Canker Sores & Cold Sores

Preventing and treating canker sores

Canker Sore

Canker sores occur periodically in a substantial percentage of the population. They are whitish and round in the center, surrounded by a red halo, and may be from 1/16th to 1/2 inch in diameter. Some people never get them, some once or twice a year, and others more frequently. They range from a minor nuisance to debilitating. Until several years ago, their cause or any contributing factors were unknown. However, somewhat by accidental observation, it was discovered that the elimination of a common substance prevents canker sores in approximately 90% of sufferers. That substance is sodium laurel sulfate.

What is sodium laurel sulfate? It's the ingredient in most toothpastes that makes the paste "foam" during brushing. If you suffer from canker sores, try a non-foaming toothpaste (all the time, not just when you have the sores). There are four that we know of.

  1. Closys We dispense Closys in our office, or you can buy it at Walgreen's. Has a clean, light mint flavor.
  2. BreathRx Also available at Walgreen's. Has a fairly substantial eucalyptus flavor.
  3. Rembrandt Also available at Walgreen's and possibly other locations
  4. Squiggle The only one of the four that contains fluoride, so this should be the choice for patients under 12. Available online at Amazon and other sites. Simply search "squiggle toothpaste" with your browser.

Once you have a canker sore, it can only be treated symptomatically with a numbing gel such as Oragel Plus, found in most pharmacies.

Cold sores and fever blisters are different animals. They usually occur on the skin near the lip, at the same place each time. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which resides permanently within a nerve root. From time to time, the virus becomes active and travels back to the skin at the location where it first entered.

While not entirely preventable, the size and duration of the sore can be diminished by the use of antiviral medications such as Zovirax or Valtrex. These are prescription medications taken by mouth. They are most effective if taken within an hour or two of that "tingly" or "itchy" sensation that usually precedes the appearance of the sore, so if you get one at least once a year, you should save the last one or two pills of your prescription so that you can take one at home or at work immediately, before refilling your prescription. Your physician or dentist can provide you with such a prescription.

For more information on Canker Sores, call Ogden Dental in Columbia, MO at (573) 449-7483!