Is Canker Sore Contagious?

The most common type of mouth ulcers is a canker sore (aphthous ulcer). These open ulcers surrounded by red and inflamed soft tissue usually have a white or yellow base and are extremely painful. There are two main types of canker sores, simple and complex canker sores. Simple cankers are recurrent and people affected with it may experience up to four flare-ups yearly. They are very common in the age group of 10-20. Complex cankers are less common and usually develop in people who have had it before.

So Is Canker Sore Contagious?

Canker sores are recurrent but are definitely not contagious. You cannot catch a canker sore or give it to another person. Besides, canker sores are not infectious, so it can't be transmitted by close physical contact like mouth-to-mouth kissing or sharing food or drinks.

The exact cause of this type of mouth ulcers is not known, and it is still unclear why some people get them and others don't. Some experts believe that these sores might be a result of rubbing or bite injury. Stress also plays a role in bringing them on. Other factors that can trigger them are exposure to certain foods or chemicals, dehydration and hormonal shifts.

Is It Really a Canker Sore?

It is important to differentiate whether the ulcer in your mouth is a canker sore or a cold sore because a cold sore is contagious while a canker sore is not.

The main differences between the two are:

  • Location: A canker sore is almost always inside the oral cavity, on the inside of lips, tongue or on the gums, while a cold sore is always present outside the moth, on or around the lips.
  • Appearance: Canker sores are small open ulcers with a white, yellow or grey base, surrounded by inflamed soft tissue. They can be single or multiple. Cold Sores are typically found in groups of red, fluid filled blisters.
  • Cause: While the exact cause of canker sores is unknown, they are definitely non-infectious and are brought out by a number of triggers as mentioned above. Cold sores are caused by HPV virus (herpes simplex virus). Besides, fatigue, stress, exposure to certain conditions and injury can trigger them.

Is canker sore contagious? Of course not! But cold sores are. Watch the following video to know how to differentiate canker sores from cold sores in terms of causes, symptoms, transmission, etc. 

How to Treat Canker Sore

Canker sores do get better and clear away in a couple of weeks. Medical care is advised for canker sores that are persistent, getting more painful or shows no signs of healing. Available treatment options are as following:

1. Home Remedies

  • Rinse your mouth frequently with half glass of warm water mixed with some backing soda or salt, which provides effective relief.
  • Spicy and acidic or abrasive foods can aggravate the pain and it is best to avoid them.
  • Ice is really helpful. Sucking on a few ice chips provides instant pain relief.
  • Dabbing the sore with a little milk of magnesia a couple times daily is tried and tested for good results.
  • Always choose a soft brush and toothpaste that is free from foaming agents to prevent further irritation or injury to the sores.

2. Medical Treatments

Even though the answer to "Is canker sore contagious?" is a big no and canker sores are self-limiting, medical treatments are need when the aim is to get symptomatic relief and speed up healing.

  • There are many over-the-counter creams, gels and pastes available. If applied as soon as the sore appears, they provide immediate relief and speed up healing as well.
  • Mouth washes containing steroid dexamethasone are prescribed for reducing inflammation, while some mouth washes with lidocaine (a local anesthetic) offer effective control of pain.
  • Some vitamin deficiencies are observed in people who frequently develop these sores. Supplements containing folate, vitamin B6, or vitamin B12 or zinc are sometimes prescribed to people with recurrent canker sores.
  • If the sores are not responding to topical treatment or occur too frequently, sucralfate (A medicine to treat stomach and gut ulcers) is prescribed. Steroids are used in very rare cases for resistant sores, but they can be associated with a lot of side effects.
  • All underlying medical causes must be investigated and treated properly.

3. Prevention

As for canker sores, contagiousness causes no worry. But once formed, a canker sore takes its time to heal and always brings your some discomforts. Follow the suggestions below to subsequently reduce your chances of getting canker sores:

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and avoid food that you are sensitive or allergic to. Crisps, pretzels, nuts, oranges and pineapples can irritate the oral mucosa and lead to these ulcers.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene with a soft brush to keep your mouth clean.
  • If you wear any braces or dentures, they can put pressure on the delicate tissue and lead to ulcer formation. Talk to your dentist about it if it happens.
  • Try to reduce and manage your stress.
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