Chronic sufferers of canker sores take note: Researchers in Sweden have revealed a new cause for the tiny mouth ulcers. Scientists say canker sores are likely caused by bacteria flora in the mouth, food allergies, or genetics.
What Are Canker Sores?
Canker sores are small, shallow ulcers that appear in the mouth, and are medically known as “recurrent aphthous stomatitis.”
Canker sores affect more than 50% of population of the United States, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, and are the most common type of oral lesion in the world.
Canker sores usually appear as a white blister, with a red ring around it. They commonly occur on the inside of the cheeks, lips, on either side of the tongue and in the throat.
Simple vs Complex Canker Sores
There are two types of canker sores; simple canker sores and complex canker sores. Simple canker sores occur just a few times per year and last about only about a week for most individuals. They are painful, but in most cases tolerable.
Complex canker scores are less common than simple canker sores but are larger and more painful than simple canker sores. Complex canker sores often leave scars in the mouths of sufferers. Patients that suffer from complex canker sores have more outbreaks than their peers with simple canker sores.
Previously Thought to be a Viral Infection
For years, one of the primary causes of canker sores was thought to be a virus, and the condition was treated similarly to cold sores with antiviral medicines. Part of the reason for this is that canker sores are hard to distinguish from cold sores. Other causes thought to be behind these painful ulcers included a weakened immune system, hormonal changes brought on by menstruation and vitamin deficiency.
Researchers on the Swedish study hesitate to call canker sores a true illness, but rather an indicator of something else going on with the body, like good and bad bacteria out of balance in the mouth. During the study, researchers found higher levels of illness-causing bacteria in study participants with canker sores than participants without.
A Painful Nuisance
While canker sores are nothing serious, they are a painful nuisance. In fact, sometimes the pain often prevents people from eating or talking normally. Generally, though, people often live through the pain until the soreness goes away — which happens in about a week to ten days.
If you suffer from frequent canker sores, discuss your symptoms with us at your next dental cleaning. My hygienist or myself will also take a closer look to determine if a lesion or ulcer needs further examination. Patients should also be seen if their cold sores are accompanied by a rash, joint pain, fever or diarrhea.
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