Canker sores are painful ulcers that occur on the tongue, soft palette or inside the lips and cheeks. The sores usually last 5-10 days, are not caused by either a virus or bacteria and are not contagious.


Canker sores (also called aphthous ulcers) are different than fever blisters. They are small, red or white, shallow ulcers occurring on the tongue, soft palate, or inside the lips and cheeks; they do not occur in the roof of the mouth or the gums. They are quite painful, and usually last five to ten days.

The best available evidence suggests that canker sores result from an altered local immune response associated with stress, trauma, or irritation.  Acidic foods (i.e. tomatoes, citrus fruits, and some nuts) are known to cause irritation in some patients.

Canker sores are not contagious because they are not caused by bacteria or viral agents; they cannot be spread locally or to anyone else.

The treatment is directed toward relieving discomfort and guarding against infection.  A topical corticosteroid preparation, such as triamcinolone dental paste (Kenalog in Orabase 0.1%®) is helpful.

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