Canker sores are relatively common, causing sore gums and mouth pain. These small, noncancerous ulcers develop on the tissues that line your mouth. Although canker sores are usually minor and heal on their own, treatment may help alleviate your pain and speed healing. There are several types of mouth rinses for canker sores, including home remedies and prescription solutions, which may be necessary for exceptionally painful or persistent sores.
About Canker Sores
Canker sores can occur anywhere inside your mouth, appearing as white or yellow ulcers surrounded by a bright red rim. They differ from cold sores, which are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters that usually occur on the lips or chin. Although most canker sores occur without an apparent cause, they may develop if you have a viral infection, impaired immunity or an injury to your mouth from dental work, rigorous tooth brushing or biting your tongue or cheek. Some people develop canker sores in association with emotional stress, menstruation or a deficiency of iron, folate or vitamin B-12. Although anyone can develop canker sores, they occur most commonly in young people, with a slight preponderance of women affected. Canker sores run in families, so you may have an affected relative. Canker sores usually heal on their own within seven to 14 days.
Mouth rinses made with household ingredients or over-the-counter medicines may help heal canker sores. Simple remedies include warm salt water, a 50:50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, and a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a half cup of warm water. You may want to try mixing one part magnesium hydroxide antacid with one part liquid diphenhydramine allergy medicine. You can substitute bismuth subsalicylate or simethicone for the magnesium hydroxide in this remedy. You may be familiar with the brand names of over-the-counter medicines that contain these ingredients, including Milk of Magnesia for magnesium hydroxide, Benadryl for diphenhydramine, Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate for bismuth subsalicylate, and Gas-X and Phazyme for simethicone. Rinse your mouth with the solution for about a minute, then spit it out. Repeat up to four times a day until the sores heal. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that a sage and chamomile mouth rinse, made by infusing equal amounts of the two herbs in water, may also be helpful when used four to six times daily.
Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic rinse to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth, potentially reducing your pain and speeding healing of your canker sores. Antibiotics commonly found in prescription mouth rinses include chlorhexidine gluconate, tetracycline and minocycline. Antibiotic mouth rinses are typically used two to four times daily, according to your doctor's instructions. The rinses are usually swished in your mouth briefly and then spit out. Tetracycline and minocycline are generally not prescribed for young children and pregnant women because these antibiotics may discolor developing teeth.
According to the AAFP, prescription anti-inflammatory mouth rinses can speed healing and relieve symptoms caused by canker sores. Dexamethasone mouth rinse is an example of an anti-inflammatory steroid medicine your doctor or dentist might prescribe for canker sores. This solution is typically swished and spit out every 12 hours until the sores heal. Check your mouth regularly for a white coating over your tongue and inner cheeks when using a steroid rinse because a fungal infection may develop.
Canker sores sometimes signal a serious medical condition, such as an oral herpes infection, an autoimmune disease or mouth cancer. Call your doctor if you have a canker sore that persists for more than two weeks, you cannot eat and drink normally or you develop worsening or new symptoms, such as a fever, diarrhea, headache, swollen glands or a rash. Also, let your doctor know if you develop canker sores more than two or three times a year.