Dr Manny's Notes

Canker sores: A real pain in the mouth

Q&A with Dr. Manny: My husband gets painful canker sores all the time in his mouth. What's the deal?


Canker sores can be very painful and annoying. When you get one, simple things like eating and talking can become a real drag.
We recently got this email from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,
My husband gets painful canker sores all the time in his mouth. What's the deal?

Canker sores are small ulcers that develop in the soft tissues of the mouth. They can appear under the tongue, inside the cheeks or lips and at the base of the gums.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes canker sores, but they do know there are a number of contributing factors. These include:

  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Poor nutrition or vitamin deficiencies
  • Minor injuries to the mouth
  • Hormones
  • Even using some toothpastes or mouth washes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate

Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious, and most of the time, they will clear up on their own within a week or two.

However, there are some things that you can do to ease the pain while you wait for them to go away.    

“Vitamin B12 and folate are very effective in reducing the incidence,” said Dr. Gerry Curatola, a dentist and owner of Rejuvenation Dentistry in New York. “Licene, found in fish, chicken and eggs … supplements found in health food stores, yogurt and probiotic cultures raise the level of healthy bacteria in the body.”

Curatola said that it’s very important that people with canker sores stop using toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate in it if they want to relieve the pain and stop the condition from worsening. He added that resting and lowering stress levels were also good ways to help clear up the ulcers and keep them from coming back.

Do you have a health question for Dr. Manny? Email it to him at drmanny@foxnews.com.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.