Canker Sores | Treatment


How are canker sores treated?

There is no cure for canker sores, but they usually go away on their own in 7 to 10 days. For pain relief, you can try taking ibuprofen (two brand names: Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol). A number of over-the-counter medicines are available to relieve canker sore pain or to protect the sores from becoming irritated when you eat, drink or brush your teeth. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if one of these products might be right for you.

When should I call my family doctor about canker sores?

If your canker sores are large, last longer than 2 weeks, or are so sore that you can't eat or drink, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. He or she may prescribe a topical medicine (applied directly to the sore) or a special mouthwash to help.

You should also make an appointment with your doctor if you have a fever or feel sick when you have canker sores. Tell your doctor if you have canker sores more than 3 times a year.

What's the right way to use the medicine for my canker sores?

You may be instructed to "swish and swallow" or "swish and spit" the medicine. This means that you swish the medicine around in your mouth, especially around your canker sore, for a few minutes before swallowing or spitting it out.

If you use a medicine that needs to be put directly on the canker sore, dry the sore with a cotton swab (like a Q-tip). Next, put a small amount of medicine on another cotton swab. Then, put the medicine on your canker sore using the swab. Don't eat or drink for 30 minutes. If you do, the medicine will be washed away.


Management of Aphthous Ulcers by DR McBride, M.D. (American Family Physician June 01, 2000,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 10/00