If you’ve ever had a canker sore, surely you’ve been amazed by how something so small can cause a sting so big. No one knows for sure why some people get canker sores and others don’t. For most people, a hot pizza burn heals in 2 to 3 days with little or no pain, but for others it can lead to a lesion that won’t heal for 2 weeks. Some experts think canker sores result from a body chemistry imbalance that can result after an illness, fever, or other body stress, leading to reduced immunity. Here are 12 ways to ease the pain:
1) Rinse it away. There are rinses that help normalize the pH in the mouth to fight canker sores, says Janet Maccaro, Ph.D., C.N.C. She suggests rinsing with salt water, echinacea tea, or aloe vera juice.
2) Read the labels. Look for over-the-counter canker sore medications that contain benzocaine, menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, or alcohol in a liquid or gel. They often sting at first, and most need repeated application because they don’t stick, but they’re effective.
3) Apply a paste coating. Some over-the-counter pastes form a protective “bandage” over the sore. To get pastes like Orabase to work, dry the sore with one end of a cotton swab, then immediately dab on the paste with the other end. It works only on beginning sores.
4) Have some tea. Several experts, among them dermatologist Jerome Z. Litt, M.D., recommend applying a wet, black tea bag to the ulcer. Black tea contains tannin, an astringent that “may pleasantly surprise you” with its pain-relieving ability, he says. There are over-the-counter medications available that contain tannin, such as Tanac.
5) Put a lid on it. “There’s a product out there called a ‘canker cover’ that offers immediate relief for canker sores,” says Chris Kammer, D.D.S. The adhesive, dissolvable patch covers the sore and releases a numbing and healing gel. “One patch stays on securely for 12 hours and fully treats most canker sores in 24 hours,” he says.
6) Drown it in apple cider vinegar. Mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in 6 to 8 ounces of warm water, and add a heaping teaspoon of a calcium-magnesium powder, says Georgianna Donadio, Ph.D. “Fill the rest of the glass with cool water and sip it–your canker sores will soon be gone,” she says.
7) Soothe it with aloe. The ubiquitous “first-aid” plant aloe offers relief for canker sores, too. “Squeeze a bit of gel from an aloe vera leaf,” says Dr. Kammer. “Dry the sore with a cotton swab, then dab on the gel, repeating as often as necessary,” he says.
8) Avoid food irritants. Coffee, spices, citrus fruits, nuts high in the amino acid arginine (especially walnuts), chocolate, and strawberries irritate canker sores and can even cause them in some people.
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