Canker Sores

I am one of those unlucky people who gets canker sores on my tongue, and I’ve always wondered how to get rid of them. Well, I did some research, and as it turns out there is no tried and true way of getting rid of my canker sores. In fact, there is no known cause of canker sores, also known as recurring aphthous or mouth ulcers. So, it seems, that those of us who suffer once or twice a month from those infernal sores are out of luck; or so it seems.

There is no canker sore cure. There is some debate in the medical community about aphthous ulcers being attributed to a viral or bacterial infection, but nothing conclusive has been shown yet. Nevertheless, after doing research and asking a couple of medical professionals about canker sores, I’ve come up with a list of suggestions you may want to heed if you want to minimize the number of canker sores you get.

What are Canker Sores?

Canker sores are not herpes, but they are minor aphthous ulcers–small, red sores that are usually covered with a white layer of tissue that can form on the tongue, inside the lips, under the tongue, and even on the tonsils. If you’ve got sores on the outside of your lips, then you’re not dealing with canker sores.

Best Ways to Get Rid of (and prevent) Canker Sores

Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

First and foremost, doctors say, to prevent canker sores you should avoid toothpastes with sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS. SLS is a foaming agent in many brand name toothpastes, and studies done show that people who suffer from canker sores are up to 80% less likely to get those sores if they use toothpaste without SLS in them. I’ve listed a couple of these brands in the sidebar to the right if you’re curious about which toothpastes canker sore suffers should use.

Keep a Dietary Journal

There are a number of possible canker sore causes, but nothing is certain. Stress could be causing your canker sores. Eating crunchy foods or foods with sharp edges, like chips, and spicy foods can be the cause of canker sores as well. Even nutritional deficiencies have been attributed to recurring canker sores. Some professionals say that if you’re experiencing enough canker sore episodes, you should keep a dietary journal to help your doctor recognize a pattern, and set up a canker-free diet from that.

Take Benadryl

For canker sore relief, it is recommended that you try Benadryl Allergy liquid. The suggested procedure for using Benadryl to relieve the pain from canker sores involves taking a spoonful of the medicine and swishing it over the canker sore for no less than a minute, after which you should spit the medicine out. You can do this several times a day for as long as you have the canker sore, but no more than six times a day.

Take Benzocaine

If a canker sore is particularly painful, you should try using a product like DenTek. DenTek contains anesthetic that can be applied to the canker sore to relieve severe pain. There are a number of products like DenTek (which you can get at Amazon) on the market, and anything that contains benzocaine, lidocaine, or phenol—really, any type of local anesthetic—should do the trick if you have a particularly painful canker sore.

Use Mouthwash

Antibacterial agents have shown to help treat and get rid of canker sores. When I say antibacterial agents, what I mean to say is any mouthwash that claims to kill bacteria. Mouthwashes like Listerine or Scope are perfect examples of antibacterial agents, but if you’re not too keen on using a mouthwash you can always go with an iodine-based wash as well. Iodine makes for a great canker sore cure if applied regularly, but don’t swallow it…it’s significantly worse for you than iodized salt.

Brand-name Canker Sore Remedies

Boy, oh boy, there are a load of canker sore remedies on the market today. I was surprised, actually, to see just how many remedies there were. You can’t go online and swing the proverbial dead cat without hitting a canker sore relief/treatment. The thing about canker sore remedies (usually ointments), is that they all pretty much function the same: they use a chemical (usually benzocaine) to kill the pain caused by canker sores, and at the same time include some sort of antiseptic ingredient as well. Actually, a lot of them don’t even use antiseptics, but an ingredient that also covers the tongue, or gums, or wherever you have the canker sore with a film to help protect it from the other things you put in your mouth. I don’t want to know what you’re putting in your mouth, but I will say that these treatments are a good thing because canker sores can’t really be cured–it just takes time for them to heal. If the canker sore remedy you’re looking at says it dulls the pain and protects the sore, then that’s good enough.

Natural Canker Sore Treatments

SLS-Free Toothpastes

  • Oral-B Rembrandt Canker Sore Toothpaste is specifically designed to help prevent canker sores and ease some of the pain associated with a canker sore outbreak.
  • Sensodyne Full Protection Toothpaste is simply an easy to find toothpaste that does not contain SLS.
  • Verve Ultra has been recommended by one of our readers as a SLS-free toothpaste that just recently came to market. Apparently they’re giving away free tubes of their product.


Yogurt containing the bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus can help prevent canker sores, according to some experts. The thing is, you need to find a yogurt that states plainly on their packaging that their product does in fact contain an active culture of acidophilus.

Zinc Lozenges

Zinc lozenges are yet another natural canker sore remedy. Zinc, is known to be a natural antibiotic agent, which means if canker sores are caused by a bacterial infection, a zinc lozenge should help to treat canker sores. Hell, if western medicine hasn’t found a cure for canker sores, it’s worth a shot, right? You can find zinc lozenges at Amazon.

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About the Author

Julianne Ragland

Julianne Ragland