Q: Dr. B,
I have been plagued with canker sores my entire life. What can I do to prevent them? What causes them? When I do get them, how can I get them to be less painful?
A: Canker sores, for some, are a constant issue that is difficult to prevent and tiresome. Typically, they appear when you’re tired, stressed, and malnourished. Large doses of sun and alcohol consumption can also be culprits. Within the last few years, there have been studies indicating that sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can predispose one to canker sores.
A commonly overlooked reason for canker sores is mechanical in nature. A rough spot on a night guard, denture, orthodontic retainer, or Invisalign aligner can be the impetus for the formation of the sore. I’ve actually seen instances where a sharp edge of a tooth (created by grinding) will incite a canker sore in the exact same location of the tongue or cheek. This, of course, is easy to identify and fixed by smoothing down the tooth.
If the canker sore appears in the same spot each time, see your dentist, and have him identify any sharp areas that mechanically abrade that area and have her round or smooth the sharp spot on the tooth.
Here’s the fix
- Sleep eight hours a night
- Manage your stress
- Eat well
- Take vitamins (especially the B’s)
- Drink less alcohol
- Do not use products in your mouth that contain SLS
Many of my patients balk at the notion that canker sores may be related to alcohol consumption. I don’t ask my patients to stop drinking alcohol, but one can titrate in order to find the amount of alcohol that triggers a canker sore. This may take a few Friday and Saturday nights of going out, but you’ll have fun experimenting!
Mark Burhenne DDS