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How Do I Choose the Best Mouthwash for Canker Sores?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 21, 2024
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Mouthwash is a substance individuals use for a number of purposes. Canker sore sufferers often turn to the substance in an effort to relieve pain and promote healing. While mouthwash can serve as a valid treatment option, products containing certain additives like sodium lauryl sulfate and alcohol should be avoided. Some ingredients, on the other hand, can ease canker sore symptoms, such as herbs and antimicrobial agents. For consumer evaluations on marketed products, you may want to browse a few online consumer review sites.

Both homemade and pharmaceutical versions of mouthwash exist. This liquid substance is typically gargled in the mouth and then spit out. Individuals may use mouthwash for removing foods after eating, for better-smelling breath, or for treating painful mouth conditions like canker sores.

Canker sores are painful, raw spots that develop inside the mouth. Specifically, they begin as swelled areas that burst, after which they take on a yellowish, whitish, or grayish appearance. They are most painful when eating, as food rubs against the afflicted area. These common ailments usually disappear after about a week, but many individuals suffer from recurrent bouts.

When choosing a mouthwash for canker sores, sometimes knowing what not to choose is helpful. For one, many mouthwashes contain a substance known as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Some researchers believe that this substance can strip away a natural oral lubricant that protects the mouth from damage. Alcohol is another substance found in some mouthwashes that is theorized to have a negative effect. In some cases, mouthwashes containing these ingredients may actually facilitate the development of canker sores.

Some of the most effective forms of mouthwash for canker sores possess antimicrobial properties. These mouthwashes will typically advertise their germ-killing and bacteria-eradicating properties on their labels. Germs inside the mouth can irritate the canker sore, worsening pain and causing a longer healing time. Therefore, eliminating these organisms is ideal. Some mouthwashes are even specifically marketed as pain-relief mouthwashes, and these products will likely have extra-strong antimicrobial properties.

Mouthwash for canker sores with a substance called tetracycline may be of particular benefit. In some cases, it can numb pain for up to a day. Tetracycline is of further use in mouthwash for canker sores because it can also protect the sore from a bacterial infection.

You may also wish to use some natural supplements as a mouthwash for canker sores. Herb-based rinses like green tea or aloe vera juice are some of the most common homemade remedies for canker sores. In addition, retail products containing the herb Deglycrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) could prove useful as well. An even more simplistic remedy might simply entail sprinkling some salt, baking soda, or sage in a glass of water. Most of these substances can help counteract negative acidic buildup in the mouth, which will quicken healing.

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Discussion Comments
By donasmrs — On Nov 09, 2014

I don't like commercial mouthwashes. They are too strong with all sorts of unnecessary ingredients in them. The best mouthwash is boiled warm water with a little bit of lemon juice and little bit of salt. Gargling with this cleans the mouth very well. I use this when I have a canker sore and it has always worked for me. Avoiding very hot or very cold foods, and spicy foods is important too.

I think canker sores go away on their own even if nothing is done. I mostly like to console myself with my homemade mouthwash, that I'm at least doing something to treat it.

By ZipLine — On Nov 09, 2014

@discographer-- Actually, no one knows what causes canker sores. They are not caused by a specific virus or bacteria. Doctors suspect vitamin deficiencies, a weak immune system or general bad oral hygiene as causes. So technically, a mouthwash may not really treat canker sores, especially if it is not caused by bacteria.

If it doesn't irritate you, I don't see the harm of using mouthwash once a day or once every few days when you have canker sores. If you already have good oral hygiene, you might be better off taking a multivitamin.

By discographer — On Nov 08, 2014

I use a regular mouthwash with alcohol when I have canker sores. I feel that the sores heal faster by killing the bacteria that causes them. I did not know that alcohol was harmful. I've never experienced irritation because of it. But I'll think about this next time. I might try an alcohol-free mouthwash but I don't think that it will work as well as the ones with alcohol.

By CBlizzard — On Nov 05, 2014

To be safe you might also want to switch to an anti-microbial mouthwash as this will help to lessen the possibility of transferring the infection if they are cold sores and will help the healing process if you just have canker sores. It also wouldn't hurt to both start using cups instead of swigging straight from the bottle.

By Steamland — On Nov 04, 2014

@WildHooper,No, this is not possible as canker sores are not contagious. However you might want to check with a doctor and make sure that you are experiencing canker sores and not cold sores. Canker sores usually occur inside the lips and on the gums while cold sores usually occur on the top and bottom of the lips. But there are exceptions and cold sores are highly contagious.

By WildHooper — On Nov 03, 2014

My wife and I are both suffering from recurring canker sores for a few months now. We drink from the same mouth wash bottle so I am wondering if its possible we are infecting each other?

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