Treatment for Mouth Ulcers (Oral Canker Sores)

Mouth sores are shallow ulcers that usually occur inside the mouth, along the lining of the inner cheek, tongue and soft palate (back part of the roof of the mouth).  In acute mouth ulcers, no specific treatment is required as it will often heal on its own. In chronic, recurring cankers sores in the mouth,  treatment may be necessary to treat ulcers that are not resolving spontaneously as well as preventing any new mouth sores from forming.

How to Prevent Mouth Ulcers

Preventing mouth ulcers depends on the contributing factors and chronic conditions that predispose a person to developing oral canker sores. In terms of measures that can be adopted for the mouth itself, it is important to identify any local irritants or conditions that may be the cause of the mouth ulcers.

  • Repair chipped or jagged teeth that may be pinching or piercing the mouth lining. Monitor any dental implants, bridges and crowns that you may have to ensure that it is not irritating or injuring the mouth cavity.
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, spicy or acidic foods and drinks that may be causing or aggravating oral canker sores.
  • Identify any specific foods, drinks or substances that may be causing a mild allergic reaction in the mouth. This includes monitoring your oral hygiene products like the toothpaste or mouthwash that you may be using.
  • Good dental hygiene is important and if you are experiencing recurring mouth sores, you may have to ensure that you are meticulous about your daily cleaning, brushing and flossing.
  • A healthy eating plan and/or vitamin and mineral supplementation may be necessary in cases of mouth sores caused by nutritional deficiencies.

How to Treat Oral Canker Sores

In chronic mouth sores, treatment may be necessary although the sores may recur in the future. Depending on the severity of the ulcers, treatment may be topical (isolated to the mouth) or systemic.

  • Anesthetics may be necessary to reduce pain and discomfort caused by mouth sores. A mouth rinse of anesthetics like lidocaine can be used by holding the rinse in the mouth for a few minutes. Anesthetic gels are also available for pain relief.
  • Corticosteroids and protective coating mouth rinses or pastes are also available to reduce inflammation and protect the mouth ulcer from the internal environment of the mouth.
  • Antibiotic mouth washes  may be necessary in cases of infected mouth ulcers. Systemic antibiotics may be prescribed and chronic antibiotics may be required for HIV/AIDS patients with a low CD4 T-cell suffering with persistent mouth sores.
  • Corticosteroid medication may be used for severe cases of mouth ulcers but treatment is usually short term to avoid the side effects of long term corticosteroid use.
  • Cauterization may be considered in cases of mouth ulcers that are not responding to other treatments. A chemical cautery will sear the ulcer, sealing it off from bacteria in the mouth and further physical or chemical injury.
  • It is essential to inform your doctor or dentist about any pre-existing chronic conditions which could be contributing to the development of mouth ulcers. Treatment should be directed at these chronic conditions and once well managed, the frequency of mouth ulcers may decrease.


  1. Management of Aphthous Ulcers. American Academy of Family Physicians
  2. Canker Sore Treatment & Drugs. Mayo Clinic

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