Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small and painful sores that develop inside the mouth. These ulcers are oval-shaped and have a yellow-grey centre surrounded by a red ring. Typically, canker sores persist for about 1 to 2 weeks.
Canker sores can cause discomfort while eating, drinking, and speaking. Fortunately, they usually heal on their own within a couple of weeks without requiring any treatment. However, there are several over-the-counter (OTC) treatments available that can help accelerate the healing process.
Canker sores are a common medical condition that affects the mucous membranes of the mouth. They often appear for the first time during the teenage years.
The exact cause of canker sores remains unclear, although they may be associated with hormone changes, mouth injuries, and nutritional deficiencies.
This article explores How long do canker sores last and provides insights into their healing timeline and the available treatment options.
What are the different stages of Healing?
Canker sores generally heal naturally within a span of two weeks, often without requiring any specific treatment.
The initial stage of healing is called the prodromal stage, which occurs before the ulcer develops. During this phase, individuals may experience a burning or tingling sensation, followed by the emergence of a painful, raised reddened area on the mucous membrane.
In the subsequent stage, a typical yellow-grey ulcer forms, surrounded by redness resembling a halo. Pain intensity may increase during this period.
Finally, the healing stage commences, and healthy tissue begins to close over the sore. As the ulcer gradually diminishes in size, the pain subsides.
What Time Period of each stage lasts?
The duration of each stage may vary from person to person, but the following timeline can serve as a general guideline:
The prodromal stage, which occurs prior to the appearance of the canker sore, usually lasts around 1 to 3 days.
The ulcer typically reaches its full formation by approximately the third day. This stage tends to persist for about 3 to 6 days, although it can be longer in certain cases.
The healing period of a canker sore depends on the type of lesion present.
- Mild canker sores typically take about 7 to 14 days to heal and usually do not result in scarring.
- Major canker sores can last for several weeks and may cause prolonged pain. They often leave scars on the mucous membrane.
- Herpetiform canker sores generally last for 10 to 14 days and typically heal without scarring.
How long do canker sores last?
Canker sores are a prevalent oral condition that affects approximately 20% of the population.
While canker sores can occur on any mucous membrane throughout the body, the mouth is the most common location.
Typically, canker sores develop on the soft areas of the mouth, including the inside of the lip or cheek, tongue, floor of the mouth, soft palate, and back of the throat.
The progression of a canker sore involves it starting as a sore spot, which then transforms into an ulcer within 1 to 3 days. Over the next 3 to 4 days, the ulcer enlarges and reaches its final size before stabilising and beginning the healing process.
For most individuals, canker sores resolve within a period of 7 to 14 days.
The duration of a canker sore depends on its type, which can be classified as follows:
Minor canker sores:
These are the most common type of canker sores and measure up to 5 millimeters (mm) in diameter. They typically last for 7 to 14 days.
Major canker sores:
These ulcers are larger, exceeding 10 mm and sometimes extending up to 3 centimeters. Major canker sores tend to last for several weeks.
Herpetiform canker sores:
This type is less common and manifests as pinpoint-sized ulcers that often develop in clusters. These clusters may merge to form one large ulcer. Herpetiform canker sores can persist for 1 to 2 weeks.
Canker sores Treatments
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for canker sores. However, there are various treatments and strategies that can help alleviate pain and promote healing:
- Applying over-the-counter (OTC) protective gels or patches to create a barrier around the ulcer.
- Using OTC benzocaine pain liquid to alleviate discomfort.
- Gargling with a homemade mouth rinse made of warm water mixed with 1 teaspoon of salt or baking soda.
- Applying a small amount of sesame oil to the ulcer four times a day for 5 days using a cotton-tipped swab.
- Taking ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Avoiding common irritants for canker sores, such as hard, spicy, or citrus foods that could further irritate the ulcer.
- Drinking cold fluids through a straw, consuming Popsicles, or applying a small piece of ice to the sore for temporary pain relief.
- Refraining from chewing gum.
- Maintaining oral hygiene by brushing at least twice daily with a soft toothbrush.
- Addressing any vitamin deficiencies, such as folate and vitamin B-12 deficiencies.
- Practising stress management techniques.
When to see a doctor?
If you experience severe pain, have large or persistent sores, difficulty eating or drinking, recurring sores, spreading or worsening symptoms, or if you have underlying immune system issues, it is recommended to seek medical attention for your canker sores. A healthcare professional can provide an accurate diagnosis, assess the severity of the condition, and recommend appropriate treatment options to alleviate symptoms and promote healing.
In conclusion, the duration of canker sores varies widely, with how long do canker sores last being a common concern. Generally, minor canker sores heal within a week or two, while more severe or complex sores might persist for several weeks. Proper oral hygiene, avoiding trigger foods, and using over-the-counter treatments can help manage discomfort and promote faster healing. However, if canker sores remain persistent, recur frequently, or are accompanied by severe pain, it’s advisable to consult a dentist or healthcare professional. Understanding the factors influencing canker sore healing can empower individuals to take proactive steps in managing their oral health and seeking appropriate care when needed.
Q1: How long do canker sores usually last?
Ans: Canker sores typically last about 1-2 weeks.
Q2: Can canker sores be treated with medication?
Ans: Over-the-counter treatments are available to help speed up healing, but there is no specific medication to cure canker sores.
Q3: Can canker sores be prevented?
Ans: While canker sores cannot be completely prevented, practising good oral hygiene, managing stress, and avoiding known triggers can help reduce their occurrence.
Q4: Can stress cause canker sores?
Ans: Stress can be a triggering factor for canker sores in some individuals.