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Canker sores are small ulcerations within the mouth.
Doctors call this common condition aphthous stomatitis.
Canker sores appear alone or in clusters as shallow, painful erosions in the mucous membrane inside the mouth. They typically have slightly raised, yellowish borders surrounded by a red zone, and are sometimes covered with a yellowish opaque material. Fatigue, fever, and swollen lymph nodes may be present in severe attacks.
Minor trauma from poor-fitting dentures, rough fillings, or braces can aggravate canker sores and should be remedied by a dentist.
Several reports have found sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a component of some toothpastes, to be a potential cause of canker sores.1 In one trial, most recurrent canker sores were eliminated just by avoiding toothpaste containing SLS for three months.2 Positive effects of eliminating SLS have been confirmed in double-blind research.3 SLS is thought to increase the risk of canker sores by removing a protective coating (mucin) in the mouth. People with recurrent canker sores should use an SLS-free toothpaste for several months to see if such a change helps.
Measurements of stress were associated with recurrent canker sores in one preliminary study,4 but not in another.5 More research is needed to determine whether stress reduction techniques might reduce canker sore recurrences.
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