Canker sores : OTC treatments and cures.
Does a cure for canker sores really exist?
While there is no specific or definitive cure for canker sores, there are various treatments and remedies that can be useful in providing palliative care (promote healing, relieve pain, prevent secondary infection).
These include: Over-the-counter (non-prescription) treaments (the topic of this page), various prescription medications that dentists can make available to their patients, and home remedies and common sense ideas.
Over-the-counter products useful in treating canker sores.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for canker sores typically provide their benefit by way of one, or more, of the following approaches: Numbing agents. Protective films. Ulcer cleansing agents. Antibacterial compounds. SLS-free products.
A) Toothpastes and mouthwashes that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
The vast majority of mouthwashes and toothpastes found on the market contain the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate ("SLS"). Research has suggested that this compound can be a risk factor for, or have an aggravating effect upon, canker sores.
A few makers of toothpastes and mouthwashes formulate versions of their products so they specifically do not contain SLS. And people who suffer from canker sores may find that using these products may help to minimize the number of outbreaks they experience and/or lessen the degree of pain associated with the canker sores they do get.
Since the use of SLS free products is such an easy step to take it makes sense to consider incorporating them into one's planned therapy for canker sores, even if other medications and treatments are utilized also.
B) Products that create a protective barrier film over canker sore ulerations.
Products have been developed that, at least to some degree, have the ability to adhere to moist oral tissues. The best known of these "oral bandage" products is Orabase ®.
The idea is that the use of the paste creates a protective film over the ulcerated surface of the canker sore, thereby helping to minimize the canker sore's exposure to irritating substances (primarily foods and drinks). As a result, the person experiences less pain and discomfort from their lesion.
For the most part, the use of the paste itself does not speed up the healing of the canker sore. (But using it probably does help to create an environment that promotes healing.) However, some formulations of these barrier films do include medications that can have an affect on a canker sore's healing. The paste itself simply used as a means to hold the medication in place on the ulcer's surface.
A more recent innovation associated with the protective barrier film approach involves the use of cyanoacrylate-based products. (You may recognize the compound cyanoacrylate as being the primary ingredient in the formulation of "super glue.") Orabase Soothe-N-Seal ® was the first such over-the-counter product to be granted FDA approval. The primary advantage of the cyanoacrylate formulation is that it creates a longer-lasting barrier and seal over a canker sore.
C) Products that numb canker sores.
Canker sores typically are sore to the touch, so much sometimes that a person may need to limit their oral activities. If so, using an OTC product that can temporarily numb canker ulcers may provide a helpful solution.
Look for products that contain numbing agents such as the benzocaine, benzoin tincture, lidocaine, camphor, and phenol. (Lidocaine and benzocaine are common dental anesthetics. Dentists routinely use lidocaine as an injectable anesthetic for numbing teeth. Benzocaine is frequently used to numb oral tissues before an injection is given.)
The product might be a liquid, rinse, gel, ointment or spray. Some manufacturers will incorporate their numbing agent into one of the pastes that are able to create a protective barrier film over the surface of canker sores.
Some of the brand names associated with these types of ulcer-numbing products are Orabase ®, Orajel ®, Kank-A ®, SensoGard ®, Tanac ®, UlcerEase ®, Zilactin ® and Anbesol ®. Make sure you read their associated directions and use them judiciously. In some cases these products are indicated for short-term usage only.
D) Antibacterial treatments.
Some OTC canker sore treatments contain ingredients (such as copper sulfate and iodine) that serve as antibacterial agents. These products can help to prevent a secondary bacterial infection from forming in the canker sore lesion.
Some research has suggested that antibacterial mouth rinses can speed up the healing of canker sores and also help to minimize their pain. As an example, some people who suffer from canker sores have reported that rinsing with an antiseptic type mouthwash (Listerine ® or generic equivalent) two to three times a day is beneficial.
E) Products that cleanse canker sore ulcerations.
The accumulation of debris on a canker sore's surface can have an inhibitory effect on its healing. A number of OTC products can be found that aid in the removal of this debris. Some of the active ingredients often found in these types of products are: carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, and sodium perborate monohydrate. Some of the brand names associated with this type of product approach are Gly-oxide ®, Amosan ®, and Cankaid ®.