Canker Sore Symptoms: Are Canker Sores Contagious?

sore inside lips of a woman

Story at-a-glance -

  • Canker sores are round or oval lesions that are either white or yellow, and are surrounded by red and inflamed soft tissue
  • It’s a known fact that the duration of canker sores is quite short, with most sores going away on their own in one to two weeks

Knowing what canker sores look like and where they develop can make a big difference. Although canker sores are not contagious1 and often heal quickly, there are instances wherein prolonged non-treatment could actually be detrimental for your health.

Common Symptoms of Canker Sores

Canker sores can be easily spotted because of their appearance. These are round or oval lesions that are either white or yellow, and are surrounded by red and inflamed soft tissue.2 You may find them in the following areas:3

  • Inside your mouth
  • Under your tongue
  • Inside your cheeks or lips
  • Base of your gums
  • Soft palate or that area on the roof of your mouth that's composed of muscles4

Canker sores can develop in stages. Before these painful lesions appear, patients often feel a tingling or burning sensation at least one to two days.5 Some people also experience other symptoms (although uncommon) such as fevers, general discomfort or uneasiness (malaise) or swollen lymph nodes.6

When to Have Your Canker Sores Checked

It's a known fact that the duration of canker sores is quite short, with most sores going away on their own in one to two weeks.7 However, certain abnormalities that might be a sign of other diseases may arise alongside your canker sores. Make sure to consult your physician or dentist if you notice these hallmarks:8

Unusually large canker sores

Recurring sores, wherein new ulcers develop before old lesions completely heal

Frequent outbreaks of canker sores

Persistent canker sores that last for two weeks or more

Canker sores that extend to the lips

Uncontrollable pain even if self-care methods have already been applied

Extreme difficulty in eating or drinking

High fevers that occur alongside the sores

Meanwhile, if sharp tooth surfaces or dental appliances have caused the canker sores, consult your dentist to check for remedies that may alleviate the pain.9

When it comes to diagnosing canker sores, a visual exam performed by your physician or dentist is enough. Actually, there aren't any tests for canker sores. However, should the sores be severe and/or ongoing, your physician or dentist might recommend these extra tests10 to check for other potential causes:11

  • Erythema multiforme (a form of hypersensitivity reaction12)
  • Drug allergies
  • Herpes infections
  • Bullous lichen planus (chronic recurrent rashes that happen because of inflammation in the skin and mucous membranes13)

Complications That Could Arise From Canker Sores

Take note of the following complications that could arise if severe canker sores have been left untreated for a few weeks or more:14,15

Discomfort or pain while talking, eating or brushing teeth

Fatigue

Sores that spread towards the outside of the mouth

Fevers

Cellulitis (a bacterial infection on the dermis, or deep layer of your skin16)

Swollen glands

MORE ABOUT CANKER SORES

Canker Sore: Introduction

What Is a Canker Sore?

Canker Sore Causes

Canker Sore Types

Canker Sore Symptoms

Canker Sore Treatment

Canker Sore Prevention

Canker Sore Diet

Canker Sore FAQ

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