker sores are small ulcers that form on the inside of your mouth. They usually form on or under the tongue, inside the cheek or lips, or at the base of the gums. Canker sores are typically round or oval in shape and are colored white or yellow, with a red border. Canker sores are very common and do not last very long, though you may have more than one at a time. They are painful, but they typically go away on their own. Canker sores are not contagious like their commonly confused cousins, cold sores, which are caused by the herpes virus and appear around the lips. 

What causes canker sores?

There are many causes that might contribute to the appearance of canker sores, though none of them are the official cause. These are some causes for canker sores:

  • Braces, retainer, or dentures rubbing against the cheek
  • Over-zealous brushing or flossing
  • Biting your tongue/cheek
  • Stress and fatigue
  • Weak immune systems
  • Nutrition deficiencies

If any of these cases apply to you, you may end up with a canker sore. You may even want to mix up your diet to get enough iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid in your diet to prevent them from happening. 

What are the symptoms of canker sores?

Canker sores begin with a stinging sensation. That, along with swollen, red gums is a sure sign that you are developing a canker sore. In extreme cases, canker sores are accompanied by some of the following symptoms: 

  • Rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Sluggishness
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Sores can make it difficult to eat or drink, so if you have one or begin to feel the symptoms of one, take caution. Try to steer clear of spicy or sharp food (like chips) that may irritate the sore. You’ll also want to take a break from eating or drinking anything acidic that might react with the canker sore and cause pain. Yogurt, bland foods, and water can help dull the ache of canker sore, though you might even want to use a straw. 

How can I treat a canker sore?

Canker sores can be extremely painful at first, but the pain lessens after a few days and the ulcer should heal completely after a week or two. If you want to minimize the pain, however, you can try using over-the-counter pain medications for general relief and you can use a saltwater rinse. Even with a canker sore, you should be able to keep up with your oral hygiene routine of flossing and brushing, just avoid jabbing the sore with your toothbrush or finger. If you use mouthwash during your routine you may find it more painful with a canker sore.

If you’ve tried everything you can to treat your canker sore and the pain persists even after several days, visit your dentist at Grove City Dental for diagnosis and stronger prescription to treat it. 


Canker sores can be extremely annoying and painful, but give them time and they should go away on their own. Even if you maintain a routine of good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing, you are still susceptible to canker sores. Talk with your dentist about more ways you can try to prevent and treat canker sores.