"" How Long Do Canker Sores Last: - Health and Fitness Informatics


How Long Do Canker Sores Last:

Canker sores usually get better by themselves within two weeks. However, using over-the-counter products like mouth rinses and gels can help reduce pain and make them heal faster.

How long do canker sores last

How long do canker sores last

Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) occur on your gum or inside your mouth. Although they can be painful and make it difficult to eat or talk, they typically don’t cause lasting damage. Most canker sores heal on their own within a couple of weeks.

Many over-the-counter products or home remedies can help speed the healing process, but it’s not likely any remedy will cure a canker sore overnight.

It's better to consult your healthcare provider if you have canker sores, instead of trying home remedies, as they could be better studied.

What is a canker sore?

A canker sore is a shallow, small ulcer in your mouth that can cause pain or discomfort. It's usually yellow or white with a red border and can appear on the inside of the cheeks, lips, or under the tongue.

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The stages of canker sore healing typically include:

1. Initial Stage: 

The first stage of healing is the prodromal, or beginning stage, which is the period before the ulcer forms. You might feel a pickling or burning sensation that precedes an elevated, painful mottled area on the mucous membrane.

Duration: The prodromal stage lasts 1-3 days.

2. Ulcer Stage: 

In the second stage, the typical yellow-gray ulcer appears, with redness surrounding the ulcer-like radiance. During this period, the pain may increase.

Duration: The duration of the ulcer stage is 3-6 days, but some individuals take more time.

3. Healing Stage: 

Finally, the healing process begins, and healthy tissue grows over the ulcer. The pain subsides as the ulcer shrinks.

Duration:  The healing duration of canker sores depends on the type of lesion.

Big canker sores can last for several weeks and be painful for a longer time. They often leave a scar on the mouth's lining.

Small canker sores usually last 7–14 days and should heal without leaving a mark.

Herpetiform canker sores can last from 10–14 days and usually heal without leaving a mark.

4. Complete Healing: 

This stage comprises the fully healed sore, and there is no more discomfort.

During these stages, the use of over-the-counter (OTC) products can help relieve pain and speed up the healing process.

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The following strategies and treatments can decrease your pain and support healing such as:

  • Apply an OTC benzocaine pain liquid
  • Apply topical OTC protective patches or gels to form an obstruction around the ulcer.
  • Gargle with a homemade mouth rinse comprising baking soda or 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Take ibuprofen to minimize inflammation and relieve pain
  • Eat Popsicles, drink cold fluids with a straw, or apply a small piece of ice to the sore for a short period to help insensitive the pain.
  • Avoid common canker sore irritants, such as citrus, spicy, or hard, foods that could irritate the ulcer
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Correct any vitamin deficiencies, such as vitamin B-12 and folate deficiencies
  • Keep the mouth clean by brushing at least twice daily with a soft toothbrush
  • Practice stress management technique

When should I visit my healthcare provider?

You should set an immediate appointment with your healthcare provider or dentist if your canker sore

  • It has not healed after two weeks
  • Occurs with other symptoms
  • Is unusually painful or large
  • It affects the ability to drink or eat

What will my healthcare providers prescribe me?

Your healthcare provider may suggest

  • Use a mouthwash (contains equal parts of diphenhydramine, a liquid antacid, and lidocaine) three or four times
  • Apply corticosteroid on the sore
  • Apply OTC topical products that contain benzocaine such as Orajel or Anbusol
  • Use corticosteroid or chlorhexidine mouth rinses

What health problems can promote chronic canker sore?

Some underlying health problems can sometimes be linked with chronic canker sores, including:

  • HIV
  • Chronic diseases
  • Behcet’s disease
  • Celiac disease

Your healthcare provider may suggest some tests if you have additional symptoms with canker sores, such as stomach pain, rash, swollen lymph glands, or pain.

Over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for canker sores:

Many OTC treatments can help you heal canker sores, including:

  • Corticosteroids (help with healing and pain)
  • Anesthetics in gel or cream that holds lidocaine to help with pain and inflammation
  • NSAID (Nonsteroudal-anti-inflammatory drugs) holding dic;ofenac for pain relief

If you are a breastfeeding mother or conceived it’s better to consider conversing with your healthcare provider to see if these options are safe for you before using them. 

Mouth rinses for canker sores:

Using mouthwash is a good option for relieving pain due to canker sores, but some types of mouthwash should be discussed, such as:

1. Regular mouthwash:

A regular mouthwash holding chlorhexidine can help prevent germs from worsening and spreading the canker sore.

It can also assist in avoiding further inflammation.

2. Alcohol-containing mouthwashes:

It would help if you avoided alcohol-containing mouthwash as alcohol can irritate the canker sores.

3. OTC mouthwashes:

OTC mouthwashes are typically proposed to ease mouth sores. It holds lidocaine that can ease in relieving canker sore pain.

4. Prescription mouthwashes:

Your healthcare provider or dentist can prescribe lidocaine or dexamethasone-containing mouthwash. It can ease your sore pain.

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Home remedies for canker sores:

Besides, using OTC, mouth rinses and prescription products, several home remedies can relieve your canker sores, such as:

1. Hydrogen peroxide:

Hydrogen peroxide supports the healing of canker sore by reducing bacteria and cleansing the sore in the mouth.

How to use:

To use hydrogen peroxide for treating canker sores, you need to

  • First, dilute a 3% solution with equal parts of water.
  • Wet a cotton ball or cotton swab into the mixture
  • Apply it directly to the affected area a few times a day.

Additionally, you can utilize the diluted hydrogen peroxide as a mouth rinse. Swish the rinse around in your mouth for approximately one minute before spitting it out.

2. Salt water rinse:

Rinsing your mouth with salt water(1) is an effective home remedy for various mouth sores, including canker sores.

How to use:

To prepare a saline solution, 

  • Mix half a cup of warm water with one teaspoon of salt until the salt dissolves completely.
  • Swirl this solution in your mouth for 15-30 seconds 
  • Spit it out
  • Repeat this process every few hours as needed until the sore has healed.

Although exposure to salt water may cause discomfort, it can help to dry out the sore and promote healing.

3. Baking Soda rinse:

Baking soda(2) is believed to reduce inflammation and restore pH balance.

How to prepare and use:

  • Mix well one teaspoon of baking soda in half a cup of water.
  • After stirring well swirl this solution in your mouth for 15 to 30 seconds
  • Spit it out.

You may repeat this process every few hours as needed. While baking soda is not harmful if swallowed, it is extremely salty, so it is best to avoid it.

4. Apple cider vinegar mouthwash:

AVC (apple cider vinegar) is hyped as a cure for almost everything, such as canker sores, as AVC has antibacterial(3) properties some people believe it may reduce bacteria in your mouth that may irritate the canker sore.  

You should use it with caution as it is acidic and may cause or worsen canker sore in some people.

5. Alum powder:

Alum powder, made from potassium aluminum sulfate, is often used to preserve food and pickled vegetables. According to research from 2016, alum has astringent properties that may help shrink tissues(4) and dry out canker sores.

How to prepare and use:

  • Add a drop of water in alum powder to form a paste.
  • Apply the paste to the canker sore for at least a minute.
  • Rinse your mouth thoroughly and repeat the process daily until the canker sore is gone.

6. Milk of magnesia:

Milk of magnesia is made up of magnesium hydroxide which acts as both a laxative and an acid neutralizer. When taken orally, it can alter the pH level in your mouth, making it difficult for sores to survive.

Additionally, it can provide a protective coating to the sore, which helps to reduce irritation and alleviate pain.

How to use:

For relief from canker sores, 

  • Apply a small amount of milk of magnesia
  • Let it stay for a few seconds before rinsing
  • Repeat this up to three times a day

7. Yogurt:

Yogurt holds live probiotics (Lactobacillus) may help to ease and prevent canker sore.

How to use:

Health experts suggest at least one cup of yogurt daily to prevent and ease canker sores.

8. Honey:

Honey is known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Health experts suggest that honey is useful in wound healing, which may include reducing the size, pain, and redness of canker sores.

Additionally, honey also may help prevent secondary infection.

How to use:

Apply honey four times daily on the affected area.

9. Coconut oil:

Coconut oil's high concentration of lauric acid gives it microbial properties that may help treat canker sores while also preventing infection spread.

Coconut oil helps in reducing pain and redness, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

How to use:

Apply coconut oil to canker sores 4-5 times daily until healed.

10. Vitamin B complex supplement:

Vitamin B12 deficiency can increase the frequency of canker sores. Taking vitamin B complex can reduce the risk of canker sores and prevent the infection from spreading.

11. Watermelon frost:

Watermelon frost is a traditional Chinese herbal remedy for canker sores and mouth ulcers. It is a product derived from watermelon rinds and is commonly used in traditional Chinese medication for several purposes, including treating canker sores.

It is available in the forms of:

  • Spray
  • Powder
  • Tablet

How to use:

You can apply watermelon frost directly to the canker sore to relieve pain and faster healing.

When to get help for canker sores:

Most canker sores don’t cause serious illnesses. They hardly ever leave behind lasting side effects. Still, some canker sores validate a call to your healthcare provider or dentist.

Set an immediate appointment with your dentist or healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • The sore is getting larger than 1-3 centimeters in size.
  • You have multiple sores.
  • The sore spreads to your lips.
  • New sores form before old ones have healed.
  • The sore causes extreme pain
  • The sore doesn’t heal after 2 weeks.
  • The soreness makes eating or drinking intolerable.
  • You also have a fever.


Usually, canker sores go away on their own. Certain topical gels and mouth rinses may relieve your pain and help them heal faster.

Schedule an immediate appointment with your dentist or healthcare provider if you have multiple sores, a large canker sore, are in extreme pain, or that won’t go away.

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