Can You Pop a Canker Sore? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t
We’re all guilty of popping our pimples from time to time. But can you pop a canker sore?
No, it turns out, you can’t. Don’t be tempted to treat your canker sore like a pesky pimple, because the results won’t be the same.
The anatomy of a canker sore is very different from that of a pimple, so popping it will only cause pain and compromise the healing process. If you’re desperate to make your canker sore disappear, many other time-tested treatment options are available.
What Are Canker Sores Anyway?
Canker sores, or aphthous ulcers, are shallow white lesions with inflamed pink borders that occur inside the lips and mouth. The sores are typically 1-4 mm in size, but aggressive sores can be larger than 5 mm.
Unlike pimples, canker sores aren’t filled with pus and aren’t caused by a clogged or infected pore. And though they’re often confused with cold sores, canker sores are not contagious or caused by a virus.
Canker sores occur sporadically and heal between attacks. Most last 7-10 days, but severe canker sores may take up to three weeks to heal.
- NSAIDs (Motrin®, Aleve®)
- Vitamin deficiencies (low vitamin B12 or iron)
- Foods high in citric acid, such as oranges, tomatoes and some cheeses
- Underlying autoimmune conditions (such as HIV/AIDs, Lupus and Behçet’s disease)
- Chronic high stress or a traumatic life event
- A family history of canker sore outbreaks
Canker sores emerge in different shapes, sizes and severities, so it’s helpful to know which type of canker sore you’re dealing with.
Minor canker sores are the most common, accounting for about 80% of canker sore cases. These are small sores that cause some discomfort but no scarring. In most cases, minor canker sores heal within a week.
Major canker sores, on the other hand, are less common and cause more severe symptoms. These sores can last more than two weeks and grow to over 1 centimeter in diameter. Patients usually experience extreme pain and difficulty eating and drinking with major canker sores.
Herpetiform canker sores are tiny blisters that occur in clusters of up to 100. They can develop anywhere in the mouth, including:
- On the inside of the lips
- On the roof of the mouth
- Inside the cheeks
- Under the tongue
- At the base of the gums
This type of mouth ulcer causes a tingling or burning sensation before the sore itself forms. After a herpetiform canker sore emerges, you may also notice these symptoms:
- Tiny clusters merge into one large, painful canker sore
- Ulcers are white or yellow in color
- Irregular edges around the ulcers
Fortunately, herpetiform canker sores typically heal within one to two weeks, so no additional medical attention is needed.
Can You Pop a Canker Sore?
Unlike pimples, which are filled with soft pus that can be popped out of the skin, canker sores are flat and shallow. There’s nothing hiding inside a canker sore to pop!
What Happens if You Try Popping One?
Attempting to pop a canker sore will only irritate an already painful open wound. You may squeeze so hard that you draw blood from your inner cheek. This won’t speed up the healing process at all. In fact, it’s more likely to cause unnecessary complications, such as:
- Injury to the soft tissue of your mouth
- Scarring even after the canker sore heals
- Infection that makes your outbreak even worse
The bottom line? Other than when you’re using safe treatments and home remedies, don’t touch or manipulate your canker sore. Never use tools like tweezers to pick at or pop your canker sores, especially on the gums, tonsils and throat.
Why Do People on the Internet Say You Can Pop a Canker Sore?
Maybe you’ve read comments online from people who claim they’ve popped canker sores to speed up healing. In most cases, these people are not dealing with a canker sore at all and have confused canker sores with a different condition.
More Practical Ways To Speed Up Canker Sore Healing
Instead of trying to pop a canker sore that can’t be popped, use these trusted treatment options to accelerate canker sore healing.
Though no available pharmaceutical medications treat canker sores, you can try over-the-counter oral medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen to alleviate your discomfort. Zinc throat lozenges may also help reduce canker sore symptoms.
Over-the-counter topical anesthetics like benzocaine (Kank-A) and Orajel provide safe, temporary numbing of painful sores. You can apply these local anesthetics a few times a day to relieve discomfort until your canker sore heals completely.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains “the mother,” a substance that consists of strands of proteins, enzymes and healthy bacteria. “The mother” creates a murky vinegar appearance and is credited for a wide range of health benefits.
Some evidence suggests that the antimicrobial and antiviral properties of ACV help combat infections in the body. Vinegar kills pathogens, so it can be diluted and applied to canker sores once or twice a day to help prevent infection.
Silver nitrate is a natural chemical compound that cauterizes active wounds and reduces the pain they cause. Research shows that treating canker sores with silver nitrate is a simple and affordable way to decrease the pain they cause, though the healing time remains about the same.
It’s not the most pleasant experience, but it’s effective. Just keep in mind that this home remedy can damage or irritate healthy skin, so it should always be used carefully and in moderation. If you need to quickly stop the effects of a silver nitrate applicator stick, apply 0.9% saline solution to the treated area and then rinse with water.
If you’d prefer a gentler path to canker sore relief, natural DIY remedies are also easy to find.
Milk of magnesia, an antacid best known by the brand name Maalox®, can be blended with Benadryl® or another antihistamine to alleviate the pain caused by your canker sore.
A chamomile compress may also help. This herbal remedy is known to help heal wounds and ease discomfort with anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compounds. Simply use a chamomile tea bag as a warm compress to soothe angry canker sores.
Supplement Your Canker Sore Treatment With High-Powered Light Therapy
Canker sores can cause weeks of discomfort, even with the help of home remedies. Treatment with high-powered, medically-optimized light is a gentler, safer and more reliable way to alleviate even your worst canker sores.
The Luminance RED is an FDA-registered device developed to help you manage canker sores and other mouth ulcers. Light therapy is a tested and proven method of reducing canker sore pain and healing time. Studies show that this treatment can speed healing up by 49% and even stop future outbreaks from forming. So instead of trying to pop your next canker sore, give high-powered light therapy a try!