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How To Prevent Canker Sores: 12 Tips for a Healthier Mouth

how to prevent canker sores


When canker sores show up in your mouth, it’s important to know the best ways to reduce your discomfort and speed up the healing process. You don't want to suffer in pain any longer than you have to! 

But one thing is even better than getting rid of canker sores quickly: preventing canker sores from developing in the first place! Use these 12 tips to keep your mouth healthy and discourage canker sores from ever appearing. 

Don't Chew Gum

Many people who experience canker sores chew gum. Chewing gum can irritate the skin in and around your mouth, put pressure on your lips and cheeks, and even cause them to become sore or bleed.

If you chew gum to alleviate stress, try to chew it less often and use a sugarless variety. Consider using a stress ball or other stress management techniques instead to take the burden off your mouth. 

If you chew gum for nicotine cessation, consider using an alternative nicotine replacement like lozenges or patches.

Use a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

Brush your teeth after meals and floss daily. This will keep your mouth free of food debris that could trigger a sore.

Be sure to choose a soft-bristled brush. Dentists don't usually recommend hard-bristled brushes for everyday use anyway, since they're hard on your tooth enamel. The same is true for your gums. A soft-bristled brush still successfully cleans your teeth without scraping or irritating your gums and inner cheeks and triggering a canker sore.

If you have trouble brushing due to pain, try using a toothbrush with an angled head instead of the traditional straight head. The angle can help point bristles away from the sensitive surface of your cheeks.

Avoid Oral Hygiene Products with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an ingredient in many oral hygiene products that's been shown to irritate your skin, mouth and gums.

To prevent canker sores, it's best to avoid toothpastes and other products like mouthwashes that contain SLS. Biotene toothpaste, for example, does not contain SLS, so it's a great solution to keep your mouth clean and free of canker sores.

Avoid Excessive Salt, Spice and Acid

Salty, spicy and acidic foods can wreak havoc on your oral health, especially if you're prone to canker sores. These foods irritate the oral cavity and cause dry mouth, a combination that's linked to recurring canker sore issues. 

Limit how much salt you consume in a day, as well as citrus fruits, tomatoes, pineapples and hot spices. 

Avoid Acidic Drinks

Acidic drinks can also lead to canker sore outbreaks. Acidic drinks erode tooth enamel, which leads to bacterial growth from sugar in the mouth (not to mention cavities!).

Drink water instead of soda or juice to help you avoid the problem. Remember that citrus fruit juices are especially acidic, so either dilute these juices with water or switch to a non-juice alternative. 

Excessive alcohol may also lead to canker sore outbreaks, so it's best not to overindulge. Alcohol can tax the immune system, which won't help any health condition, canker sores included.

how to prevent canker sores


Supplement with Zinc, Iron, B12 and Lysine

Supplementation can support the health of your mouth and immune system. 

A zinc supplement may provide protection against canker sores by boosting immunity levels. Iron is necessary for overall health, and research suggests that a nightly dose of vitamin B12 helps prevent canker sores from forming. The addition of vitamin C and lysine may also help to speed healing if taken at the first sign of a canker sore. Lysine supports human health in many ways, but it’s not widely known that lysine may help protect against canker sores as well.  

You can increase your intake of many of these by simply eating a healthier diet. Zinc is found in red meat and beans, iron in spinach and fortified grains, and lysine in meats, eggs, yogurt and cheese.

Manage Stress with Deep Breathing or Meditation

Existing research suggests a high correlation between canker sores and anxiety, depression and psychological stress. Experts don't yet understand exactly why, but they theorize that people experiencing stress may indulge in behaviors that trigger canker sores, such as biting their lip and cheeks or eating problem foods.

You can combat stress by practicing deep breathing or meditation techniques daily. Both will help you relax and reduce the stress levels that cause those pesky sores in your mouth. Mindfulness and meditation are proven to reduce stress and elevate your happiness. Other popular alternatives include yoga and deep breathing.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Insufficient sleep is closely linked to stress and poor health. Even a few days without enough sleep weakens your immune system and leaves you vulnerable not only to canker sores but also to a host of illnesses.

Getting enough rest is also important for healing. Even lesions like canker sores heal more slowly when you're running on too little sleep. 

You can stop fatigue from zapping your immune system and making you vulnerable to canker sores with these tips:

  • Create a soothing sleep environment
  • Reduce technology and blue light before bedtime
  • Develop a consistent evening routine to wind down
  • Get regular exercise during the day

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is a critical component of lasting health, which means it's a great way to help prevent canker sores. Daily physical activity also strengthens your immune system and improves blood flow throughout your body — and that includes your mouth!

Exercise releases endorphins into the bloodstream and helps manage the body's stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Both of these factors support long-term health and prevent canker sore outbreaks. 

Keep a Food Journal To Find Correlations

If you're getting regular canker sore outbreaks, consider keeping a food journal to track what you eat, especially on days without an outbreak. This way, you'll know what you ate around the time a canker sore appears.

Make sure to write down how much water and caffeine you consume as well. Insufficient water or excessive caffeine may contribute to the intensity and duration of a canker sore outbreak. 

If there's a particular type of food or drink that seems to consistently trigger canker sores, avoid it! The food journal will help you identify possible culprits. 

Swish with Salt Water or an Antimicrobial Rinse

Rinsing with salt water may not be pleasant, but it can be helpful. All you need is a warm cup of water and table salt. Dissolve the salt in the water and swish around your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out. Repeat two to three times a day to help canker sores heal faster.

Salt naturally fights infections and decreases pain and inflammation in your mouth. It's a much better option than traditional mouthwash products, which contain harsh ingredients that risk aggravating ulcers even more. 

If you're susceptible to canker sores, your dentist or doctor may also prescribe an antimicrobial rinse. Listerine, Peridex and Periogard are all popular options. They reduce the number of bacteria and microbes in the mouth, which can protect gum tissue from canker sores in the future. The deep cleaning effect of antimicrobial rinses can also control plaque and keep canker sores from becoming aggravated by excess bacteria. 

Use High-Powered Light Treatment

The Luminance RED is an FDA-registered device that uses high-powered light treatment to gently alleviate painful canker sores and accelerate the healing process. Light from the Luminance RED is metabolized by the skin and converted into cellular energy used to accelerate healing. 

This advanced treatment has been shown to improve regular canker sores and even prevent future outbreaks. Clinical data conclusively shows that the application of specific wavelengths of high-powered light to canker sores reduces the average healing time from 8.9 days to 3.1 days. 

The Luminance RED device is easy to use for lasting healing and prevention of canker sores.

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