Stop the Causes of Canker Sores in Their Tracks

causes of canker sores

Although humans have advanced enough to send a robotic lander to the surface of Mars, we have yet to conquer the complex and mysterious canker sore that lands in our mouth. You are right to be shocked, because canker sores are extremely common with almost everyone experiencing them at some point in their life. Anywhere from 5-21% of people report experiencing them in their adult life and unfortunately for some people, they can become a frequent occurrence; causing pain, discomfort and in some cases an unsightly blemish around the mouth.

You’d think that at this day and age, we would have figured out not only the exact causes of canker sores, but how to effectively target them. However, this has not been the case, and the answers remain elusive. Even the basic medical definition of canker sore states its causes are unknown, “A recurrent disease of the oral mucosa of unknown etiology. It is characterized by small white ulcerative lesions, single or multiple, round or oval. Two to eight crops of lesions occur per year, lasting for 7 to 14 days and then heal without scarring.”

This isn’t to say that scientists haven’t been able to find some clues as to what causes canker sores. Some theories behind canker sores suspect that they stem from stress, immune disorders, food allergies, a vitamin or mineral deficiency, or even hormonal changes. But even research admits that in some cases, the cause remains unknown.

Thankfully, despite the painful and unsightly experience, cankers sores always resolve themselves within roughly a 14-day period, leaving absolutely no trace or scar. Although there is no cure for canker sores, there are some tips and home remedies that can help reduce the length and severity of the symptoms, and many ways to reduce the pain.

Tips for Reducing the Appearance of Canker Sores

  1. If you constantly experience canker sores, start to pay attention to the week before one breaks out. Are you stressed? Have you been eating well? These might be triggers that lead to a new flare up.
  2. Try taking a daily multi-vitamin. This could help reduce canker sores if the root cause is related to a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
  3. During an episode, avoid any spicy or acidic foods. This can irritate the sore spot even more, and extend its lifespan.

At Home Remedies for Treating Canker Sores

There is no cure for canker sore blues, but there are many helpful remedies that have been passed down through many generations and are proven to help reduce the pain and appearance of canker sore flare ups. We recommended experimenting with them, to find out which ones work for you and in what combinations.

Clove Oil

Clove oil is a powerful numbing compound, known to help reduce dental pain when applied topically. Try mixing olive oil with a few drops of clove essential oil, and dabbing a cotton ball in the mixture. Apply the dampened cotton ball to the affected area for at least 5-8 minutes and allow the pain reliever to be absorbed.


One of the sweetest ways (literally) to reduce the signs of a canker sore, dab a little bit of honey on it! Honey has proven antibacterial properties and is also thought to reduce inflammation.

Milk of Magnesia

Usually used to treat acid reflux disease and heartburn, milk of magnesia makes an effective canker sore mouth rinse as well. It reduces the amount of acid in the area, and thereby reduces painful stinging.


The healing powers of sage have been known for centuries, and were actually used to treat canker sores by many indigenous tribes of North America. This is because it is an effective antibacterial & antiviral, and has been shown to reduce inflammation. Soak fresh or dried sage leaves in hot water for 4 minutes. Allow to cool, and use as a mouth rinse to help soothe cankers.

Salt Water

An age-old solution to many oral issues, swishing with warm salt water! Salt water effectively kills any bacteria or viruses that could be calling your canker sore home, and therefore speed up the healing time. Swish at least twice a day until the sore has disappeared.

Alum – A Pickling Spice

You may not have heard of alum, but it is typically used as a pickling spice to help keep the vegetables crisp over long periods of storage. It also is a cheap and extremely effective method of shortening the lifespan of a canker sore. Put a very small amount of alum on the sore, and let it sink in as much as possible without having it washed away inside your mouth, overnight is best. It is thought to pull excess moisture away from the area and allow it to heal quickly.

Wax Cap

For some people, the root of their canker sore stems from irritation caused by braces or other oral appliances. In order to prevent further irritation in the area of the canker sore, mix beeswax with a little bit of coconut oil and mold the beeswax mixture to the braces that are causing the irritation. This mixture is safe to use orally, and even if swallowed.


The gel secreted by an aloe plant has natural healing powers, and is exceptionally cooling to irritations. The gel can be placed directly on the sore, or the gel can be mixed with water for a soothing mouth rinse (used as many times as needed).


Cayenne pepper is already used in many muscle creams to mediate pain through topical applications. When mixed with a little bit of warm water, it turns into a paste which can then be smeared over the sore. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, it will help soothe the pain of the affected area.


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