You’re going about your business on a busy Tuesday when you suddenly feel a nagging pain in your mouth. During your lunch, you head to the bathroom to find out what is causing the irritation. Leaning in close to the mirror and flipping your lip inside-out you get a view of the culprit: a canker sore. Great. But what is a canker sore? Can you pop a canker sore? Are canker sores dangerous? It’s going to be okay. Chances are this is more of an annoyance than a life-threatening issue.
What are canker sores?
Canker sores are small, shallow lesions (open cuts) which appear on your tongue, the inside of your cheeks, or soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth). The sores, typically round with a white or gray color and red border, are caused by stress, tissue injury, acidic/spicy foods, or dental appliances such as braces or dentures. Many people experience a tingling or burning sensation before seeing any physical signs of the actual sore. Less common symptoms may include fever, loss of energy, difficulty swallowing liquids, and/or swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms, while uncommon, may indicate a compromised immune system, nutritional deficit, celiac or Crohn’s disease.
Can you make a canker sore pop?
Well, because canker sores are lesions, it is impossible to pop them. Often times, canker sores are mistaken for cold sores which are fluid-filled bumps found outside of the mouth. In most cases, the pain of the sore will subside in a few days and heal naturally within a couple weeks. In the meantime, avoiding irritants such as stiff-bristled toothbrushes, gum, or spicy/acidic foods will help increase the recovery rate. Prodding or trying make a canker sore pop will most likely result in an increase in the amount of time it takes to heal and is generally not recommended. Some dental professionals offer laser treatments which reduce the amount of time needed to heal and offer more immediate relief. Other remedies include: rinsing your mouth with salt/baking soda (one teaspoon to a half-cup of warm water), dabbing a small amount of milk of magnesia on the sore, or applying ice to the sore.
Canker sores, while irritating and painful, are not typically dangerous. There are two types of canker sores: simple and complex. Simple canker sores are the most common, may last up to a week and generally appear in individuals aged ten to twenty. Conversely, complex canker sores are far less common and typically present in cases where the individual has already exhibited canker sores. While canker sores alone present very little immediate threat, a sore that lasts three weeks or longer, grows to an unusual size, or lasts three weeks or longer may indicate an underlying issue and you should seek a health care professional.
So, are canker sores dangerous?
In a word: no. Unless exhibiting worrisome attributes such as unusually large sores, difficulty swallowing fluids, sores lasting 3 weeks or more, or a high fever alongside the sore warrant the intervention of a healthcare professional. You should not try to make a canker sore pop or continuously prod the sore as this may result in a longer recovery time. With proper care the canker sore should dissipate within a couple weeks, allowing you to focus on more important endeavors.