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Canker Sore Treatment (How to Get Rid of Canker Sores)

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These simple home canker sort treatments will help you get rid of canker sores, and avoid them in the future.

how to get rid of canker sores

What is a Canker Sore, and what's the difference between canker sores and cold sores?

A canker sore is an open sore, or ulcer, inside the mouth. They're also called “mouth ulcers” or aphthous ulcerations. They aren't contagious, but the sores can be painful.

The sores usually last a week or two, but the right canker sore treatment could cut that down to only a day or two.

What causes them? WebMD admits that doctors often don't know. They're most common in younger people, from tweens to early 20s.

Sometimes there's an underlying health condition, like immune systems problems or nutritional issues. Braces and other dental hardware sometimes trigger them. (Talk to your doctor or dentist if something is poking your mouth where it shouldn't be.)

Sometimes it's stress, or an emotional conflict. Salty and acidic foods can irritate the mouth, but don't usually cause them on their own. Avoiding dental care products with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) may speed up healing and reduce canker sore pain.

If you have frequently occurring canker sores, you should probably take a look at your health/diet to see what the underlying factors might be.

Canker sores are not the same as cold sores, also known as fever blisters. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus, and are contagious.

cococnut oil on spoon
Coconut oil

#1 – Coconut Oil as a Canker Sore Treatment

I rarely get canker sores, but the last one I had was inside my lower lip. The little blister was annoying – red, sore and constantly rubbing against my teeth. The bump wasn’t huge, maybe 2 mm across. I did my normal round of oil pulling with coconut oil.

After breakfast, the day got busy as usual and I didn’t really have time to focus on the canker sore. It wasn’t until around 4:30 in the afternoon when I was talking to my sister on the phone that I realized the bump was GONE.

I went and looked in the mirror and all that was left was a red spot and a slight indentation. By the next morning even that was mostly gone. The area was just a wee bit darker then the surrounding tissue.

I NEVER healed a canker sore that fast. I’ve tried over the counter remedies, alum, ice cubes – nothing has worked this fast or this painlessly.

spoon filled with baking soda
Baking soda

#2 – Baking Soda

Use baking soda as a canker sore treatment by dissolving baking soda in water and holding it in your mouth mouth, or by applying baking soda directly to the canker sore.

From Tania:

Baking soda cured my canker sore within 24 hours. The canker sore on the side of my tongue was so sore I couldn't hardly swallow. I took 1tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp of water and kept it in my mouth as long as possible. I did this 3 times within an hour went to bed and did the same the next morning by dinner time the canker sore was gone!

From Shawna:

Out of the blue 4 days ago I got a canker sore that was 1.5 inches large on the side of my tongue. It was excruciating! Last night before bed I tried putting a baking soda paste on it and I woke up this morning and it's almost gone!

Baking soda is also useful for treating bites and stings.

spoonful of salt
Salt/Salt Water

#3 – Salt Water

To use salt water as a remedy, dissolve two tablespoons of salt in a six ounce glass of warm water. Sip and swish gently over the affected area for several minutes, spit. Repeat as needed.

Salt water helps draw fluid through tissues, speeding healing.

loose leaf tea
Tea

#4 – Tea

Another classic home canker sore treatment is tea – including the tea bag.

Brew the tea as normal and drink it. Then tuck the tea bag in your mouth, holding it on the canker sore, something like a snuff pouch.

The tannic acid in the tea provides the relief. (Tannic acid is the active in the over the counter canker sore remedy Zilactin.)

spoon filled with honey
Honey

#5 – Honey

A recent study examined the use of honey to treat canker sores. They divided participants into three groups.

The first treated their sores with plain old commercial honey, the second used an oral corticosteroid cream, and the third got an over-the-counter product that forms a protective paste to cover sores while they heal.

All three groups applied their treatment three times per day. Results were as follows:

In just 4 days, all sores in the honey group had disappeared completely—but the number of sores in groups 2 and 3 hadn’t budged. Honey even helped to soothe pain. After day 1, honey users reported a 95.5% decrease in pain, with total pain elimination by day 2. Groups 2 and 3 were not so lucky: It took them 8 days to reach the same pain-free state.

So – hit the pantry and thank the bees for sweet relief.

aloe vera leaf
Aloe vera

#6 – Aloe Vera Juice

Swish food grade aloe vera gel around the mouth, apply it directly to the canker sore, and/or drink as a supplement to help speed healing of canker sores.

Aloe vera contains salicylates, like aspirin, which reduce pain and inflammation. Aloe vera is also a natural antibiotic. You can purchase ready to go aloe vera juice, or make your own by juicing or scraping and mashing the pulp from an aloe vera leaf.

#7 – L-lysine

L-lysine is an essential amino acid, which means it is required for health but can't be manufactured by the body. It's found in high protein foods like nuts, red meat, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and sardines. It's also available as a supplement.

Use 500 mg of l-lysine internally for canker sore treatment, or hold the supplement powder on the canker sore.

spoon full of apple cider vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar

#8 – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Use this canker sore remedy with caution, as the acidity of the apple cider vinegar may irritate the canker sore.

Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1/2 cup warm water, and swish it around your mouth for 30-60 seconds. Repeat twice a day.

ACV is also recommended for sore muscles and headache relief.

spoonful of yogurt
yogurt

#9 – Yogurt

Daily consumption of yogurt with live and active cultures may help prevent and heal canker sore outbreaks. Those who suffer from regular outbreaks should eat ¼ cup of yogurt per day for prevention, and consume an eight ounce container per day to heal an outbreak.

Yogurt can also be used to treat acid reflux and sunburn.

#10 – Herbs

Try making up some echinacea, chamomile, or sage tea for canker sore treatment. Hold the tea in your mouth a bit before drinking. Use up to 4-6 cups per day.

canker sore treatments

More Canker Sore Treatments

Our readers on Facebook also recommended some remedies.

Julie says, “Here is one remedy I have found works best for canker sores and helps soothe them. It will heal them in 2 days, 3 days tops if severe.

Put liquid vitamin E directly on the sore – frequently on the first day, and then less often as it heals. Vitamin E, 30,000 IU, is a miracle for wounds/scars/burns.”

Kathy notes, “Niacin powder directly on the canker sore heals it within a day or two.”

canker sore on lip

More Home Remedies

We have dozens of home remedies on the site, all listed on the Home Remedies index page.

Note: This article is for general information only. Please see a healthcare provider if pain is intense or lasts longer than two weeks.

Originally posted in 2010, last updated in 2021.

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56 Comments

    1. I just swished with unrefined coconut oil for 5 minutes and the awful canker sore on the top of my tongue stopped stinging/hurting for the first time all day. The coconut oil also has relieved the pain of my inflamed gums and sensitive mouth.

  1. I got a huge canker sore when I first started dry brushing two years ago. Haven't had one since. I think it was some kind of detox effect –if you believe in that sort of thing 😉

  2. Melissa – remind me to tell you another detox story…I may post it at some time if I have the friend's permission. A canker sore wouldn't surprise me at all.

  3. You have a nice blog.
    I found you on THL under Zinnada's blog question.
    I hope you visit me sometime.
    I am your newest follower.

  4. Dalyn – no goats, but maybe some day. 🙂

    Joyful, thanks for stopping by. 🙂 I am super behind on posting, but eventually hope to be caught up. I still haven't gotten a chance to look through all the links from THL, but it's on my to-do list.

  5. I knew coconut oil was good, but I didn't know it was that good! You say it works for warts as well? I've got some stubborn plantar warts and I've tried everything to make them go away…Maybe I'll give coconut oil a go!

  6. Sarah, I have read that it can help for warts: http://www.coconut-oil-central.com/coconut-oil-warts.html

    At the very least it shouldn't hurt, unlike when I had mine burned out years ago – ouch! The darn things grew back anyway, so I had to keep treating them for months afterwards. I've read that once your body recognizes them as a foreign body, it will cure itself, so I'm wondering if the very action of treating the wart and applying a known anti-fungal/anti-viral substance helps trigger that immune reaction?

    1. Look up the banana skin removal of warts. A relative removed a few on his feet in about a week and a few years later they are still gone 🙂

    1. I stumbled across this site after looking up canker sore remedies for my husband. Luckily, I just happened to have a bottle of coconut oil in the cupboard so we are trying it. I hope it works as well for him as it did for you. Not sure how long to ‘soak’ the sore but we’ll try it periodically throughout the day today and see what happens! Thank you!

    1. WebMD states that there are two types of canker sores – (http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/canker-sores)

      1. Simple canker sores. These may appear three or four times a year and last up to a week. They typically occur in people between 10 and 20 years of age.
      2. Complex canker sores. These are less common and occur more often in people who have previously had them.

      They continue with information on potential causes of canker sores –

      “The exact cause of most canker sores is unknown. Stress or tissue injury is thought to be the cause of simple canker sores. Certain foods – including citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables (such as lemons, oranges, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, and strawberries) – can trigger a canker sore or make the problem worse. Sometimes a sharp tooth surface or dental appliance, such as braces or ill-fitting dentures, might also trigger canker sores.

      Some cases of complex canker sores are caused by an underlying health condition, such as an impaired immune system; nutritional problems, such as vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron deficiency; and gastrointestinal tract disease, such as Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.”

      So, if you have frequently occurring canker sores, you should probably take a look at your health/diet to see what the underlying factors might be.

  7. I’m just wondering..you said there were two types of canker sores, and then only mentioned type 1. What is the other type, and will this work for that too? Thanks, Leela

  8. I’ve dealt with canker sores (my dentist/doctor prefers me to use the proper term) as a result of an immune system issue. I’ve had them so numerous and so large (they’d merge and get bigger) that I couldn’t speak, eat, drink, without ripping them against my teeth and bleeding with my lips closed (think vampire after feeding). In a 2 year period I kept a log for my doc/DDS because they couldn’t believe it wasn’t just a few, it was hundreds, all in different stages of eruption, statis, and healing. It took a long time – less stress, less acidic foods/drinks, changing toothpaste/brushing more often, and increasing water intake to really lessen my occurrence to the point that I rarely have one. And that’s when I know I need to brush my teeth, have a lot of stress, or ate something that cut the inside of my mouth. Good to know that this would work too if I can’t keep it under control.

  9. I get sores in my mouth because of lupus and I read this (found through pinterest) about 2 weeks ago. I have since had an outbreak in my mouth and although they’re not completely gone, they are healing quicker and are less painful than ever before. (oops, should have said I have been using coconut oil). Thanks so, so, sooo much for this info!!

  10. FYI! Because of the few meds I take for Fybromyagia I get dry mouth which has caused tooth decay. I started putting coconut oil on my toothbrush initially to reduce oral bacteria and help whiten my teeth and figured it was like a mini oil pull twice a day. To my surprise, it eliminated, well almost, my dry mouth. I ran out of coconut oil in my bathroom recently just as I was going on vacation and didn’t have a container handy that didn’t leak on a plane trip. I figured one week without wouldn’t be a big deal and I’d just refill my container when I got home. It has been a few extra days since I returned and my dry mouth has returned. My container is now refilled and I ready to go!

  11. I’ve always used bongela, over the counter medicine for my canker sores. It is not sold here anymore (live in an European country) due to some harmful ingredients. I wa so glad to find your blog with this tip.

    As I had some problems making the oil stay on the sore which is located far back on the upper part of the cheek, I took another scoop of oil with a teaspoon, molded it as I thought would fit the inside of my cheek and freezed it for few minutes. It made it last longer with out melting straight away and easier to make it stay in the right spot. The sore is already less painful!

  12. I wish I had seen this post a month ago when my eight year old had FIVE canker sores in her poor little mouth. She had three in a cluster on her inner bottom lip and two on the top and was absolutely miserable. I even made her a doctor appointment because I had no idea why she overnight broke out with so many. They gave her a fifty dollar steroid that she hated because it tasted so bad. I ended up raiding my local drugstore and got her Orajel and a med that was specifically for canker sores. It’s a little tablet you put on top of the sore and after a little while it swells up like a bubble and completely covers it. I thought that worked wonders. I would put it on before bed and when she woke up she had a mouthful of goo but it kept the sore protected all night and she said it still felt cool and tingly over 12 hours later when she woke up. I tried doing a salt water rinse but she is really sensitive to foods and gags at the slightest different texture and just could not manage it. They took almost two weeks to go away and it was a really rough two weeks for my baby girl 🙁

  13. When I was young I got canker sores. I learned that a Qtip and rubbing alcohol really grinding it in there until it bleeds. They are gone after 2 days. I have not had one in at least 17 years.
    Even after I eat a bunch of tomatoes.

  14. Powder Alum works fast, within 24 hrs. Just wet your finger dip it and place it on the sore. Dries it up in less that a day. BUT it tastes terrible.

  15. Hemoform serum is one the best way to treat herpes. It also helps me to prevent cold sore when you use it at the very start of tingling sensation on the lip. If the cold sore appears, it cures the blister in a very short time. I love it!

  16. You should add alum to the list. It burns to put it on but the sore is gone within a day two at the most if it’s really bad.

  17. Pat one month ,I have this cranker sore problem..what is this the treatment.

    Or it is any other big problem in my body.

    1. Not sure I’m following your question. If you’ve had a sore that won’t heal for over a month, it may be a good idea to see a doctor as this could be a sign of a secondary infection.

  18. Hi thank you for sharing very informative 🙂
    I would like to suggest alum powder also very effective just bear the pain. Just apply it directly on open canker sores.
    Me and my older sister using it to cure our canker sores.
    Hope it will help.
    Muchos gracias 🙂
    from: Philippines

  19. I had this ulcer/canker soar on my tounge and it hurt like you would not believe. Especially eating and even talking. Well I tried putting coconut oil and it worked. I am eating and it is way better than it was. I can’t promise it will work for you but it did for me. It is not 100% but it is way better than it was.

  20. One of the worst triggers of my canker sores as a kid was sodium laurel sulfate in toothpaste. When I switched, my canker sores went from a few a month to one or two a year. Definitely worth a shot for those who get them often.

  21. Anything that will ease and help heal a cold sore more quickly? I understand that’s a different animal, but healing the skin around the lips shouldn’t be more difficult than in the mouth, surely… maybe some of these remedies would work?

    1. Cold sores are viral in nature, so any type of antiviral may help. One remedy that’s commonly used for cold sores is L-lysine (sometimes listed as Lysine), which you can find in an ointment or tablet form.

      One tablet listed on amazon is Quantum Health Super Lysine+ Tablets, Immune Support, Lip Care Supplement – L-Lysine (1500 mg), Vitamin C, Propolis, Garlic Bulb, Echinacea. As noted, it includes more than just the L-Lysine for immune boosting.

      Basic Organics L-Lysine Lip Ointment is well rated will quite a few positive reviews (that don’t look fake).

  22. Hi
    I have canker sores as we speak right now. 2 each on both sides of my tongue. I can’t speak or eat. It even hurts to drink water. I have realised that they are triggered by eating food that contains wheat. Bananas, apples, strawberries, pineapple also makes them worse. I am in so much pain I am literally crying.
    I am going to apply Coconut oil now I hope it really helps.
    Thank you
    Jacqui

    1. I’m glad you’ve identified some triggers, and I hope that you can get some relief. It sounds like a healing diet and probiotics might be helpful, as you’re dealing with quite a bit of inflammation.

  23. I discovered that when I consume too much of an acidy product, (orange juice, grapefruit juice, soda pop, etc), that I get the canker sores. Thus the baking soda solutions work best for me as it neutralizes the acid. To prevent the sores from occurring, I will take a tsp of baking soda in a glass of water beforehand if I know that I may consume a couple pops or juices. Or I will do it afterward. Works very well for me.

  24. This works amazing. Take a fruit flavored Tums tablet. Place inside your mouth against your sore. Just keep it there, in your mouth, with your mouth closed until it dissolves. No talking, dont lick it or chew on it. When that has dissolved, place another one in the same place and give it time to dissolve also. When I have done this, it seems to take away all the pain, and the sore heals up. This was a life saver for me.

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