How To Alleviate Dreadful Canker Sores & Quicken Healing

These dreadful little sores located around gums, lining the inner cheeks and lips and surrounding the tongue area are also known as Aphthous ulcers.

It’s unknown exactly what causes cankers though it’s suspected that stress and diet may play a big factor. Common causes are a bad bite inside the cheek or eating too many acidic foods (oranges, pineapples, tomatoes, etc.).

Are they contagious? No, these aren’t infectious or caused by the herpes virus like cold sores are, but they typically hurt (making talking and chewing uncomfortable) and may linger for 2 to 3 weeks.

Here’s my collection of home remedies to help quicken healing, be aware that some will sting quite a bit on the initial application since these little ulcers tend to be terribly sensitive.

Directions: Apply suggested remedy directly to the lesion at least twice daily (unless otherwise noted). Spit out excess & rinse.

Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Them

*Marks ingredients that provide some pain relief too

  • Salt (stings): Put on straight or rinse with a strong salt water solution.
  • Baking Soda: Sprinkle full strength or make a paste with water then apply. Another option is to rinse with a strong baking soda/water solution.
  • *Tea Bag (wet): Tannin from the tea is quite effective at soothing the pain, place a wet tea bag directly on lesion and leave for a few minutes. Always select a fresh bag for each treatment (do not reuse).
  • *Aloe Vera: Dab gel harvested from a fresh Aloe leaf or squeeze pure aloe onto lesion, not only heals but is also very soothing.
  • *Honey: 2 to 3 times daily.
  • Vodka, Rum or Whiskey: Will certainly sting, works full strength by dabbing it on with a q-tip first soaked in the alcohol.
  • Listerine Mouthwash (original): Swoosh around focusing on troublesome area for as long as you can stand it (will likely hurt at first).
  • *Apple Cider Vinegar (burns a bit): Treat several times a day, although it burns at first this can help ease discomfort as well.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Mix a 50/50 solution with water, swoosh around mouth.
  • *Milk of Magnesia.

Comfort Aids

  • Slather on a topical dental gel (suggestions: Anbesol or Orajel), will usually alleviate any discomfort temporarily.
  • (Enough for 2 Treatments): Mix 1 tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia (Maalox) with 1/2 tablespoon of Benadryl. Use half to swish inside mouth, focusing on the area. Spit out, don’t swallow.
  • Press an ice cube or hold ice chips in place, will help numb the pain.


If one persists, is fairly large or is accompanied by a fever, make sure to see a doctor.

Ease your mind: These aren’t malignant and don’t mean cancer. But if they are stubborn and don’t go away after 3 weeks or so, have a doctor take a look. This might be something else that requires medical attention.

Are regular or frequent eruptions occurring? One culprit might be the toothpaste or mouthwash used. Check ingredients, if they contain sodium lauryl sulfate, select another brand. You might be having a reaction to it.

I used to get cankers fairly regularly when I was younger (it seemed to be 2 to 3 eruptions a year), but I haven’t had one for several years now. It’s likely because I grew out of them rather than doing anything to become immune (score 1 for aging!).

Related Posts

Reclaim Your Food Bins From Flour Bugs & Pantry Pests 35+ Meat-Free Dishes For Lent: {Fasting & Abstinence}


    • Karen

    Canker sores are contagious because I got them from someone kissing when I was 26. Never got them before so I wasn’t immune, most people are immune. Most people have canker sores. They get them as children from their mother or the dentist, in the old days when folks weren’t as clean. Hence, people think they are not contagious because most people have them and most are immune. These are great remedies though, thanks

    • Katrina

    I’ve suffered from canker sores my whole life. I have switched to mostly drinking milk (juice only rarely), use baking soda toothpaste and a swish that kills the germs in my mouth and I rarely get them anymore. I always use baking soda to dab on the sore if I get one, and it cuts the healing time from three weeks down to less than one. Stings like hell though.

    • Abbey

    I suffer from constant canker sores and have yet to find something that heals them. I’ve tried alum and switching toothpastes to a non SLS one and neither have worked. I’m not sure what else to try.

    • bret

    one applications of alum. two if its severe.

    why? a canker is a mouth ulcer. an ulcer is literally a hole in your skin tissue.

    alum is a powerful astringent. this means literally, “to pull together”. the astringent pulls together the skin to close the ulcer. tannin from tea or red wine is also astringent, but I

    make sure you get highly powdered alum. if you have rough cyrstals, grind it into a powder. dry off the area, apply generously. it will hurt. keep it dry for 20 minutes or as long as you can stand it. AVOID TOUCHING OR ABRASIVE FOODS. AVOID CITRUS AND CHOCOLATE for a day or two. Yes, chocolate is almost as bad as citrus.

    After about an hour or so you will see the canker swell up and turn bright white. it might be ringed with red or tiny bleeding. this means it is healing. after about 24 hours the pain should be gone and all you see is a big white area of scar tissue. But– if you had a big canker, you might see a dimple in the middle. this means the ulcer is not fully closed. you will need to apply again.

    Works every time for me, as long as I do it right.

    source: 48 years of getting cankers due to sharp teeth, love of orange juice and lemonade, and stress.

    • Deb

    I use chewable vitamin c tablet. It works every time. Place it over the sore, let it dissolve and the next day it will be gone.

    • Dream A Little Dram

    I suffered from these torturous white ulcerations for years. I usually had anywhere from 4-6 in my mouth at any given time. It made eating anything with tomato, citrus, or vinegar unbearable. It was often painful just to speak or breath. A few things seemed to help a little (switching to a toothpaste without SLS, avoiding grapes etc.) But they always came back. Then, quite by accident I came across that (for me at least) completely eliminated them forever. For me it is the miracle cure. Don’t laugh when I tell you what it is, I’m completely serious. Some friends of mine were into tasting Single Malt Scotch Whisky as a hobby. I joined their group and within a week, I was symptom free and have been ever since, with the exception of one time when because of travel, I could not enjoy a drink or two per evening. So, try it out and let me know if you have the same results. Get yourself a bottle of at least 12 year old single malt scotch and slowly sip at least one dram per evening and see if your sores don’t completely disappear within a week, never to return (as long as you continue to regularly enjoy the beverage).

    • Jackie

    Yogurt helps keep them away and taking niacin as soon as I feel the tingle. Dabbing the sore with tea tree oil helps me numb the sore so I can eat or get through a busy
    day when I have to talk a lot. Agree that orajel is temporary & burns.

    • Kate

    Please note that honey stings quite a bit as well!

    • Sarah Northway

    I usually swish with Listerine, but I ran out and discovered that vodka (or any strong alcohol) works just as well if not better. Take a quarter of a shot, swish it around the sore (it will sting like heck) then it’s your choice whether to swallow or spit it out. It simultaneously sterilizes the area and burns out your pain nerves so the sore will be numb afterwards. I usually do it right after eating.

    • Deandra

    Alum works great on canker sores. Once I get one, as soon as I put Alum on it, I start to feel better. It really is a great natural home remedy.

    • satya

    I had a terrible case of canker sores that coated the entire inside of my mouth and tongue. I was desperate. I went online and read that it is usually a case of vitamin deficiency and can be triggered by stress. I was a new student at school after having been out of school for years, so that made sense. I began this treatment and within 4 days, all were gone.

    I increased vitamin c to 2 grams, zinc doubled and magnesium doubled aside from my multi-vitamin. Salt water rinses every two hours.

    • Terre

    Unusual as it sounds on the OUTSIDE of the MOUTH ONLY!!!! Use anti-fungal cream like what you use for athletes feet.

    ALUM for the inside of the mouth. These are what has worked for me for 30 years now.

    • Kirby

    In the 1950’s an anchient dentist tole me about “Vince”. I buy the powder at Walgreens, works great, stops pain, cures the spot, tastes good, cheap. They sometines have to order it special. Works for tooth extraction pain too.

    • Chelsea

    I have cankers monthly. I can’t seem to find any rememedy to work for me. I have tried the salt water, tried salt, tried cider vinegar, tried peroxide and then milk of magnesia after, i have tried ice. I feel that I do not get them from eating certain foods as I have cut everything out, that causes them. I am in so much pain its not even funny. I can barely eat or drink anything, let a lone talk. I have talked to my doctor and he has not helped at all. I read that if you get cankers more then 3 times a year contact your doctor. Please help me! I just keep trying many different things and I feel nothing is working. I think I will get the vitamin E capsules and try those. What is alum?

      • Terri

      Alum is used for making pickles. It can be found in the spice section at the store. I have used it for years with success. It tastes awful, but it does cause the canker sores to clear up quickly. I just put a little water on a q-tip and coat the q-tip with alum and then apply to the canker sores.

    • cindrella

    Honey and turmeric did the job!!!

    • Teresa

    I agree with the other 2 people about the sodium lauryl sulfate. I had canker sores for over 40 years, sometimes so bad I could barely talk. I switched to Rembrandt Extra Gentle or Intense stain, and no more sores in my mouth for the last 2 years. It is expensive, but worth it. I’m going to try the Dollar Tree toothpaste that was mentioned. I have seen it there.

      • Robert

      Sodium lauryl sulfate, although completely natural, is a common food allergen. My dentist – also my friend – told me to switch my toothpaste and I’ve hardly had a canker sore since (this after suffering for years). There are many SLS free brands at your local health food store.

    • Sarah

    If you’re going to mention that vinegar and salt water sting, you might want to mention that honey is excruciatingly painful when applied.

      • TipNut

      I find it soothing and not painful at all! I haven’t had a canker sore in ages (knock on wood), but that’s a treatment I know I’ve tried with good results.

        • Jane

        Yes I agree. The honey was extremely painful when I applied it. So very painful

    • Rich

    On the out side of your lips, I use any liquid antibacterial hand soap, put it on straight then pat dry with a wet cloth , best to do it when you first feel it coming on.

    • Tina

    My brother was plagued with canker sores when he was young and our old-time family doctor has us put a bit on the end of a cotton swab and press on the sore. He hated doing that because it hurt, so he started swigging pickle juice, which, contains alum! And it worked!

    • Cholin

    Once on a camping trip in Tennessee my mouth and throat swelled with canker sores. When I got back to civilization I did research online and found that sodium lauryl sulfate(SLS) may be the culprit because I had changed my toothpaste to a travel size Colgate. The only toothpaste I found that didn’t have SLS was as generic Sensodyne from the Dollar Tree. After switching, my canker sores all went away and stayed away. Every now and then when I travel and forget my toothpaste and have to use a different one with SLS my mouth will breakout after 2 or so uses. But they begin to go away with once I switch back and as long as I use that toothpaste I don’t get any canker sores. For the pain of canker sores I usually just use the aspirin method.

    • JustAMom

    My son has suffered from canker sores all of his life.Some of the best advice we have ever received was from his first pediatrician. He taught us to mix up a “magic mouthwash” consisting of about a 50%/50% mix of Mylanta Supreme and liquid Benedryl. Swish it around, and spit it out. Use it several times a day. It speeds up the healing by lowering the acid levels in the mouth, and reducing inflammation. It has a soothing effect as it coats the area. We have been able to heal up some pretty bad sores in just a couple of days with this.

      • Karin

      I get big ulcer sores in my mouth every so often. I used to only get the small canker sores on my tongue, but they seem to go right into big ulcer like sores now. This “magic mouthwash” is something that was recommended to me years ago by a nurse. I was told to swish and swallow. Combination (while lowering acid in the mouth)when swallowed, will help control the acid in your stomach as well. It works beautifully every time. I mix Cherry flavor with Cherry flavor…not bad! Good luck everyone! I have tried almost everything listed here, I find the best and fastest relief in this “magic mouthwash”.

    • Maria

    All my life I had Canker Sores and after I started using Scope 2-3 times a day, they never came back. My whole family suffer from the Canker Sores and now my kids and my husband.

    • Rita

    I just rinse my mouth with Hydrogen Peroxcide 3%, and it does wonders. Don’t swallow of course.I wear dentures and sometimes they cut into my gum or cheek. after rinsing with the above mentioned item , next day it is healed. Anyhow that is my expierence.

    • Melinda

    Oh my goodness, you guys are all doing it the hard way! Plain old cane sugar. dab it on (coat the sore) and let it desolve. Usually once or twice will do it. Doesn’t sting or taste bad. Been doing this for wellll over 50 years.

    • Joyce

    I use alum it stings like crazy but works very well

    • Cody

    I will normally get them when eating or drinking to much vitamin C. rinsing with PerioRx (Chlorhexidine Gluconate) helps – your dentist will prescribe it. If I am out of that or on vacation (which always seems to happens), Scope works well too. Either way it takes about 2 days for the sting to go away and then a week for the redness to fade. Thanks for all the great tips, I will try some of these also.

    • Dee

    I’d heard of Lysine for cold sores but not for canker sores. I’ll have to give that a try next time I get one.

    As for using it for cold sores, my cousin use to get them all the time where her whole mouth was scabss. She started taking 1/2 Lysine (she was only 5 at the time) a day and and it greatly decreased the occurance of cold sores to almost 0. If she stopped taking it the sores would come back.

    I’m wondering if Lysine would work the same for canker sores, as a preventative measure?

      • Tammy

      My dentist says yes, as lysine is an amino acid that promotes healthy skin, mouth and gum tissue. A few years back I had canker sores that completely lined the lower area where my lip and gums connect. He said to take the lysine 2-3 times a day until it cleared up (which he said could take as long as a month but only took 1.5 weeks!)then I could take 1-2 a day as preventative. He said he does it. I also have a friend who works in the hospitals and she does the same. She said she almost never gets cold sores anymore.

    • Rob

    I get them from sodas, teas, and orange juice. After two weeks of just drinking water I will finally clear up, and if I start drinking any of those beverages daily again, after about a week, the canker sores come back.

    The only thing that has worked in stopping a breakout and quickly healing any sores that I already have is this prescribed mouthwash PerioRx (Chlorhexidine Gluconate), ask a dentist.

    I think it has something to do with the beverages keeping the PH level in my mouth at some non-nominal level. If I quickly chugged whatever I was drinking a couple of times a day I don’t think I’d have a problem but I typically sip on something all throughout the day.

    It’s extremely annoying.

    • Mrs. Salber

    I get canker sores after using cough drops for too long – i.e. when sleeping

      • Gina

      Wow, thanks Mrs. Salber for saying that. That is exactly what I have been doing, sleeping with cough drops. I did not know if the little spots in my mouth were related to my cold or the cough drops.

    • Cheap Like Me

    Prevent canker sores altogether! Many people are sensitive to lauryl sulfate — the foaming ingredient in toothpaste (and shampoo, liquid soap, etc., but hopefully you don’t put those in your mouth). Switch to a toothpaste without it and see how you do. I use JASON SmartMouth toothpaste. I used to have canker sores almost constantly — sometimes 2 or 3 at a time. But since I switched I very, very rarely have one, and it usually is tiny and disappears in a day or so with no treatment.

      • Carolyn

      Canker sores are also a symptom of anemia. I keep a bottle of iron on my desk and take some extra iron for a day or two.

        • Tabby

        Carolyn, I have never heard that about anemia, but makes sense as I only got them when I was having problems with anemia. I am going to watch for that now with my daughter who get anemic, and my husband who does for some reason also. Thank you for the heads up on that. Tabby

      • Shannon

      I agree about sodium lauryl sulfate. I got canker sores all the time until I switched. I switched my kids toothpaste as well. However, when I get some sort of injury in my mouth, it will turn into a canker sore. Which is why I am here now lol. I scratched the inside of my upper lip and the sore seems to be getting bigger. It is hard to eat or drink…bad spot!

    • Angie

    I too grew up using alum (a spice used for pickling) on canker sores inside the mouth. I still treat them with this remedy. Sure, it tastes super sour and nasty for about 15 seconds, but it gets the job done – the sore is usually within 24-48 hours. Pickling the sore away really seems to be the best remedy for my family! LOL

      • Danele

      Alum is absolutely the way to go! First dry the sore as well as possible and apply the alum. Hold and keep dry for 30 seconds. Yes it tastes awful and leaves an awful aftertaste, but the sore is gone in a day, two at most.

    • Brad

    The amino acid L-Lysine works GREAT. I recommend 2 or 3 1000MG doses a day. It greatly shortens the life of the ulcer and dries it up much faster. I always keep Lysine in the house, for when a canker sore shows up. For some reason, it’s not as effective when the ulcer is on the tongue, but it definitely works for the rest of the mouth.
    Zilactin-B also works well, and leaves a hard cover, if you hold out the lip to let it dry completely. But it burns like a beyotch when you first apply it.

      • heather

      L-Lysine, HANDS DOWN, is the best for preventation. I’m a victim of reoccuring canker sores, one after the last and so on, never ending. Alum and salt water, peroxide, etc all these help if you have a canker sore, but why not just stop them before they appear. I started taking l-lysine everyday about 20 years ago when it was recommended by a pharmasist. I was getting gum line canker soars the whole length of my mouth, one would start to clear up and another would start, it had been going on for years, and just never ended. The day I started taking L-lysine, was the last day I had a canker sore for 5 years, when I decided I didn’t need L-lysine anymore and stopped. Guess what, they came back. Take l-lysine everyday and they just won’t appear. Bonus: your nails will be more durable and less brittle as well.

        • Maria

        How much do you take?
        I have this same problem : )

    • Debra Riley

    My family dabs alum on the canker sore.

      • Buddy

      Another natural remedy is Tincture of Benzoin:

      It’s often used in sports medicine to help bandages adhere better, but it’s also quite good for coating canker sores and other oral irritation. As an aside it has a nice aromatic smell.

      • Angela Utley

      My family has been using alum for canker sores for as long as I can remember. One dab at bedtime and it’s usually gone by the next morning! Of course, it has an aweful bitter taste as you’re basically picking the sore.

        • Dottie NURSE

        ALUM is short for Aluminum. No way I would ever put this into my body, or on it. Alot of Research done on Aluminum and Alzheimers Disease. NURSE for 35+ Years πŸ™‚

          • Beezles

          Not to worry- alum is not short for aluminum. They are related compounds but distictly different substances with different chemistries. Aluminum refers to metal while alum is more of a salt, and it does have aluminum in it but it’s trivial.

          I too am wary of products containing aluminum for the same reason, and while I wouldn’t go routinely ingesting alum, an occasional dabbing as a remedy won’t cause alzheimers. You’re more likely to accumulate aluminum in your system via eating lots of canned foods or drinks or using foil on all of your foods, and rather safe than sorry, I do personally avoid deodorants with aluminum since it is a daily application. πŸ™‚

      • Abbey

      I suffer from very frequent canker sores and I tried alum for the first time last night. When I woke up this morning, the sore and the area around it were covered with dried blood and my canker sore is not any better, maybe a tad worse. I’ve yet to find anything that works.

        • Bob

        Yes, that happened to me.

          • Jerry Wilson

          I was plagued by canker sores from about 12 to 30 yrs old. Any cut in my mouth would become a canker sore and having and overbite and braces (twice) didnt help. I found swishing with a 50/50 mixture of listerine and hydrogen peroxide would get the pain out and they would heal up in a day or two. I also found the Anbesol paste would numb and cover them up so I could talk and eat comfortably. After 30, I never got them again and any mouth cut just heals up normally. Have no idea what changed – they just stopped!

    • Anne M.

    It should be noted that boric acid can be toxic. Look here for more info – I was surprised to see that it is used as an antiseptic! Learn something new everyday!

    When I used to get canker sores as a child my mother always had me eat yogurt. Not sure if there are any particular reasons why other than it was soothing & nutritious but they usually went away quickly after eating it.

    • Bettyjo

    I have been having dental work done on my teeth,and now have sores around my gums and teeth that have been worked on. My dentist said it was caused by a “cold sore” virus and there is little that can be done for it. His explanation was that when there is any kind of trauma or stress on the body, the nerves are activated resulting in these types of sores. The sores usually last 10 days from break out to healing. This has been true for me. The best relief I have had has been from rinsing several times a day with warm salt water. Betty Jo.

    • amenfarm

    My husband’s family drys the sore,then holding it out- puts a small dab of iodine on the sore, stings just a second, then in the morning, almost totally gone. I use L-lysine from the vitamin store.Usually works in a day or 2 or I take it 1 or 2 a few times a week and never see any.It does not sting!!

    • Shirley

    Pepto Bismo has aspirin (or some pain reliever) in it. Putting a drop or two of it on the sore usually relieves the pain for awhile. It’s much easier and tastes better than putting the aspirin directly on it. It works pretty well.

    • pam

    I have had canker sores very often since I was in grade school. I hadn’t discussed it with my doctor, only my dentist–when I told my doctor, she prescribed a special cream to put on them at night. Sores are completely gone in one or two nights!

    • Anne

    My mother has always recommended Lysine. It is a white powder found in the vitamin aisle. Applied directly to the sore it helps ease the pain and heal faster.

    Last time I was plagued by canker sores I used Orajel. There is a mouth sore gel… apparently it is different from the other Orajels. Well… after the excrutiating pain on initial application, it numbed the area… and every other area in my whole mouth… but it seemed to assist the sores in propegating. I ended up with sores in half my mouth instead of 1. It was awful. I am going back to my mother’s remedy.

    =/ Anne

      • TomG.

      I agree with the “Lysine” tablets. My sisters would get “cold sores” and I would tell them to buy Lysine. It’s not a quick fix but it usually works. Try taking it when you feel the onset of the cold sore.

    • Michelle

    I get canker sores all the time, usually after too many tomatoes. My best remedy is to eat the hottest, spiciest food I can handle (without any tomato, of course). Even buffalo wings works, as long as you don’t bite the sore while you’re chewing! The sore is less painful within an hour and usually starts to disappear by the next day. Jumbo, can see the swelling from the outside sores may take a second spicy meal, which is a dosage I can handle. πŸ˜‰

    • Carla Hamilton

    My family has always used Boric Acid powder for canker sores. Just put a bit of the powder on the canker sore and hold in your mouth til it dissolves. It doesn’t taste too terrible and usually works with only one application.

      • Chrissy

      We do that too (boric acid powder) it works great!

    • toothfairy

    I’d be very cautious about reccomending the crushed aspirin remedy. People also use it on toothaches and end up with aspirin burn, which is worse than the canker sore. Never use aspirin as direct contact on oral tissue (cheeks, gums, lips, tongue).

      • TipNut

      Thanks very much toothfairy, I wrote a quick note warning of that.

        • Mari

        I don’t want to risk getting “asprin burn” especially if it’s worse than a canker sore. I was just wondering, would ibuprofen work too?

      • Nellermom

      I have been using a whole aspirin on my canker for a coupple days now… its the only thing i have found that relieves the pain at all.

      • Malia

      I used it and it made my mouth feel so much better and i will probably do it in the morning and tomorrow night again because it helps me but I will be cautious thx for the tips

    • TipNut

    Whoops! Thanks Dave, I totally missed that :).

    • Dave

    You’ve got one “cancer” instead of “canker” in there

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *