a woman wondering what causes canker sores

Canker Sore Causes

Canker sores are painful lesions that can form inside your mouth. Unlike cold sores, which are highly contagious and caused by the herpes virus, there is no known cause for canker sores. However, there are certain factors that can act as “triggers,” meaning that they have been known to cause a canker sore outbreak. These include:

  • Stress – Times of increased stress can lead to canker sore outbreaks.
  • Toothpastes – Some toothpastes and mouth washes include the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate, which has been linked to the development of canker sores.
  • Hormones – Any hormonal shift, such as during a menstrual cycle for women, can cause canker sores to form.
  • Injuries – Any small areas of broken or irritated skin in the mouth that may have been caused by dental work, contact sports, brushing, or accidentally biting your cheek make it easier for canker sores to appear in those areas.
  • Diet – Some people have noticed that certain food sensitivities are linked to their canker sore outbreaks. Some common food triggers include strawberries, chocolate, eggs, coffee, cheese, nuts, and other spicy or acidic foods. Also, if your diet is generally lacking in nutrients such as zinc, folic acid, iron, or vitamin B-12, this can lead to canker sore development as well.
  • Bacteria – the bacteria helcobacter pylori, which is the same bacteria that causes peptic ulcers, is one common bacteria that can cause your mouth to have an allergic response, which can result in canker sores.

There are also other conditions and factors that increase your risk for developing canker sores. Some medical conditions that are commonly linked to canker sores include:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases – Inflammatory bowel diseases that include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be linked to canker sores.
  • Immune system deficiencies – There are some conditions that affect your immune system, which causes the healthy cells in your mouth to be attacked instead of the pathogens.
  • Celiac disease – This is a serious intestinal disorder that is a result of a gluten sensitivity.
  • Behcet’s disease – This is a rare disorder that results in inflammation in the mouth along with the rest of the body.
  • HIV/AIDS – This immunity-related condition can also contribute to canker sores..

Risk Factors

Certain people are naturally at a higher risk for developing canker sores. For example, canker sores occur more commonly in teens and young adults, and they are more common in females overall. It is also common for people who have recurrent canker sores to have family members who suffer from the same condition. It is not clear whether this is because canker sores are hereditary or due to the fact that living in similar environments may be triggering the canker sores.

If you are more susceptible to recurring canker sores, there are some things you can do to try to reduce your risk. For example, avoid the foods that seem to irritate your mouth in any way, especially extremely salty and acidic foods. Eat as healthy as you can to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Brush your teeth after meals and floss regularly to keep your mouth clean and to keep it free from foods and bacteria that could lead to canker sores. Finally, try to keep your stress level as low as possible. 

Last Updated: April 24, 2015