Canker sores are a common problem for adults and children, says the Mila Cohen. Up to 50 percent of the population, including children, will develop canker sores at some point. One in five people suffer from recurring canker sores.
While Dr. Cohen at True Dental Care for Kids and Teens can diagnose the condition definitively, you can spot them if you know what to look for. Canker sores have a few defining characteristics that include:
- They appear inside your child’s lips and cheeks, at the base of the gums, or on and under the tongue.
- They’re round, with smooth edges.
- Canker sores are usually less than one-half inch across and are shallow, although they can occasionally be larger and deeper.
- Canker sores usually appear first as slightly raised, red bumps. Later, the sore opens under a thin, yellow-white coating. That coating can come off if the canker sore is scraped, leading to further discomfort.
- There may be an inflamed, red ring around the canker sore.
- The area where a canker sore is about to appear may feel tingly for a few days before the sore is visible.
- Canker sores are usually mildly painful, especially for the first three or four days.
- They often fully heal within about two weeks, according to a Jersey City top kids dentist.
- Canker sores rarely leave scars, except in the case of unusually large or deep sores.
- They cannot be spread from one person to another. In other words, they aren’t contagious.
- Canker sores can reappear periodically, sometimes showing up in or near the same spot every time.
These small sores in your child’s mouth can cause pain and discomfort, but it’s easy to confuse them with other oral ailments, such as:
- Cold sores. Sores caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 are usually referred to as cold sores. This isn’t the same herpes simplex virus that causes genital herpes. Cold sores often appear in clusters on the edge of your child’s mouth or in and around the nostrils. They are small, fluid-filled bumps. Cold sores, unlike canker sores, are contagious and can be spread via contact, such as through kissing or sharing eating utensils.
- Oral thrush is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans in your child’s mouth. The fungus is always present, but sometimes it can grow too much, causing clusters of small, closely-spaced white spots to appear on your child’s tongue and lips. The spots sometimes spread to the roof and sides of the mouth or to the back of the throat. They can make eating uncomfortable, especially in it’s present in babies. Thrush is a common and easily treatable side effect of some medications. It’s sometimes seen in people with weakened immune systems, but anyone can develop the condition.
- Mouth injuries are common problems for kids, caused by everything from loose braces to biting the inside of the cheek to the inevitable mouth-to-surface collisions that happen as your child learns to walk, run, jump, climb and explore. Some injuries can lead to canker sores, but not all of them do. Most mouth injuries heal quickly and don’t develop the yellow-white coating and round shape that’s characteristic of a canker sore.
A Mouthful of Mystery
Nobody — not even a reputable Jersey City kids dentist — is quite sure what causes canker sores to develop. The tendency to develop them seems to run in some families, but no genetic link has been found. They may be a response to an overactive immune system, but that’s not always the case. Still, while the exact reason the body creates the sores is unknown, there are several known risk factors:
- Any injury that breaks the skin inside the mouth can lead to a canker sore. That includes biting the inside of the cheek or lip, irritation from dental devices such as braces or retainers, and even brushing too hard with a stiff toothbrush.
- People with food allergies are more prone to develop canker sores than the rest of the population.
- Certain nutritional deficiencies — such as iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid — can increase the risk of developing canker sores.
- Stress can sometimes cause canker sores to appear; they often show up at the start of a new school year or before a major event, such as a prom.
- Children in their teens are more likely to get canker sores than younger children, and women and girls are slightly more at risk than men and boys are.
- Adding to the joy of adolescence, some young women find that they’re more likely to develop a canker sore at the start of their menstrual period.
Unfortunately, you can’t stop canker sores from cropping up, but you can lessen your child’s risk of developing them. Follow these tips from your friendly kids dentist in Jersey City:
- Ensure that your children eat a healthy balanced diet to reduce the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
- If your children wear braces or other dental devices, have them checked periodically for loose wires or other potential mouth irritants.
- Have your children use a soft toothbrush.
- Ask your kids dentist in Jersey City to show your children how to brush properly, so they remove all the plaque from their teeth without irritating the sensitive skin of their gums and mouth.
- If your children get recurring canker sores, keep a food diary so you can be aware of any potential dietary triggers.
Common Problems Solved
When your child develops a canker sore, it could make eating uncomfortable. Over-the-counter pain relief is often sufficient to ease the discomfort. While a canker sore is present, cut out salty or abrasive foods like pretzels, potato chips and crispy fried chicken. Avoid spicy foods as well.
Your child might be more comfortable eating softer, milder things like oatmeal and mashed potatoes until the canker sore heals. Cold foods like yogurt and frozen fruit pops can provide cooling relief, especially for sores on the lips and tongue.
You can also ask your Jersey City kids dentist about the use of topical oral pain relief, which is applied directly to the sore. If canker sores are especially large, your dentist may prescribe a special mouth rinse to help alleviate the swelling and discomfort. In some extreme cases, cauterization of the sore may be necessary, but this step is rare.