Small White Sores: Can It Be Cancer?

Painful sores in the mouth can cause concern, but in most cases they are benign. Canker sores are a common oral complaint, but they are not cancerous or contagious, and they are not caused by the herpes virus. Canker sores are ulcers in the lining of the mouth, often due to irritation from certain foods, injury to the mouth, or even emotional stress.

Signs and Symptoms  

Canker sores are small, but painful, shallow ulcers that may appear on the lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, palate or throat. They are covered by a gray membrane and encircled with a red halo.The number of canker sores that appear during an attack can vary, but generally one to three ulcers appear; however, 10 to 15 sores are not uncommon.

Canker sores sometimes cause burning or tingling for up to 24 hours before becoming painful and interfering with speaking and eating. Most ulcers heal within two weeks, but they can recur. The good news is that there are ways to help prevent recurrent attacks.

Preventing Canker Sores  

Because food irritation can cause canker sores, you should eat certain foods in moderation, such as citrus foods, salted nuts, potato chips, pickles, vinegar, and yes, even chocolate. When eaten in excess, these foods can irritate the lining of the mouth and lead to painful ulcers.

Try to avoid stress as much as possible. Emotional and physical stress, as well as anxiety and premenstrual tension, can all bring on an attack.

Keeping the mouth clean and healthy is important, but try to avoid injury to the mouth. Practice good oral care, but carefully. Avoid burning the mouth with hot foods and injuring it with a toothbrush, braces or rough dentures.

Peroxide and Salt  

Rinsing the mouth with three times a day with a salt solution can help heal ulcers. Salt solutions consist of one-half teaspoon of salt to an eight ounce glass of water.

Hydrogen peroxide can also help heal mouth ulcers. Dabbing the sores with a 2% solution of hydrogen peroxide with a cotton swab can help keep the areas free of germs so they can heal.

If you are prone to frequent canker sore attacks, rinsing the mouth with a solution of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water daily may prevent canker sores from forming.

When to Get Medical Treatment  

Call a doctor or dentist if the ulcers do not improve within 10 days of home treatment, or if the pain is unbearable. If you have a fever over 102 degree Fahrenheit and have mouth ulcers, this can indicate an infection that requires medical attention.

Medications, such as topical anesthetics and protective dental pastes, are available to treat canker sores. Don’t hesitate to get medical treatment for canker sores that interfere with normal eating and drinking, as this can lead to dehydration and weight loss.