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What are Aphthous Ulcers?

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The more usual term for an aphthous ulcer or aphthae is a canker sore. These are quite common and often appear as small ulcerated areas in the oral cavity. There are two different types as they can be simple canker sores, which can typically occur three or four times a year in people aged between 10 and 20, and complex canker sores which can be a recurring problem.


Canker sores are quite different from cold sores, as cold sores are caused by a virus and are very contagious. Cold sores typically occur outside the oral cavity, while canker sores are found on the inside of the mouth. Canker sores are generally quite small in appearance, and may be white or gray with a red halo.

Causes of Canker Sores or Aphthous Ulcers

The exact reason as to why canker sores occur isn't really known but it's thought it may be down to one or more of the following reasons:


  • Certain acidic fruits and vegetables may trigger an episode, most commonly tomatoes, strawberries, lemons and oranges
  • Having a sharp surface in the mouth from a dental appliance, a broken tooth or an ill-fitting denture may also trigger this condition through irritating the oral tissues
  • Canker sores can be triggered by an underlying health problem, especially an impaired immune system or vitamin deficiency, as well as other conditions such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease

Symptoms you may be developing a canker sore include:

  • Noticing you have a sore area in your mouth which might be on the tongue, inside the cheeks, or on the soft palate right at the back of the roof of your mouth
  • Canker sores can sometimes create a burning or tingling sensation before they appear
  • Sometimes the lymph nodes can swell up, and sufferers can feel sluggish or even slightly feverish


Treating Canker Sores

Many cases of canker sores will heal up by themselves without any treatment within a week or so, but they may recur at any time. Some people find their canker sores last several weeks before healing, and they can be extremely painful, making it difficult to drink and eat normally. It is worth asking your dentist for advice if you have canker sores that are quite persistent. It's possible they may prescribe a corticosteroid ointment, or an antimicrobial mouth rinse to help relieve the symptoms. It's also becoming more common for canker sores to be treated by laser, although this therapy can be far more effective if a patient receives treatment as soon as the area begins tingling. Dental lasers work by vaporizing the ulcerated tissue, leaving the healthy tissue unharmed, and after treatment many patients find their ulcers recur less frequently.

Sufferers can also reduce the frequency of aphthous ulcers through trying to avoid foods that may spark an attack, and by making sure that oral hygiene is excellent. It can also help to use a soft bristled brush as this will be less irritating for the gums.


For more information about aphthous ulcers, contact Dr. Hawkins, your Midlothian, VA dentist at Hawkins Family Dentistry today.

Source Material can be found at www.findmydentist.com.

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Hawkins Family Dentistry

1310 Alverser Plaza

Midlothian, Virginia 23113

(804) 897-9800

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