Canker and Cold Sores

How Can I Cure My Frequent Canker Sores?

What causes canker sores, how to prevent them, and how to make them less painful when you do get them.

by Dr. Burhenne

Canker Sores

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!

Blog Notes: About Mark Burhenne DDS

Welcome! My name is Dr. Mark Burhenne, or Dr. B for short. When did we start seeing the mouth as separate from the rest of the human body?

The mouth doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is intimately connected to the health of the rest of the body.

In fact, the bacteria and entire environment inside the mouth are connected to the rest of your body so intimately that the state of your oral health can predict whether you’ll have heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

In my 30 years of practice as a dentist, I’ve seen a lot of misinformation and people who have fallen through the cracks due to our healthcare system’s failure to understand the oral-body connection.

I created this blog to empower people to understand how your mouth is a window into the health of the rest of your body.

It is my sincere hope that the knowledge and tools on this blog will lead to greater health and well-being for you and those you love.

Throughout this website you’ll find high-quality articles and free resources for getting and staying healthy. It’s the info I use to keep myself and my family healthy, and how I treat my patients.

I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Biochemistry and B.A. in History of Art and had the privilege of attending the University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, consistently ranked among the best in the US.

I am an active member of several continuing education groups and study clubs in prosthetics and periodontology that perform actual clinical work on patients. I have worked as an expert witness in legal dental cases. I’ve also volunteered as a dental surgeon in Jos, Nigeria.

I raised three daughters without cavities (all without ingestion of fluoride). I enjoy downhill skiing, alpine touring, mountain biking, photography, and listening to jazz and classical records (you know, those flat analog 12-inch vinyl discs).

I am passionate about restoring teeth to their original function and beauty – and as someone who studied art history and is a hobbyist photographer, the intersection of art and the opportunity to help people makes dentistry my dream profession.

I welcome your comments and questions and encourage you to like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter to get the latest on oral and dental health.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Ask the Dentist is for you, so I want to know, what would you like answered on Ask the Dentist? Leave a comment below!

read next: The New Leading Cause of Oral Cancer

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Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS


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  1. I have been suffering from canker sores most of my life. After reading this article I pitched my Crest toothpaste and bought sls free toothpaste (Rembrandt Canker Sore). My canker sores almost immediately went away and they have not come back. I must have a chemical sensitivity to sls or something?

  2. I have had the same experience. I have had Canker Sores my entire life. It is genetically embedded in our family DNA. I found a similar article about SLS. I found Berts Bees Natural Toothpaste that is SLS free and I have been doing very well. Have only had two canker sores since. One was because I was out of town and used a small amount of Crest at the hotel and got a canker sore the next day. I am working on notifying my family about this.

    A treatment that works well for me when I do have a canker sore is a prescription product called Debacterol. It has been a lifesaver.

  3. I have had dentures for 60 years and many canker sore outbreaks. I treat it with pure glycerine, it heals it overnight at the first symptom. Just pour a little in the denture and put it back. Inexpensive and sugary sweet.

  4. Ditching crest toothpaste was one of the best things I’ve done. I went from Crest to using Tom’s, and haven’t had Canker sores since!

  5. I get mine when I am out in the sun, but maybe not cankers at all, but I do get blisters all along my lower lip if left unexposed. Problem is, that when I wear a sun block, I get zits all around my lips. What can I do to prevent both?

  6. cankers are natural and non contagious. they are thought to be caused by several different factors, but nothing for certain has been established. Basically from what I understand cankers are an indicator that your body is under stress…this can be lack of sleep, poor diet, mental stress/fatigue and there is even evidence to suggest that it is genetic in nature. they can also be caused from an abrasive appliance in your mouth that’s not sitting correctly such as a denture or a retainer. they can also be caused from a cut in the mouth.
    the actual sores themselves are caused by an enormous amount of T cell activity, but the trigger for this immune response is the x factor.
    No known cure exist.

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  9. I used to get frequent canker sores as a teenager. I figured out in my case that it was my voracious pineapple-eating habit that was giving me the issue. Between the enzymes and the acid it must have been eating me back! Now that I’ve moderated my flesh-eating fruit consumption I rarely get them.

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