Canker sores sure are a nuisance. These unwelcome little mouth sores seem to pop up out of the blue, only to cause much pain and misery. The good news? Most of these sores will disappear on their own, and you can speed up the process with these essential oils for canker sores.
Canker sores (aka ‘Mouth sores’) are small ulcers that appear on the skin inside the mouth. They often hurt or cause considerable discomfort, particularly when talking or eating. Essential oils are recommended as a natural remedy to treat and heal canker sores.
What causes canker sores? Are canker sores contagious? And can they be popped? Do you know how to use essential oils for the treatment of canker sores?
Read on to uncover everything you need to know about canker sores, the dos, and don’ts, and, most importantly, how to heal canker sores fast and naturally with essential oils.
Table of Contents
What Are Canker Sores?
Also known as aphthous ulcers in medical terms, canker sores are small, open sores or lesions that develop in the lining of the mouth. The sores are either white or yellow and red around the edges.
A canker sore is the most common type of mouth ulcer, and they typically form inside the cheeks or lips, on or under the tongue, at the base of the gums, or on the soft palate (the roof of the mouth).
Most canker sores are painful and uncomfortable, making it difficult to talk or eat. This is caused by the build-up of inflammation in the tissue. The open sore is also exposed to the acid in certain foods and the digestive enzymes in the mouth, which may also trigger pain or a burning sensation.
The Three Types Of Canker Sores
There are three types of canker sores: Minor, Major, and Herpetifom.
1. Minor canker sores
- The most common type of canker sore
- May appear three or four times a year
- Small and oval-shaped with a red border
- Can be painful, especially when eating or drinking
- Heals within a week or two without any scarring
2. Major canker sores
- Not as common as minor canker sores
- Usually larger, deeper and circular with a defined border
- If they are much larger, they can have jagged edges
- Major canker sores can be excruciating
- They take longer to heal – up to 6 weeks, and may cause significant scarring
3. Herpetiform canker sores
- Extremely rare and usually occur in the elderly
- Not related to the herpes virus
- They are very tiny (about the size of a pinpoint)
- Herpetiform canker sores usually form in clusters of 10-100 sores, which can bind together to make up one large ulcer with rough edges
- Can be very painful
- Usually heal within one to two weeks
What Causes Canker Sores?
The actual cause of most canker sores is still a mystery, but medical professionals agree that there are several possible triggers, including:
- Excessive stress and anxiety
- Hereditary factors
- Nutritional deficiencies such as: Folate, zinc, B Vitamins and iron
- Food allergies or sensitivity, particularly to gluten, spicy or acidic foods
- The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Mouth injury:
- abrasion from wearing braces or dentures
- a burn from hot food or drinks
- accidentally biting your cheek or lip
- brushing teeth too vigorously
- Hormonal fluctuations during menstruation
- Sensitivity to certain oral hygiene products that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
- A compromised immune system
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
7 Interesting Facts About Canker Sores
- Canker sores are not contagious.
- Canker sores typically occur during adolescence and early adulthood (between the ages of 10 and 20) and they become less frequent with age.
- A canker sore is not the same as a cold sore or fever blister: Canker sores appear inside the mouth, while cold sores or fever blisters form on the outer lip. Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus and are highly contagious.
Dr.Berg explains the difference between canker sores and cold sores and provides a few handy tips:
- Females are more prone to canker sores, possibly due to constant hormonal changes.
- Canker sores also occur more frequently in Caucasians and non-smokers.
- Unless canker sores are severe or recurrent, no medical tests or professional treatment will be necessary.
- A canker sore is a shallow wound, unlike a pimple or blister, so do not try to pop it! You will only cause more trouble and pain.
How Do You Treat A Canker Sore?
While most canker sores usually heal without treatment within a week or two, there are some natural and effective ways to ease the pain and accelerate healing.
You can treat a canker sore by using the following approaches:
- There are various over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and creams that can be purchased to treat canker sores. Still, most of these products have limited studies confirming their safety and effectiveness.
- OTC pain medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil), Tylenol and paracetamol
- Mouth rinses, gels or pastes that contain a steroid, painkiller or antiseptic
- Home remedies that use natural ingredients and products can be a gentler yet effective way to soothe the pain and discomfort while promoting healing at the same time. You will also save money and avoid the nasty chemical aftertaste from using OTCs.
Can Essential Oils Help With Canker Sores?
Essential oils make a great addition to your home remedy kit. Widely known for their unique healing and therapeutic benefits, these oils have been used for thousands of years in natural medicine.
Pure essential oils contain medicinal properties that promote oral health and aid in the treatment and symptoms of canker sores:
- Antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties
Sterilize, kill or inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, fungi, and pathogens.
Purify and disinfect the area.
Reduce inflammation, pain and swelling.
- Soothing and healing
Ease pain and discomfort, promote healing and regeneration.
General Precautions And Guidelines When Using Essential Oils
This content is not medical advice. It is for informational purposes only.
Always consult with your primary healthcare provider before using essential oils. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or take medication, always seek advice from a medical professional before use.
- Patch tests
A patch test will allow you to see how you react to a specific oil before use. Rub 1-2 drops onto your forearm (clean and free of any cream). Leave for 12-24 hours. If the skin is inflamed, itchy or swollen, this confirms that you have experienced an adverse reaction to the oil and should discontinue use.
- Do not ingest essential oils. Always expel mouthwash or rinses that contain essential oils after use.
- Keep essential oils out of reach of children and pets, and away from heat or flames.
- Always wash your hands after using essential oils.
- Only use organic oils that are 100% pure.
- If you experience any adverse side effects, discontinue use immediately and seek medical advice if necessary.
Which Are The Best Essential Oils For Canker Sores?
Several oils are particularly beneficial for the treatment and healing of canker sores:
1. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is an extremely popular and prominent ingredient used in many oral health products. Besides warding off bad breath, peppermint kills oral bacteria and sterilizes the mouth, which is beneficial for the healing of canker sores. It also has an analgesic (numbing and pain-relieving) effect.
How To Use Peppermint Oil for Canker Sores:
- Place 2 drops of peppermint oil directly on the canker sore using a cotton swab or Q-tip. Avoid eating or drinking for at least 20 minutes.
- You can also add 10 drops of peppermint oil to 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, mix and store in a glass jar. Apply directly to the sore 2-3 times per day.
- Add a few drops of peppermint oil to your regular mouthwash and use as normal.
2. Bergamot Oil
Bergamot oil is extracted from the peel of the bitter Bergamot Orange. It is widely used for mouth conditions such as a sore throat, canker sores and thrush. Bergamot has powerful cooling and healing qualities, which will ease any pain and speed up recovery.
How To Use Bergamot Oil for Canker Sores:
- Add 10 drops of Bergamot oil to 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, mix and store in a glass jar. Apply directly to the sore 2-3 times per day.
- If you manage to get your hands on a bergamot orange, you can squeeze the peel to extract the oil, which can be applied directly to the canker sore.
- Burn 3-4 drops of bergamot oil in your diffuser. Inhaling the aroma will alleviate stress and elevate mood – which is much needed when dealing with a canker sore!
3. Lavender Oil
As one of the most adored and highly versatile oils, there was no doubt that lavender would make the list! Studies have shown that lavender has numerous positive effects when used for canker sores:
- Eases inflammation
- Decreases the size of the ulcer
- Inhibits pain
- Accelerates healing time
How To Use Lavender Oil for Canker Sores:
- Mix equal parts lavender and coconut oil. Gently dab the mixture onto the sore at least 3 times a day. Avoid eating or drinking for at least 20 minutes.
- Add 2-3 drops of lavender oil to ½ teaspoon raw honey. Gently dab a small amount of the mixture on the canker sore 3 times a day.
4. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree is valued for its potent antimicrobial properties. This oil will help prevent the growth and spread of harmful pathogens, dry out the canker sore and provide pain relief and quicker healing.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Canker Sores
- Gargle 3 times a day with warm salt water and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil.
- Add 1 drop of tea tree oil to your toothpaste before brushing.
- Place 1 drop of tea tree onto a Q-tip or cotton swab and apply directly to the canker sore. Tea tree oil is strong, so use with caution. It may sting a little, but should be bearable.
5. Rosemary Oil
The uses of rosemary extend beyond food. It contains powerful medicinal and therapeutic qualities. Rosemary has extraordinary healing potential – it can be used to alleviate pain, reduce swelling and prevent infection.
How To Use Rosemary Oil for Canker Sores:
- Gently dab canker sores with 2 drops of rosemary oil diluted in a little water using a Q-tip or cotton swab.
- Make your own mouthwash by mixing 15-20 drops of rosemary oil with a cup of distilled water. Gargle 2-3 times per day. You can add a few drops of peppermint oil for a fresh minty flavor.
6. Lemon Oil
Lemon oil has been shown to promote faster wound healing and provide relief from the pain and discomfort caused by canker sores. The oil inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and helps to alkalize the body – this is beneficial because an acidic environment triggers canker sores.
How To Use Lemon Oil for Canker Sores:
- Simply squeeze the peel of a fresh lemon to extract the oil, which can be applied directly to the canker sore.
- Add 10 drops of lemon oil to 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, mix and store in a glass jar. Apply directly to the sore 2-3 times per day.
7. Clove Oil
Clove oil is incredible for overall oral health. Researchers have found that clove is just as effective as some over-the-counter pain relievers. Clove oil can be used to reduce inflammation, heal the sore and fight off infection.
How To Use Clove Oil for Canker Sores:
Dip a Q-tip or cotton swab into some clove oil and gently dab over the canker sore. Refrain from eating or drinking for at least 20 minutes. Repeat every 4-5 hours.
Clove oil numbing solution by Simple Girl:
- Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater.
- Add 5 drops of clove oil to1/2 teaspoon olive oil.
- Soak a cotton ball in the solution and place it directly on the canker sore.
- Leave for 5-10 minutes, until numb.
8. Myrtle Oil
Myrtle oil has been used since ancient medicine as an oral astringent. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties will help to reduce the size and intensity of the canker sore.
How To Use Myrtle Oil:
- DIY mouth rinse: Mix 15-20 drops of myrtle oil with a cup of distilled water. Gargle 2-3 times per day. You can add a few drops of peppermint or lemon oil for a refreshing flavor.
- Add 2 drops of myrtle oil to ½ teaspoon raw honey. Gently dab a small amount of the mixture on the canker sore 3 times a day.
DIY Mouthwash For Canker Sores by Crown To Root
Here is a quick and easy homemade mouth rinse that you can use to treat canker sores. This recipe uses a wonderful blend of essential oils for maximum benefits!
- 1 cup Peppermint tea
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp raw honey
- 2 drops Bergamot
- 2 drops Lavender
- 1 drop Tea tree
- Brew the peppermint tea and allow to cool.
- Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
- Gargle with a small amount of mouthwash for at least a minute before spitting out.
- Repeat 3 times per day.
- Avoid eating or drinking for at least minutes.
- Store mouthwash in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Shake well before each use.
Extra Steps You Can Take When Dealing With A Canker Sore
- Saltwater mouth rinse
The salt creates an alkaline environment in the mouth, which decreases inflammation and promotes healing.
Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt into ½ cup warm water. Use as a mouth rinse – swish and gargle for at least 30 seconds before spitting. Repeat at least 3-4 times a day.
- Ice Cubes
Place a small cube or piece of ice in your mouth and allow it to dissolve over the canker sore. The ice will numb the area, reducing pain and inflammation.
- Watch What You Eat Or Drink
It is worth avoiding certain foods or drinks while you are dealing with a canker sore to prevent unnecessary discomfort, pain and a lengthy recovery time:
- Acidic food: Citrus fruit or juices, pineapple, tomatoes, coffee, etc.
- Spicy food: hot sauce, chilies, cayenne pepper
- Salty food: potato crisps, roasted nuts, salt seasonings, pasta sauce
- Scorching food or beverages
- Hard or roughly textured foods that can graze or cut the sore: popcorn, toast, etc.
- Brush Teeth Gently
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and mild toothpaste to gently brush your teeth and prevent further pain or harm. Avoid toothpaste or mouthwash that contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).
When To See A Professional For Canker Sores
You should consider seeking medical advice and treatment for canker sores if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Sores that last longer than two weeks.
- Recurring issues with canker sores – or sores that appear before the old ones heal.
- Abnormal amount of pain, or pain that doesn’t go away.
- Canker sores that bleed or seem to be unusually big.
- Extreme difficulty eating or drinking.
- A high fever, diarrhea or headache.
Your doctor or dentist may need to prescribe prescription medication, special toothpaste, gels or mouthwash to assist with these symptoms.
Can You Prevent Canker Sores?
If you have had canker sores, there is a high possibility that you may experience them again. There are, however, a few precautions and steps you can take to try and prevent them:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay hydrated.
- Practise good oral hygiene. Brush and floss regularly.
- Reduce stress and anxiety with healthy habits such as exercise, journaling, meditation, etc.
- Avoid certain foods that cause any sensitivity or that may be a trigger.
Essential oils will come to the rescue when you are dealing with pesky canker sores. When used appropriately, their powerful medicinal and therapeutic qualities will provide pain relief and encourage faster healing.