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What To Do if Your Canker Sores Are Bleeding

A woman in a blue top holds her bleeding canker sore.

Canker sores are almost always painful, even during their healing process. But finding yourself with a bleeding canker sore can be especially concerning.

We're here to discuss canker sore bleeding, how to treat it, and a few other possible causes for oral bleeding.

Is the Bleeding Really From a Canker Sore?

It's fairly uncommon for canker sores to bleed. So the first step before you begin treating a bleeding canker sore is to make sure that it is, indeed, a canker sore!

Canker sores are small white or gray lesions in the mouth. They are very shallow, and they're frequently surrounded by a bright red or pink border. Though other conditions can cause white spots to form in the mouth, canker sores have a unique look that differentiates them. Other conditions that can cause white patches in the mouth include:

  • Oral thrush.
  • Oral lichen planus.
  • Leukoplakia.
  • Cold sores.

One major differentiator of canker sores is that they usually appear alone and in one location in the mouth. Oral thrush, oral lichen planus, and leukoplakia develop throughout the mouth.

Cold sores don't typically appear inside the mouth, so unless you've experienced a prior cold sore outbreak, it's not likely that your first cold sore will be inside your mouth.


A Warning About Valacyclovir

Valacyclovir (brand name, Valtrex) is a prescription antiviral medication used to treat cold sores, genital herpes, chickenpox, and shingles. Like any other medication, valacyclovir has some unwanted side effects. Two serious blood disorders have been associated with valacyclovir use, both of which feature bleeding gums as a common symptom.

If you're experiencing bleeding gums (or a canker sore on your gums) and are currently taking valacyclovir, contact your healthcare provider right away.

How Long Do Canker Sores Bleed?

When canker sores do bleed, it's usually not for more than a few minutes. The most likely cause of canker sore bleeding is some type of trauma to the tissue, such as rubbing or biting. Fortunately, you can avoid this irritation by taking some simple precautions.

Chew Your Food Carefully

It's easy to rush through meals quickly in our busy world, but this can make biting your lip or cheek more likely. When you have a canker sore, try to allot a little more time for eating, taking smaller bites and chewing mindfully.

You might also chew on a side of your mouth that doesn't have a canker sore, if possible. This can help you avoid biting your canker sore and allow it time to heal without bleeding.

Visit a Dentist

If you regularly bite a particular part of your mouth, causing the formation of canker sores (or causing existing canker sores to bleed), it's worth a visit to a dentist. A dentist will be able to examine your bite and make recommendations about possible treatments to help you stop injuring these areas.

Ask Your Orthodontist To Adjust Your Braces

If you wear braces or any other orthodontic appliance, talk to your orthodontist about adjusting the braces to prevent rubbing. You can also purchase dental wax at most drugstores to prevent your braces from rubbing against your canker sores and causing them to bleed.

What You Need To Know About Complex Canker Sores and Bleeding

Some bleeding canker sores may actually be complex canker sores. A complex canker sore is a type of canker sore that can spread to 5 mm or wider; typical canker sores usually grow no larger than 4 mm in diameter.

Complex canker sores can take up to six weeks to heal. They may also be accompanied by other symptoms of illness, like:

  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Fever.
  • Lethargy.

Most complex canker sores form as a complication of an underlying disease process or autoimmune condition, so it's important to speak to your doctor if you believe you may have a complex canker sore.

Treatments for Your Bleeding Canker Sore

If you have a little bleeding from your canker sore, you can try these over-the-counter treatments to soothe it.

canker sore bleeding

Over-the-Counter Treatments

There are a variety of topical creams, liquids, and ointments to numb canker sore pain, encourage healing, and hopefully keep sores from further bleeding.

Orajel™, for example, sells a product called Orajel 4X, which contains four active ingredients to relieve pain, cool burning sensations, fight bacteria, and tighten injured tissues. This last function would be helpful in reducing bleeding.

If you're looking for a more natural approach, Curoxen Mouth Sore Treatment is a homeopathic medication that uses calendula, clove oil, and olive extract to help treat canker sores. Calendula, which has been used for many years in healing and soothing skin, could help with a bleeding canker sore.

A variety of canker sore patches like Zilactin-B and the DenTek Canker Cover are available at your local drugstore. These treatments form a film or bandage-like covering over the canker sore and can help prevent canker sore bleeding and irritation from talking or eating.

Some dental care companies also offer over-the-counter rinses and gels for canker sore treatment, though these focus on disinfection. Colgate manufactures Peroxyl Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse, and G-U-M and Arm & Hammer make gels and toothpastes formulated for canker sore care.

Household Products

Several home remedies have proven helpful for canker sores. Silver nitrate, honey, and coconut oil can all treat canker sores effectively at home. Check out our article on canker sore household remedies for directions on how to use these treatments.


Light Therapy

Red light therapy, like that used in the Luminance RED Mouth Sore Treatment Device, has been shown in multiple clinical studies to effectively reduce the pain, swelling, and healing time of canker sores. This treatment is free from side effects, involves no pharmaceuticals, and appears safe to use in conjunction with other treatments, like those mentioned above.

Consult a Doctor

If you've tried these treatments and your canker sore bleeding continues, contact your healthcare provider right away. Don't wait until a canker sore has been bleeding for several days to get help!

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