how long do canker sores last

How Long Do Canker Sores Last? Unveiling the Mystery

One of the most commonly asked dental and oral care questions is how long canker sores last? These small, painful mouth ulcers are more than just a minor inconvenience. They can impact our daily routines, from speaking to enjoying our favorite meals. While many of us have experienced the sting of a canker sore, few truly understand the intricacies of their lifespan and the factors that contribute to their duration.

In this article, we’ll journey into the world of canker sores, providing insights and shedding light on this frequently pondered query. Prepare to unravel the enigma of these oral annoyances and arm yourself with knowledge for the next time one pops up.

What is a canker sore

goes away

A canker sore, medically known as an aphthous ulcer, is a small, shallow lesion that develops on the soft tissues inside the mouth or at the base of the gums. Unlike cold sores, which appear on the lips and are caused by the herpes virus, canker sores are not contagious.

They are minor canker sores that may be painful, making eating and talking uncomfortable, and their exact cause is uncertain.

However, stress, minor injuries, and certain foods can trigger their onset. While they can be bothersome, canker sores usually heal within one to two weeks.

What are the herpetiform canker sores

Herpetiform canker sore is a specific subtype of aphthous ulcers, distinct from the typical canker sores. They appear as tiny clusters of multiple sores, often 10 to 100 in number, which can sometimes merge into larger ulcers. Despite their name, they are not related to the herpes virus.

Herpetiform canker sores primarily affect older adults, and like other canker sores, their exact cause remains elusive. They usually heal without scarring within one to two to six weeks, even without treatment.

Canker sores common symptoms

Canker sores, though small in size, canker sores can be a source of significant discomfort for many individuals. Recognizing the symptoms of these oral lesions is crucial for timely management and relief. Here are the key symptoms associated with canker sores:

  1. Painful Lesions: The most prominent symptom of a canker sore is a painful ulcer. It often begins as a tingling or burning sensation before the sore becomes visible.
  2. Distinct Appearance: These sores are typically round or oval with a white or yellowish center and a well-defined red border. They are not filled with fluid, unlike other oral lesions.
  3. Size Variation: While canker sores are generally small, their size can range from tiny pinpoints to larger lesions. Major canker sores are larger and can be particularly painful.
  4. Location: Canker sores predominantly appear inside the mouth—on the inner side of the lips and cheeks, at the base of the gums, on or under the tongue, and on the soft palate.
  5. Associated Symptoms: In more severe cases, especially with the first outbreak, individuals might experience fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.

In essence, while canker sores are a common oral ailment, attuning to their symptoms can aid in seeking appropriate treatments and remedies to alleviate their discomfort. If persistent or recurrent, it’s wise to see a doctor or healthcare professional for guidance.

How long do canker sores last?

Canker sores, often referred to as aphthous ulcers, are small, painful lesions that develop like a mouth ulcer. Typically, canker sores last for about one to two weeks. While they can cause discomfort, especially when eating, drinking, or speaking, they tend to heal independently without needing treatment.

If a canker sore persists for more than two weeks or recurs frequently within two more, it’s advisable to consult a dental or healthcare professional to rule out underlying conditions.

What causes canker sores

Canker sores, frequently called aphthous ulcers, are a prevalent oral condition affecting countless individuals. These painful sores inside the mouth often arouse curiosity, leading many to wonder: What causes these annoying mouth ulcers? While the exact cause of most canker sores remains elusive, several factors have been linked to their development.

1. Mouth Injuries: Minor injuries to the mucous membrane inside the mouth, often from dental appliances or a rough brush with a toothbrush, can trigger canker sores. Similarly, accidentally biting the inside of your mouth’s clean cheek or consuming acidic or spicy foods that irritate the mucous membranes can pave the way for these sores.

2. Nutritional Deficiencies: A lack of essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B, folic acid, and iron, has been correlated with the onset of canker sores. Nutritional deficiencies can interfere with the mouth’s healing process, making it more susceptible to these ulcers.

3. Certain Foods: For some individuals, consuming certain foods, notably acidic foods like citrus fruits or spicy foods, can develop these ulcers. Sensitivity to these foods might prompt a tingling or burning sensation, heralding the appearance of a canker sore.

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): This ingredient, found in various mouth rinses and toothpaste, is believed to contribute to the outbreak of canker sores in certain individuals. SLS can strip away the protective layer on the mucous membrane, making the mouth more susceptible.

5. Immune System Factors: In some scenarios, the body’s immune system might mistakenly target and harm the cells of the mouth, causing these painful sores. This response might be due to various risk factors or underlying conditions.

6. Hormonal Changes and Stress: Some individuals notice a surge in canker sores during significant stress or hormonal fluctuations, hinting at a possible connection.

7. Other Influences: Unlike cold sores or fever blisters caused by the herpes virus, canker sores are not contagious. Yet, other less common factors like mouth infections, certain medications, or underlying health conditions could also play an unusually large role in their emergence.

In summary, canker sores, with their characteristic white or yellow center and defined border, can be caused by many factors. While they can be painful, they typically heal independently, but understanding their origins can aid in preventive measures. Regular oral hygiene, using a soft toothbrush, avoiding potential trigger foods, and managing stress through stress reduction techniques can help in prevention. If these sores persist or become severe, consulting a doctor or dentist is always wise.



Recurrent canker sores

For many individuals, the emergence of a canker sore is more than just a one-time ordeal. Recurrent canker sores, also known as recurring aphthous ulcers, pose discomfort and dismay. While a single occurrence might be brushed off as a minor inconvenience, repeated episodes of harmless canker sore can cause genuine concern and investigation. Here are the key aspects of recurrent canker sores:

  1. Nature of Recurrence: These sores repeatedly reappear over months or years. While one might heal, another could surface shortly after, leading to almost continuous discomfort.
  2. Triggering Factors: Just as with single occurrences, recurrent canker sores can be provoked by factors such as stress, hormonal changes, certain foods, or even minor injuries inside the mouth.
  3. Potential Underlying Causes: Occasionally, recurrent sores might indicate underlying health conditions. Nutritional deficiencies, immune system disorders, or gastrointestinal diseases can sometimes be linked to frequent episodes.
  4. Severity and Duration: Recurrent canker sores might vary in their severity. Some may be minor and resolve within a week, while others, especially the major canker sores, can be larger, more painful, and persist for longer durations.
  5. Management and Treatment: Addressing recurrent canker sores often goes beyond topical treatments. Identifying and managing triggers, maintaining impeccable oral hygiene, and consulting with a healthcare professional for potential underlying conditions become paramount.

While canker sores are common, recurrent episodes deserve special attention. Understanding their nature and seeking appropriate interventions can significantly improve one’s quality of life and overall oral well-being.

How to diagnose canker sores

Canker sores, known medically as aphthous ulcers, are common oral lesions many experience at some point. While their appearance is often unmistakable, accurately diagnosing them is crucial to differentiate them from similar oral conditions. Here’s how canker sores are typically diagnosed:

  1. Visual Examination: A simple visual inspection can diagnose most canker sores. They are typically round or oval with a white or yellow center and a red border.
  2. Medical History Review: A healthcare professional may ask about the frequency of the sores, associated symptoms, potential triggering events, and any underlying health conditions.
  3. Exclusion of Other Conditions: It’s essential to distinguish canker sores from other mouth sores, like cold sores caused by the herpes virus. Location, appearance, and other symptoms help in this differentiation.
  4. Rarely, Lab Tests: In rare cases, if the diagnosis isn’t clear-cut, a biopsy of the sore might be taken to rule out other conditions. Additionally, blood tests might be done if there’s a suspicion of an underlying health condition.

While canker sores are commonly recognized by their characteristic appearance, a professional evaluation ensures accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. If one experiences persistent sores, visiting a doctor or dentist is advisable.

Canker sores treatment

While typically self-limiting, Canker sores can cause considerable discomfort, making timely and effective treatment a sought-after remedy for many. Though they often heal independently and go down within a week or two, several interventions can hasten recovery and alleviate pain. Here’s a brief guide on treating canker sores:

  1. Topical Treatments: Over-the-counter (OTC) topical products can be applied directly to the sore to relieve pain and potentially speed up healing. These may include ointments, creams, or gels formulated for oral use.
  2. Mouth Rinses: A mouth rinse containing dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, can reduce inflammation and pain. Additionally, rinsing the mouth with a saltwater solution may also provide relief.
  3. Oral Medications: Some prescription medications, initially intended for other conditions, are effective in treating canker sores when taken as pills. A healthcare professional can advise on this.
  4. Cautery: In some cases, cauterizing the sore using a chemical or instrument can promote healing.
  5. Dietary Changes: Avoiding spicy, acidic, or other trigger foods can prevent further irritation to the sore and reduce recurrence.

How to prevent canker sores

minor canker sores

Prevention is often the most effective strategy, especially for those who experience these bothersome ulcers frequently. Here’s a breakdown of measures to help prevent canker sores:

  1. Oral Hygiene: Maintaining consistent and gentle oral care can prevent minor injuries that trigger sores. A soft-bristled toothbrush and avoiding abrasive toothpaste, especially those containing sodium lauryl sulfate, can make a difference.
  2. Dietary Considerations: Being mindful of foods that might instigate a canker sore outbreak is essential. Avoid acidic, spicy foods or hot beverages that can be culprits for some individuals. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can significantly reduce occurrences.
  3. Stress Management: Given that stress can be a contributing factor, employing stress-reducing techniques like meditation, exercise, or deep-breathing exercises can be beneficial.
  4. Protect Your Mouth: Using a mouth guard can prevent traumas that might induce sores for those engaged in sports or activities with a risk of mouth injury.
  5. Supplement Intake: Nutritional deficiencies, such as lack of vitamin B12, folic acid, or iron, can contribute to canker sores. Consider supplements or dietary changes after consulting with a healthcare professional.

Are canker sores contagious?

No, canker sores, are not contagious. They are distinct from cold sores caused by the herpes virus and are infectious. Canker sores develop within the mouth’s soft tissues, whereas cold sores usually appear outside the mouth on the lips.

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, but factors like stress, minor oral injuries, and certain foods can contribute to their onset. It’s important to differentiate between the two types of sores to prevent unnecessary worry about transmission.


In wrapping up, understanding how long canker sores last is essential for anyone enduring the discomfort of these oral nuisances. While their duration may vary, being informed about their typical lifespan and potential treatments can provide peace of mind and a proactive approach to healing. As with any health concern, knowledge is power, and understanding how long canker sores may persist is the first step in managing and overcoming their unpleasant presence.


Canker Sores: Overview and Pain Management,appointment%20with%20your%20healthcare%20provider.

How Long Do Canker Sores Last? Understanding the Duration

Canker Sores: Etiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Canker Sore Symptoms and Causes: Mayo Clinic

Frequently Asked Questions About Canker Sores

Read previous post:
pain on side of breast near armpit
Causes and Treatment Options for Pain on Side of Breast Near Armpit

Many individuals experience various types of breast pain at some point. Still, it can be particularly concerning when discomfort is...