What is Cankers?

Cankers are a common problem that affects many individuals, causing discomfort and pain. They are small, shallow ulcers that develop on the soft tissues inside the mouth, such as the gums, tongue, and inner cheeks. These ulcers can be quite painful and can make it difficult to eat, drink, or speak comfortably. In this comprehensive glossary, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for cankers, as well as provide some tips for prevention.

Causes of Cankers

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of cankers. One of the most common causes is trauma or injury to the soft tissues inside the mouth. This can occur from accidentally biting the inside of the cheek or tongue, or from sharp or rough edges on braces, dentures, or other dental appliances. Additionally, certain foods, such as citrus fruits or spicy foods, can irritate the mouth and trigger the formation of cankers. Other potential causes include hormonal changes, stress, and a weakened immune system.

Symptoms of Cankers

The symptoms of cankers can vary from person to person, but common signs include a small, round or oval-shaped sore with a white or yellowish center and a red border. These sores can be quite painful, especially when eating or drinking. Some individuals may also experience a tingling or burning sensation before the sore appears. In severe cases, cankers can cause swollen lymph nodes, fever, and general malaise.

Treatment Options for Cankers

While cankers can be uncomfortable and painful, they typically heal on their own within one to two weeks without any treatment. However, there are several remedies and treatment options that can help alleviate symptoms and promote faster healing. Over-the-counter topical medications, such as gels or ointments containing benzocaine or hydrogen peroxide, can provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort. Additionally, rinsing the mouth with a mixture of warm water and salt can help soothe the sore and promote healing.

Prevention of Cankers

While cankers cannot always be prevented, there are several steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk of developing these painful sores. Maintaining good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, can help keep the mouth clean and free from bacteria that can contribute to the development of cankers. Avoiding foods that are known to trigger cankers, such as citrus fruits or spicy foods, can also be beneficial. Additionally, managing stress levels and practicing good overall health habits, such as getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet, can help support a strong immune system and reduce the likelihood of developing cankers.

When to Seek Medical Attention

In most cases, cankers will heal on their own without any medical intervention. However, there are certain situations where it may be necessary to seek medical attention. If the canker sore does not improve within two weeks, becomes increasingly painful, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or difficulty swallowing, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. They can evaluate the sore and determine if further treatment or investigation is necessary.

Complications of Cankers

While cankers are generally harmless and will resolve on their own, there can be some complications associated with these sores. In rare cases, cankers can become infected, leading to additional pain and discomfort. In severe cases, cankers can also interfere with eating and drinking, leading to dehydration or malnutrition. Additionally, if cankers are a recurring issue, they may indicate an underlying health condition or nutritional deficiency that should be addressed by a healthcare professional.


In conclusion, cankers are small, painful ulcers that can develop on the soft tissues inside the mouth. They can be caused by trauma, certain foods, hormonal changes, stress, or a weakened immune system. While cankers typically heal on their own within one to two weeks, there are treatment options available to alleviate symptoms and promote faster healing. By practicing good oral hygiene, avoiding trigger foods, and managing stress levels, individuals can reduce their risk of developing cankers. If cankers persist or are accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying health conditions.