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Canker Sore on Gums: How To Address This Painful Case

Canker Sore on Gums: How To Address This Painful Case

Canker sore on gums, also called aphthous ulcers, are small, painful sores that appear at the base of your gums. These lesions only happen inside the mouth and are the most common type of mouth ulcers. They also develop on the lining of cheeks, under the tongue, and inside lips.

Canker sores can happen to anyone, at any age. Most are usually harmless and would go away on their own in a week or two. Some also experience them over and over again. They can be painful but are not contagious. Either way, you’ll want to get rid of them as soon as possible. Read on to know about these pesky sores, how to treat them, and if there are ways to minimize their occurrence.

Signs and Symptoms

Canker sore on gums usually appears with a white or yellow center, and a red, inflamed border. Other signs and symptoms you should look out for include:

  • Tingling or burning sensation inside the mouth
  • Small round or oval shallow sores
  • Pain when you chew or speak

A typical canker sore measures to about a few millimeters. But if the spots are larger—about one to three centimeters—they are major canker sores. These take more time healing and can leave scarring.

Herpetiform canker sores are pinhead-sized sores that appear in clusters. Sometimes, the small spots merge together to form one large ulcer.

Causes and Risks

Up to this day, no one knows the exact cause of canker sore on gums. Some believe it to be hereditary and can run within families. Experts, however, think that these sores can be influenced by triggers and those with certain diseases are more likely to get them.

Some possible cancer sore triggers include:

  • Stress or injury
  • Weakened immune system
  • Hormonal changes
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency
  • Food allergy
  • Trauma to the gums (during brushing teeth, eating hard food)

Some experts also believe that canker sore on gums can be obtained because of certain conditions and diseases like:


Since canker sore on gums are usually normal and harmless, you should be able to tell on your own even without getting diagnostic tests.

However, if it hasn’t healed after two weeks or the inflammation is still severe, it’s best to see a doctor or dentist. They will examine the lining of your mouth and ask you about the food you ate, because it might be an allergic reaction, or if it underwent pressure or stress lately.

There are also cases in which unhealed sores indicate an underlying condition. If so, your doctor will have to perform a swab test, blood test, extract tissue sample, or organ examination.

Treatment and Prevention

Unless it’s a severe case, a canker sore on gums usually goes away on its own. You may use anti-inflammatory gels and creams, as well as tablets to relieve the pain.

While a canker sore on gums appears from time to time, there are preventative measures you can do to minimize their frequency:

  • Watch what you eat. Canker sores can be triggered by spicy, salty, and acidic food. Avoid those that can cause an allergic reaction or irritation. Opt for fruits and vegetables instead which help prevent nutritional deficiencies as well.
  • Observe proper oral hygiene habits. Always brush and floss in between meals to rid your mouth with bacteria that can cause or further inflame canker sores. Use a soft brush to prevent irritation of gums and soft tissue.
  • Reduce stress buildup. Canker sore on gums can also be triggered by stress and anxiety. Use calming techniques and stress-reduction methods to relieve this. Practice proper breathing, or you might want to take up meditation.
  • Protect your mouth. If you happen to wear braces, ask your dentist to apply orthodontic waxes to cover sharp edges that might poke the inside of your mouth.

Key Takeaways

Having canker sore on gums is not a reason to panic. Everyone experiences them at least once in their lives—most even have them from time to time.

While at times painful, these sores are usually harmless and would heal on their own within a couple of days. But if you notice that it keeps on getting worse, visit your doctor immediately. You might have another condition after all, like a viral infection. This is especially true and common for younger children.

Unless it’s a severe case, treating them only requires pain-relieving gels and creams. Adopt good oral hygiene habits and always eat healthy to reduce frequency of canker sore on gums.

Learn more about Gum Diseases here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Canker sore, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/canker-sore/symptoms-causes/syc-20370615, Accessed March 18, 2021

Canker sores (mouth ulcers): Overview, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546250/, Accessed March 18, 2021

Mouth Ulcers, https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/mouth-ulcers/, Accessed March 18, 2021

Canker sores, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/canker.html, Accessed March 18, 2021

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Canker Sores, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/canker-sores.html, Accessed March 18, 2021


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Written by Honey Buenaventura Updated Nov 05, 2021
Medically reviewed by Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc