How to Cope With Canker Sores

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Self-Care

It's one of the world's, well, smallest mysteries: What causes canker sores? Some people say stress is the culprit, but researchers have never been able to pin down what brings on these pesky mouth ulcers. Thankfully, there's a lot you can do to ease the pain.

Avoid spicy and acidic foods; they irritate sore spots. Also steer clear of sharp or pointy-edged delicacies like tortilla chips.

Before eating, apply an over-the-counter gel like Zilactin. This will form a film over the sore, safeguarding it from the dangers of dinner. The protection should last for two to three hours.
To numb the sore, suck on an ice cube or Popsicle, or use an over-the-counter product like Oragel that contains benzocaine.

Soothe the area by rinsing your mouth twice daily with one-half teaspoon of salt dissolved in a cup of water.
Try a new toothpaste. Most brands contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), an ingredient that may irritate the mouth's sensitive lining. Both Rembrandt and Biotene make SLS-free pastes; brushing with plain baking soda is also less likely to inflame mouth tissue.

WHEN TO SEE A DENTIST

If you're prone to multiple canker sores, or if yours last more than ten days, ask your dentist about prescription steroid rinses or pills; they may lessen your suffering. A lingering sore that doesn't hurt should be checked by a doctor or a dentist to rule out oral cancer.

--TULLAN SPITZ

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Vital Signs by Christie Aschwanden; Kara Chalmers; Ingfei Chen and Rob Waters

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