Canker sores are the worst. They typically go away on their own, but why live in pain if you don’t have to? Here’s what may be causing your sore, plus 20 canker sore treatments to nip those nasty suckers in the bud.

A canker sore is a painful open sore that affects the mouth. They typically appear on the inside of the cheeks, lip, or tongue. Mouth ulcers can also come in clusters (rude).

Typical symptoms:

  • small yellow or white round ulcer(s) in the mouth
  • stinging or tingling sensation in your mouth
  • ulcer has red rim around it

More severe symptoms might include:

  • fever
  • feeling sick
  • swollen lymph nodes

No one knows the exact cause of canker sores, but we do know they’re not contagious. Here are some common triggers.

Most simple canker sores usually hurt for 7 to 10 days. Complex canker sores are another story. These are larger and more painful than simple canker sores. They can last up to 6 weeks and might leave a scar.

Complex canker sores may be caused by:

Looking for a canker sore fix, pronto? Here are some awesome remedies to consider.

1. Baking soda

Baking soda might help reduce inflammation by balancing your pH. This can help subdue the little bastards.

How to:

  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1/2 cup water.
  2. Swish it around in your mouth for 15 to 30 seconds.
  3. Spit it out.
  4. Repeat every few hours as needed.

2. Saltwater

Gargling salt water can provide relief while helping to prevent infections.

How to:

  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1/2 cup warm water.
  2. Swish it around your mouth for 15 to 30 seconds.
  3. Spit it out.
  4. Repeat every few hours as needed.

3. Hydrogen peroxide

A dab of hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning out mouth ulcers and reducing bacteria in the mouth. Fair warning: it might sting a bit.

How to:

  1. Dilute a 3-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide with equal parts water.
  2. Dip a cotton swab into the mixture.
  3. Apply directly to the sore.
  4. Use a few times daily.

You can also swishy-swish the solution around in lieu of mouthwash once a day.

4. Alum powder

Alum powder has astringent properties that can shrink and dry out canker sores — similar to how astringent works on zits.

How to:

  1. Mix a tiny amount of alum powder with a drop of water.
  2. Dab the paste onto a canker sore.
  3. Leave on for at least 1 minute.
  4. Rinse with water.
  5. Repeat daily.

5. Yogurt

The live probiotic cultures in yogurt can combat H. pylori bacteria and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), which can trigger canker sores. So there’s a chance a cup of yogurt a day will keep the cankers away. Plus, yogurt is awesome for your digestion!

6. Honey

Honey has some magical antibacterial and anti-inflammatory superpowers. Studies show applying honey to a canker sore can ease pain and reduce its size. Plus, it tastes amazing.

Apply honey to your mouth ulcer four times a day. Unpasteurized, unfiltered honey is best.

7. Coconut oil

Dig into your pantry and grab that coconut oil. Research shows coconut oil has antimicrobial abilities. That means it can stop bacteria in its tracks, so it can keep the sore from getting infected. It also has anti-inflammatory goodness that may reduce redness and pain.

Apply it several times a day to the sore.

8. Milk of magnesia

Milk of magnesia may not sound like a traditional canker sore treatment, but this laxative is versatile AF. It has magnesium hydroxide — a natural acid neutralizer — which might help the sore from spreading. It also coats the sore, which can alleviate ouchies.

How to:

  1. Apply a small amount of milk of magnesia to the sore.
  2. Let it sit for several seconds.
  3. Rinse.
  4. Repeat up to three times daily.

9. Chamomile

Chamomile has the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory compounds azulene and levomenol. Applying a hot chamomile tea bag compress to a sore can help take the edge off. You can also drink a cup of chamomile tea with honey to reduce pain and inflammation.

10. Echinacea

Amen for echinacea! This immune-booster is also a wound-healer. Try it in its liquid form to treat and prevent canker sores.

How to:

  1. Add 1 teaspoon of liquid echinacea to equal parts warm water.
  2. Swish the solution around your mouth for about 2 minutes.
  3. Spit (or swallow) the mixture.

11. Sage

Clearing energy isn’t the only thing sage is good for. It can also be used to ward off canker sores.

Sage has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent properties making it a great natural canker sore remedy. You can find sage mouthwash in most pharmacies or make your own.

How to:

  1. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh sage leaves to boiling water.
  2. Steep for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Strain.
  4. Let it cool off.
  5. Rinse it around your mouth.
  6. Spit it out.

12. DGL

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), an herbal licorice extract, is another natural remedy due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

There’s no DGL mouthwash at the pharmacy, so you’ll have to DIY.

How to:

  1. Mix the powder of one DGL capsule (200 milligrams) with 1 cup warm water.
  2. Swish the solution around your mouth for about 3 minutes.
  3. Spit it out.

13. Apple cider vinegar

Here’s yet another awesome use for apple cider vinegar! ACV eliminates bacteria so it might help heal canker sores. Keep in mind, it’s not for everyone. Some peeps say it can make the sore worse because it’s so acidic.

How to:

  1. Combine 1 teaspoon ACV and 1 cup water.
  2. Swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Spit it out.
  4. Thoroughly rinse your mouth, because apple cider vinegar can destroy tooth enamel.
  5. Repeat daily.

You can also apply ACV directly to the sore with a cotton swab.

14. Zinc lozenges

Zinc is a mineral that can boost immunity. Zinc lozenges can help fight the bacteria that can cause canker sores. Just be sure to follow instructions on the packaging.

15. Vitamin B-12

You might be more prone to canker sores if you’re low on Vitamin B-12. So take a supplement on the daily to help prevent a breakout. A 2017 study found those taking Vitamin B-12 had fewer canker sores and outbreaks. B-12 may also reduce the pain.

16. Aloe vera

Studies show aloe vera gel may be used orally, so it could soothe canker sores while reducing pain and inflammation. Juice form is good, but a fresh aloe vera leaf is even better! You can always use the leftovers as a natural skin moisturizer.

If you have diabetes and use glucose-lowering medication, be careful with aloe. Taking aloe orally may lower blood glucose levels.

17. Watermelon frost

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, watermelon frost is a common canker sore cure. Some believe it can boost healing time and relieve pain. There’s no science to back this, but trying it out won’t hurt. It comes in powder, tablet, and spray form.

18. Ice

Looking for instant relief? Hold an ice cube against the sore and see if that helps, if only for a little while.

19. OTC topical gel

If you’re not into more holistic treatments, head to the store and pick up an OTC topical gel.

20. OTC mouth rinse

Manufacturers also make mouth rinses designed to get rid of canker sore pain and inflammation.

If you’ve dealt with a canker sore before, you probably don’t want to again… ever. Thankfully, you can’t get canker sores from sharing drinks or utensils, kissing, or licking. It’s not herpes.

The best way to avoid a future canker sore is:

  • Avoid triggers.
  • Brush and floss daily.
  • Talk to your doctor about changing medications known to cause mouth ulcers (e.g. beta-blockers, chemotherapy medicines, sulfa drugs, penicillamine, and phenytoin).

For the most part, canker sores will heal on their own. Most times they’re not a sign of something severe. But they can be super painful and might potentially lead to an infection.

Go to the doctor if:

  • you have a fever
  • the pain’s intolerable
  • you have a cluster of sores
  • it lasts longer than 2 weeks
  • the sore spread to your lips
  • eating and drinking is too painful
  • the sore is larger than normal, or if it’s oozing

If you know the sore is coming from a tooth, head to the dentist. If your canker sores are chronic and severe, ask your doctor about prescription treatments.