In most cases, canker sores are harmless. But they can burn and cause pain. When we eat, drink, talk or brush our teeth, we find it difficult to ignore their presence.

After all: “Aphthae usually heal on their own within seven to ten days,” says Professor Christoph Benz, President of the German Dental Association. This usually concerns small canker sores, the so-called minor canker sores. They have a diameter of two to three millimeters, rarely up to ten millimeters. After healing, they do not leave scars.

The situation is different with larger aphthous ulcers. They grow up to three centimeters and are very painful. Healing takes several weeks and often leaves scars. Herpes-like aphthous ulcers also occur, but they are quite rare. Up to 100 pinhead-sized aphthae appear in the mouth. They heal again in seven to ten days.

How do mouth ulcers form?

According to Christoph Benz, the exact causes of aphthous ulcers have not yet been scientifically elucidated. “It has been discussed that trauma to the oral mucosa, caused by toothbrushing or vitamin deficiency, can trigger the development of aphthous ulcers,” says the dentist. Allergic reactions or stress may also be possible causes.

According to Ursula Sellerberg from the Federal Chamber of Pharmacists, ulcers often arise from pressure points from dentures or braces, as well as from the sharp edges of dental fillings.

By the way, women suffer from aphthous ulcers more often than men. Older people develop ulcers less frequently than younger people. “The reasons for this are also still unclear,” says Benz.

I have an ulcer. What can I do?

Anyone who notices mouth ulcers may first try to control the inflammation with a mouthwash, such as one containing high doses of chamomile extract. According to Ursula Sellerberg, mouthwashes with chamomile alcohol extract or chamomile flower infusion (10 grams of chamomile flowers per 100 milliliters of water) have an anti-inflammatory effect.

However, they are unlikely to reduce acute symptoms such as burning or pain. And one more thing: “Regular chamomile tea is dosed too small and will not have much effect,” says Ursula Sellerberg.

The pharmacy also has various preparations that can counteract the burning and pain: for example, gels, pastes, ointments, mouth sprays or lozenges.

Pharmacist tip: Before using gels, pastes or ointments, pat the ulcer dry with a cotton swab. “This allows the active ingredient to remain on the mucous membrane longer,” explains Ursula Sellerberg.

It is better to take drugs that promise pain relief before meals so that the pain when chewing is tolerable.

All other medications are best used by victims after eating and brushing their teeth. “If possible, you should not drink anything for the first 30 minutes afterward,” says Sellerberg. Otherwise, the drug will wash off and will not work properly.

If symptoms are severe, a cortisone medication may have a calming effect. Those affected should consult a doctor before using them for the first time.

By the way: Dr. When should I go there with an ulcer?

If after 14 days of self-medication there is no improvement, it’s time to go to the dentist. Anyone who has to deal with ulcers more than three times a year should also see a doctor.

A family doctor, dermatologist or ENT specialist are additional contact persons if aphthous ulcers occur not only in the mouth, but also on other parts of the body – because this also happens. Or if other symptoms occur, such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, or gastrointestinal problems.

Because certain diseases can also be behind ulcers. “These could be intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease,” says Christoph Benz. Or, for example, there are too few leukocytes in the body. It is also possible that leukemia or infectious diseases such as AIDS are behind canker sores.

Taking certain medications, such as cortisone, can also cause canker sores. They often also indicate deficiency symptoms, such as iron or vitamin B deficiency.

Can I prevent this?

“It’s difficult because the reasons are not entirely clear,” says Christoph Benz. But what is definitely a benefit: “Reduce stress, live a healthy life – with a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, no nicotine, little alcohol and enough sleep,” advises Ursula Sellerberg. Or adjust braces or dentures that may not be fitting correctly. And always important: good oral hygiene.
© dpa

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