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Mouth Diseases

Canker sores

08/20/2003

Question:

MY 13 year old son is constantly getting canker sores on his lips and inside his mouth. What causes this and what can we do to prevent them or get rid of them more quickly.

Answer:

Canker sores (also known as recurrent aphthous ulcers) are considered a mild form of autoimmune disease where the white blood cells of the body become confused. Although these cells normally protect us from infection, in canker sore patients they end up destroying a small area of the skin inside the mouth. While some patients indicate that certain foods or stress causes their canker sores, many patients do not have an identifiable cause. The immune nature of this condition is reflected in the amount of pain that these typically small sores produce. Without any treatment, they usually heal in 7-10 days. The best form of treatment for canker sores is the application of a high-potency topical corticosteroid gel, starting at the earliest tingle or discomfort that precedes the development of the sore. This medication requires a prescription from your dentist or doctor. Other medications are available, but they are not quite as effective. As always, it`s a good idea to have a dentist or oral pathologist confirm that your son`s sores are truly canker sores. In a few young patients, recurrent sores can be a sign of more generalized disease. Although this is unlikely, it warrants a professional opinion. Good luck! 

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University