Most adults develop canker sores at one time or another. They’re annoying but you deal with them and do what it takes to make them disappear. Children can develop canker sores as well. Different from cold sores, which are contagious, these canker sores can be super annoying to children, especially the littlest ones, and can also be painful, urging the need to address them promptly and efficiently as well as safely.

What causes canker sores?

Canker sores are found mostly inside the cheeks or lips or at the base of the gums. They sometimes develop under the tongue as well. They differ from cold sores or fever blisters in that they are not caused by a virus, which means they cannot be spread to others.

Instead, canker sores are believed to be a result of one of a number of things. First, diet may play a large part in the formation of canker sores, which are also known as aphthous ulcers. A shortage of folic acid, iron, and B12 in one’s diet is believed to be at least one primary cause.

Sometimes, certain food allergies also cause these ulcers to form.

Mouth injuries can bring them on as well, including biting the inside of one’s cheek or lip. Brushing too hard can also result in an injury that prompts a canker sore, though that is unlikely a cause for small children. Sodium lauryl sulfate, which is found in some toothpastes and mouthwashes, can also be the culprit.

For older children, tweens, and teens, consistent stress can cause canker sores as well, or the sores may indicate an immune system issue. If they consistently appear, the latter should be considered if no other reason can be identified.

What do canker sores look like?

The sores usually appear just one at a time, but sometimes they can be in clusters of several in one place. Generally, they are round-ish in shape, usually with a white or yellow coating on the top and with a darker red ring around the edges. They are shallow rather than deep and rarely measure more than ¼-inch in diameter.

How long do they last?

A canker sore generally takes about 2 weeks to go away. However, they are most painful during the first several days after they appear. They can make it difficult to eat or drink and some foods and beverages can aggravate them more than others.

For example, acidic foods like tomatoes or orange juice, as well as “scratchy” foods like potato chips, can be quite painful to eat when dealing with canker sores.

If your child’s canker sore(s) don’t go away within that 2 week time period, it’s important to consult your pediatric dentist for further examination.

How should they be treated?

Most canker sores will go away on their own and there likely won’t be a need to use any sort of topical treatment. However, ibuprofen or another appropriate pain reliever may help lessen your child’s discomfort.

If the sores seem to persist, your dentist or doctor can indeed recommend a topical medicine or even a home remedy that could help make them disappear. Also be sure that your child uses only a soft-bristled toothbrush in the meantime and that they don’t hit the canker sores with the brush while brushing their teeth.

If you are currently a family that sees us here at Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry or you haven’t established a pediatric dental practice for your child, please call us today at (907)562-1003 to set up an appointment today!

Dr Brant Darby DDS

Dr. J. Brant Darby graduated with honors from The Master’s College with a degree in Biology. He completed his dental training at the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry, followed by a pediatric dental residency at University of Nebraska Medical Center. He actively served as a dental officer in the United States Army for eight years.

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