Canker sores suck. They are painful, frustrating and downright pointless. I have had my run around with them since I was young and was convinced that they were just a part of life. Then, during my college years things got really bad. It wasn’t long before my canker sores started to come in in waves, sometimes of 5 or more at a time. Often they took days, sometimes even weeks to heal fully.
Then, it was like before I knew it, a new round of mouth sores was on the way.
This kind of narrative is probably familiar to most readers. Canker sores are frustrating because they can actually get to the point where they can interfere with your enjoyment of daily activities. Things, like eating, drinking, and even talking, can be painful and at times unbearable.
Why Do I Keep Getting Canker Sores?
I thought the same thing, and after I consulted my doctors, and dentists I got a variety of mixed advice that didn’t really lead anywhere. Most said that besides staying onto of my oral hygiene, there wasn’t really anything I could do about my canker sores. Again and again I heard the same dreaded words, “They are just a part of life”. So, I continued to brush my teeth multiple times a day and did all the normal precaution like avoiding acidic and spicy foods. Still, I was in pain more often than not.
That is until I stumbled upon some advice that changed everything.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
When most people read the ingredients on the side of a toothpaste box, they would probably wouldn’t give sodium lauryl sulfate (or SLS) a second thought. SLS is a compound that was added to toothpaste in the late 80’s and serves no purpose other than to give you that white foamy consistency when you brush your teeth.
SLS gives you the illusion that the toothpaste is doing a better job and is nothing more that for show (they also add this stuff to shampoo to give you an idea of the effect they are going for…). Other than for looks, it does nothing, I repeat NOTHING to actually make your teeth cleaner.
“SLS’s foaming action expands small cuts into canker sores.”
To many people, this is completely fine, as SLS is generally harmless, but to some people like myself, the foaming action can irritate any small cuts in the mouth and the expand them into canker sores. So, as it turns out, by brushing my teeth regularly with an everyday toothpaste, the very thing that I thought was helping my problem, was actually making it worse.
Since I found out about this, I immediately switched over to SLS-Free toothpaste and noticed a dramatic change in canker sores.
Keep in mind that canker sores go in approximately 2-week cycles, so it may take some time for things to clear up completely initially. Overall, I would say that I have seen about a 90% reduction in canker sores, and now I only get them during times of high stress one at a time if ever. I personally use Tom’s, but there are many other SLS free kinds of toothpaste out there.
I also switched to an alcohol-free mouthwash which helps to cut down on irritation and burning. Mouthwash is actually good for treating canker sores because it helps to clear out any bacteria or food that might be stuck, but it can hurt extra bad especially you already have sores.
Treating Canker Sores
Like I said before, the simple act of switching to a SLS free toothpaste solved 90% of my mouth sores and I have not had much of a problem since. But in those rare occasions that I am extra stressed out and feel a canker sore coming on, I have found some simple ways of treating them. From my previous history, I have become somewhat of a pro for dealing with canker sores and have some remedies that work really well for me.
Out of anything out there, Alum is the one miracle remedy for making canker sores go away over night. It is nothing more than a cooking ingredient similar to baking soda. What I usually do it mix it with a tiny bit of water to make a pasty solution and bad it on the sore. Just let it sit for about three minutes and wash it away.
It will sting and doesn’t taste very good, but if you do this right before bed, then your canker sore will be practically gone if not completely healed by the next morning.
If you don’t have Alum at home, then baking soda also works well as an alternative, but I would definitely recommend giving Alum a shot. Also, if you have absolutely nothing else in the house, then swishing with salt water before bed works well too, although it stings and takes mush longer to heal in comparison.
Take a Supplement
For some people, canker sores come on due to vitamin deficiencies. If you aren’t already then it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin. Research is debatable, but there is some evidence that getting extra Vitamin C can help protect against canker sores.
Also, L-lysine and L-Tyrosine are essential amino acid that helps to boost your immune system and can help to stop canker sores in their early stages. I take one of each a day because they help with my energy and focus, but I will usually take two or three if I feel a canker sore coming on.
Along with these changes, it is always smart to get enough sleep and maintain a healthy diet. For people like myself, stress can be a major trigger, and of course, it always smart to follow the traditional advice of avoiding spicy foods or anything with high levels of acid like tomatoes and even citrus. But, with proper care and a few changes in your oral hygiene you can kiss those canker sores goodbye.
Original Cover Photo by Adam under Creative Commons