Canker Sores - Symptoms and Signs

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Canker Sore Symptoms and Signs

Canker sores occur in several forms. They can involve any area of the mouth except for the top of the tongue, lips, and hard palate.

  • Minor canker sores (which account for the majority of aphthous ulcers) are oval and less than 10 mm (1/3 inch) across. Most are 2-3 mm with a white center. They are painful but clear up within three to 14 days without scarring. It is unusual for them to become infected.


  • Major canker sores consist of deep ulcers measuring greater than 1 cm (1/3 inch). These ulcers, which are very painful, have irregular margins and often last for three to six weeks. They tend to heal with extensive scarring.


  • A third form of canker sores, termed "herpetiform," resemble herpes infections and consist of many small shallow punched-out lesions, pinhead-sized (1-3 mm) in diameter, or less than 1/10 of an inch. Clusters of these sores may merge together to form large irregular ulcers. They last from seven to 10 days.


  • Canker sores commonly come back. Some people have a few outbreaks a year, while others can have them almost all the time.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: theroach, 13-18 Male (Patient) Published: May 14

To relieve pain for a short period of time just drink soda pop and swish it around in the afflicted area. I have been dealing with canker sore outbreaks since late 14. I'm 17 now and I still get outbreaks usually when I'm stressed out. But the more positive you are, it seems the less time they last. Just recently however I had been having a seemingly minimal outbreak than out of the blue, I was socked in the mouth. My bottom lip got busted really bad and as if it wouldn't be bad enough by itself, the ulceration was also present to develop in the gash wound a day later. Now it is just one fat painful ulcer that takes up about 1/6 of my bottom lip area. So yeah I got a rough week ahead.

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Comment from: Lynda, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: July 20

I have been getting canker sores for several years. They are on the sides of my tongue and inside my cheeks. Very painful. My allergist said I was allergic to sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste and to purchase Spry toothpaste at the health store. It worked. She also gave me Diflucan to take and it worked quickly. She also prescribed a mouthwash - Magic mouthwash - with lidocaine and other ingredients to lessen my pain while the sores were healing. I wish I had found her years ago.

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