The Most Effective Home Remedy Treatments for Your Canker Sores

Canker sores are small shallow and painful ulcers or lesions that develop on the soft tissues in the inside lining of your mouth or at the base of your gums. The sores usually start as white to yellowish ulcers that are surrounded by redness.

These sores can be very painful and often make eating and talking difficult and uncomfortable for you. The cause of canker sores is unknown, however, it can be caused by stress or minor injury to the inside of your mouth.

Canker sore
Canker sores occur inside the mouth


The main cause of canker sores is unclear, but there are certain triggering factors that can make the sores appear.

The triggers include:

  • Certain types of food include citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables (such as lemons, oranges, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, and strawberries). These foods can trigger your canker sore or make it worse.
  • Food sensitivities, particularly to chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, and spicy or acidic foods
  • A minor injury to your mouth from dental work.
  • Brushing your mouth harshly, especially if the toothbrush is not soft
  • Accidentally biting your cheek 
  • Your diet may be lacking in vitamin B-12, folic acid, iron, or zinc
  • Sports accidents, especially if you do contact sports 
  • Your body’s allergic response to certain bacteria that are in your mouth
  • Hormonal shifts during your  menstruation
  • Stress, especially emotional stress
  • Your dental appliance, such as braces 
  • Ill-fitting dentures or a sharp tooth surface 
  • Sometimes, your use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) can give you canker sores.

Types of canker sores

There are three types of canker sores: Simple, Complex, and Herpetiform.

Simple or minor

These are the most common types of canker sores. 

  • You can get simple canker sores at any age, but they typically occur in people between ages 10 and 20. 
  • They may appear three or four times a year, lasting up to a week on each occurrence.  
  • These sores are usually small
  • They are oval-shaped with a red edge
  • Usually, they heal in one or two weeks without causing you any scarring.

Complex or major

These are less common and 

  • Occur if you’ve previously had simple canker sores in the past. 
  • Usually round with defined borders. However, when the sores are very large they may have irregular borders.
  • Are larger and deeper than simple canker sores
  • Can be extremely painful
  • It may take up to 6 weeks to heal. After healing, the sores may leave extensive scarring in your mouth.
  • It can occur if you have nutritional problems, such as a deficiency in iron, folic acid, vitamin B-12, or zinc. 
  • You have diseases of the immune system. If you have a faulty immune system, it may cause your body to attack healthy cells in your mouth instead of pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. 

Diseases of the immune system include:

  • HIV/AIDS suppresses your immune system and increases your risk of getting canker sores. 
  • Lupus
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis). 
  • Celiac disease is a serious intestinal disorder that results if you have a sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in most grains.

Herpetiform canker sores

These are uncommon and usually develop later in life. They:

  • Are usually pinpointed in size
  • Often occur in clusters of between 10 – 100 sores, which may merge into one large cluster.

Risk factors

  • Anyone can develop canker sores, but you’re more likely to get them if you’re a teen or a young adult. 
  • You’re more likely to have it if you’re a female.
  • If you have recurrent canker sores, you may have a family history of the disorder. 
  • You may have it due to heredity or resulting from factors such as certain foods or allergens.


The following are signs that you have canker sores:

  • Round or oval painful sores inside your mouth. They’ll have a white or yellow center and a red border. The sores occur under your tongue, soft palate, inside your cheeks or lips, or at the base of your gums.
  • Round, white or gray sores inside your mouth with a red edge or border.
  • A burning or tingling sensation prior to the appearance of sores inside your mouth
  • You may have a fever, swollen lymph nodes with a severe attack from canker sores.

Are canker sores the same as cold sores?

When you have canker sores, you should not mistake them for cold sores because they’re not the same. 

  • Cold sores are also known as fever blisters or herpes simplex type 1. It is an infection caused by a virus and is extremely contagious. A canker sore is not an infection and is not contagious.
  • Cold sores usually occur as clusters of painful, fluid-filled blisters. 
  • If you have cold sores, they typically appear outside your mouth, not inside it like canker sores. You’ll usually find them under your nose, around your lips, or under your chin.
Cold sores
Cold sores occur outside the mouth

On the other hand, canker sores occur inside your mouth and are not caused by an infection. Therefore, they’re not contagious.

If you have canker sores, the sore will usually heal in about a week or two. There are some over-the-counter products that you may use to relieve the pain.

They include:

Home Remedies

Saltwater rinse

An important home remedy is rinsing your mouth with salt water. This can be painful for your mouth sores, but it will help dry out the canker sores.


  1. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in 1/2 cup of warm water.
  2. Swirl the solution in your mouth for about 15 to 30 seconds, then spit it out. Do not swallow.
  3. Repeat this process every few hours as needed.

Baking soda rinse

It is believed that baking soda helps to restore pH balance and reduce inflammation, and this may help heal your canker sores.


  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1/2 cup of water.
  2. Swirl the solution in your mouth for about 15 to 30 seconds, then spit it out. Do not swallow.
  3. Repeat this process every few hours as needed.


Honey is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known to be effective in reducing your canker sore pain, size, and redness. The honey may also help to prevent you from having a secondary infection.


Apply honey to your sore four times daily.

You should use unpasteurized, unfiltered honey, like Manuka honey which is less processed and retains its healing properties.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide will promote the healing of your canker sore by cleaning the sore and reducing bacteria in your mouth.


  1. Dilute a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution with equal parts water.
  2. Dip a cotton ball or cotton swab into the mixture and apply the mixture directly to your canker sore a few times daily.

You can also use the diluted hydrogen peroxide solution as a mouth rinse. To do so, swish the rinse around your mouth for about a minute, and then spit it out.

Alum powder

Alum powder is often used to preserve food and to pickle vegetables. Alum has astringent properties that may help to shrink tissues and dry out your canker sores.


  1. Create a paste by mixing a tiny amount of alum powder with a drop of water.
  2. Dab the paste onto your canker sore and leave it on for at least one minute.
  3. Rinse your mouth thoroughly.
  4. Repeat this process daily until your canker sore is gone.


It’s not known what causes canker sores. A 2020 study showed that live probiotic cultures, such as Lactobacillus, may help eradicate the bacteria that cause canker sores. Eating yogurt that contains live probiotic cultures may help to cure your canker sores. To aid in preventing or treating your canker sore, eat at least 1 cup of yogurt every day.

Coconut oil

Research has shown that coconut oil has antimicrobial properties due to its high lauric acid content. It may therefore help treat your canker sores caused by bacteria. It will also help prevent the bacteria from spreading.

Coconut oil is also a natural anti-inflammatory substance that may help reduce the redness and pain associated with your canker sores.


  1. Apply coconut oil generously to the sore.
  2. Reapply several times a day until your canker sore is gone.


Echinacea has wound-healing and immune-boosting properties that may help heal your canker sores or prevent them from forming in the first place.


  1. Add about one teaspoon of liquid echinacea to equal parts warm water.
  2. Swish the solution around your mouth for about 2 minutes and spit out or swallow the mixture.

You may also rinse your mouth with echinacea tea. Repeat either treatment up to three times daily.

Apple cider vinegar mouthwash

Apple cider vinegar can help cure your canker sores. It’s thought that the acid in apple cider vinegar helps kill bacteria that irritate your sore. Use this treatment with caution because acidic foods can cause or worsen canker sores in some people.


  1. Combine one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and one cup of water.
  2. Swish this mixture around your mouth for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Spit it out, and rinse your mouth thoroughly. It is important to rinse your mouth after using apple cider vinegar to prevent damage to your tooth enamel.
  4. Repeat the procedure daily.

Zinc lozenges

If you have a weak immune system, you may be susceptible to having canker sores. If this is the case, zinc is a mineral that can help boost your immunity.

Taking zinc lozenges may help your immune system fight off bacteria that cause canker sores. It may also speed up the healing process if you have a sore.

You can buy zinc lozenges at most pharmacies. The lozenges may also contain other important ingredients such as echinacea.

Dissolve one in your mouth as directed in the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

Watermelon frost

Traditional Chinese medicine uses watermelon frost as an effective remedy for canker sores. Studies have shown its effectiveness in treating canker sores.

Watermelon frost is sold as a tablet, powder, or spray.

To use, apply it directly to the sore for pain relief and quicker healing. You may purchase watermelon frost online or from an Asian herb store.

Vitamin B complex supplement

If your diet is low in vitamin B12, you may be more susceptible to getting canker sores. It’s not clear how vitamin B12 heals canker sores. However, a 2009 study showed that participants who took 1,000 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 daily had fewer canker sore outbreaks. They also had fewer sores overall, and less pain than those who took a placebo.

Other B vitamins may also help you manage your cancer sores. A vitamin B complex supplement contains all eight B vitamins, including B12. Consult your doctor before taking vitamin B complex supplements because they may cause side effects.

When to see a doctor

You should see your doctor if:

  • you’ve developed unusually large sores 
  • your sores are spreading
  • you have difficulty drinking fluids  
  • your sores have lasted for three weeks or longer 
  • you have intolerable pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
  • a fever developed with the appearance of the canker sores 

If your sores are large, persistent, and painful, your doctor may prescribe a mouthwash containing dexamethasone to reduce your inflammation, irritation, and pain. He may also prescribe a corticosteroid ointment or an antibacterial mouth rinse.


Your doctor doesn’t need to run any tests to make a diagnosis. A visual examination will usually be only what is needed. When he looks at the sores inside your mouth, he/she will be able to make a determination.  

Additional tests may be ordered to check for other underlying health issues that you may have. This will be done, especially if you have canker sores that are ongoing and severe.

Prevention of canker sores

There is no cure for canker sores because they often recur. You can only take measures to prevent frequent recurrence of the condition. 

These are the measures you need to take:

  • Avoid oral hygiene products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush after meals. You should also floss daily. By doing this, you’ll keep your mouth free of foods that might trigger a sore.
  • Avoid irritating your gums by chewing gum
  • You should avoid foods that are likely to irritate your mouth. These include hot or spicy foods. Other foods include chips, nuts, pretzels, salty foods, and acidic fruits, such as grapefruit, pineapple, and oranges.
  • Eat healthy foods so you don’t have nutritional deficiencies. You should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • If you wear braces, protect the inside of your mouth by making sure that you don’t have any sharp edges on the braces. The sharp edges will likely cause blisters in your mouth. 

Your dentist should be able to cover the sharp edges on your braces with orthodontic waxes so that they won’t irritate the inside of your mouth and cause canker sores. 

  • Know the importance of good oral hygiene to delay future recurrences. As mentioned earlier, you should regularly brush your mouth after meals and floss once a day. This practice will keep your mouth clean and free of foods that might trigger canker sore recurrence. 
  • Choose a soft toothbrush for brushing your mouth. This will prevent the irritation of the delicate tissues inside your mouth.
  • Avoid mouth rinses and toothpaste that contain sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Because stress can cause canker sores, you should take the necessary measures to avoid stress. Learn stress-relieving techniques such as guided imagery and meditation, and practice them as part of your lifestyle.

Read also: Recurrent Mouth Ulcers – How To Treat Them In Simple Affordable Ways.

17 thoughts on “The Most Effective Home Remedy Treatments for Your Canker Sores

  1. Living with herpes virus was the worst situation I’ve ever been in due to work and tending to my family needs but finally tested negative after using the herbal medicine I ordered from him.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. I didn’t know they were linked to periods. I’ve never heard them called Canker sores either. Love the home remedies

  3. super useful just when it comes to dental hygiene in general! always trying to work on bettering that!

  4. I didn’t know there was so many causes that can lead to a canker sores.

  5. We learn new things each passing day, don’t we?
    I’m glad you found the information useful. Thanks so much for your feedback

  6. Well, I learned something today. I think I got one or two of these when I was younger, but I had no idea that they were called canker sores.

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