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How To Deal With a Recurring Canker Sore in the Same Spot

A woman pulls back her upper lip to reveal a canker sore.

No one likes a canker sore. They can keep you from eating the foods you love, and they can make speech painful. Unfortunately, most of us find ourselves with canker sores from time to time.

But what if you have a recurring canker sore in the same spot over and over again? Is it really a canker sore? What's causing it? And how can you keep it from coming back again?

What Is a Canker Sore?

A canker sore, also known as an aphthous ulcer, is a shallow ulcer that erupts inside the mouth or lips. These gray, white, or yellow lesions are usually 1-4 millimeters in diameter, and they often have a bright red or pink border.

Canker sores are not dangerous, but they can be extremely painful. They aren't caused by a virus, and they're not contagious through sharing drinks or kissing. (Although you may not feel much like kissing when you have a canker sore anyway!)

Canker sores are extremely common. Most people find themselves with a canker sore several times each year. You may experience a burning or stinging sensation immediately before a canker sore develops. They are usually most painful in the first few days after formation.

Causes of Canker Sores

Canker sores can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:

  • Damage to the lining of the mouth through biting or rubbing.
  • Autoimmune conditions such as AIDS or Crohn's disease.
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil.
  • Hormonal changes like pregnancy.
  • Low levels of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
  • Certain foods that contain high levels of acid or that can easily cause injury to the inside of the mouth.
  • Food allergies.
  • Anxiety, depression, and psychological stress.
  • H. Pylori infection.

recurring canker sore in same spot

Do Canker Sores Always Recur in the Same Spot?

Canker sores don't typically recur in the same spot. Even though most people experience canker sores many times throughout their lives, these ulcers typically form in different locations in the mouth. However, it isn't completely unheard of to get a canker sore in the same spot.

Before moving forward to treat your recurrent canker sore, it's important to be sure it's truly a canker sore you're dealing with.

Differentiating a Canker Sore From Other Mouth Lesions

While canker sores are extremely common, they are not the only cause of white lesions in the mouth. Several other health conditions can cause small white patches or sores to develop inside the mouth, including:

  • Leukoplakia — non-painful white patches concentrated around the tongue and cheeks.
  • Oral thrush — an overgrowth of yeast causing raised, white lesions throughout the mouth.
  • Oral lichen planus — an inflammatory condition involving white, lacey patches and sores throughout the mouth.

These conditions almost always affect large areas of the mouth instead of one specific spot like a canker sore.

Why Is Your Canker Sore in the Same Spot?

Canker sores that appear in the same spot repeatedly are usually caused by a dental problem. Another possibility is that you could be dealing with a complex canker sore.

Dental Concerns

Several dental problems can cause canker sores to recur in the same spot. These problems include:

  • A sharp or broken tooth that rubs or bites an area repeatedly, causing damage to the delicate membranes inside the mouth.
  • Braces and other orthodontic devices that irritate the gums, cheeks, and inside of the lips.
  • Dental implants and crowns that cause changes to the teeth and rub against the gums.

Consult your dentist or orthodontist if you suspect your canker sore is due to a dental problem.

Complex Canker Sores

If your recurrent canker sores aren't caused by a dental issue, you may be dealing with a complex canker sore. What appears to be a series of canker sores in the same spot may actually be a complex canker sore that never fully heals, and repeatedly worsens.

Complex canker sores can grow to 5 millimeters or more in diameter. They also take much longer to resolve. Instead of healing over the course of a week or two, complex canker sores continue to cause discomfort and pain for up to six weeks.

Other symptoms may accompany a complex canker sore, such as fever, lethargy, and swollen lymph nodes. Complex canker sores are sometimes a sign of a serious health problem, so it's important to see your health care provider if you believe you may have one.

How To Treat Recurring Canker Sores

Fortunately, canker sores usually respond well to treatment. Addressing the root cause of a recurring canker sore — whether it's a dental issue or an underlying health condition — will help to prevent it from appearing in the future.

But for times when you can't avoid a canker sore, here are a few options to minimize canker sore discomfort and perhaps even speed up healing time.

Over-the-Counter Treatment Options

Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications successfully treat canker sores, including patches, dental products, and topical treatments.

Most OTC treatments use ingredients like benzocaine to numb the pain of a canker sore — Kank-A is a popular example. Other products, like patches or Hyland's healing dots, are designed to protect the skin from further damage or speed healing. Some organic products like Curoxen are also available.

Home Remedies

Few home remedies are clinically proven to help canker sores, but many have strong anecdotal support, including:

  • Silver nitrate
  • Coconut oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey
  • Salt water

The great thing about home remedies is that you probably already have many of them in your kitchen!

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy has been repeatedly shown in clinical studies to reduce pain, decrease inflammation, and promote healing of canker sores. Devices like the Luminance RED Mouth Sore Treatment Device allow you to shine this type of red light onto your canker sores in the comfort of your own home.

Seek Medical Help

Despite the variety of effective treatment options available, sometimes medical help becomes necessary.

If you've exhausted your over-the-counter and at-home treatment options for healing a canker sore that recurs repeatedly in the same spot, contact your doctor or dentist. They can further investigate why your canker sore keeps coming back and help you find relief.

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