How To Deal With A Child’s Canker Sores

by Jakob Larson  - July 8, 2023

Have you ever wondered how to effectively manage and alleviate your child’s canker sores? We understand how distressing it can be to witness your little one experiencing discomfort and pain. In this article, we will provide you with practical tips and suggestions on how to deal with your child’s canker sores, helping them find relief and make their road to recovery smooth and speedy. So, let’s get started on this journey together, as we explore simple yet effective strategies that will bring comfort back into your child’s life.

What are Canker Sores

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small, painful lesions that develop inside the mouth. These sores are usually round or oval with a white or yellowish center and a red border. While they are not contagious, they can cause discomfort and make it difficult to eat, drink, or speak properly.


Canker sores are shallow, painful ulcers that appear on the inside of the mouth. They can occur on the tongue, gums, inside the cheeks, or on the inner lips. These sores are not to be confused with cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus and typically develop on the outside of the mouth.


The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, but several factors are believed to contribute to their development. These include:

  • Minor mouth injuries such as accidental biting or irritation from braces or dental appliances.
  • Food sensitivities or allergies, particularly to acidic or spicy foods.
  • Hormonal changes, especially in women during menstruation.
  • Nutritional deficiencies, such as deficiency in iron, vitamin B-12, or folate.
  • Weakened immune system due to illnesses or stress.
  • Genetic predisposition, as canker sores tend to run in families.


Canker sores can vary in size, starting as small, reddish bumps and progressing into painful ulcers. Some common symptoms include:

  • A tingling or burning sensation before the sore appears.
  • Pain or discomfort while eating, drinking, or speaking.
  • White or yellowish center with a red border.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in severe cases.
  • Tenderness in the affected areas.

Diagnosing Canker Sores

If you suspect your child has canker sores, it is important to seek medical advice for a proper diagnosis. This will help rule out any underlying medical conditions and ensure appropriate treatment.

Medical Examination

During a medical examination, a healthcare professional will examine the mouth for signs of canker sores. They may ask about the child’s medical history and any recent mouth injuries or illnesses. It is essential to provide accurate information to help with the diagnosis.

Distinguishing Canker Sores from Other Mouth Sores

Canker sores can resemble other types of mouth sores, such as cold sores or oral thrush. Cold sores are typically caused by the herpes simplex virus and appear as clusters of small blisters on the lips or around the mouth. Oral thrush, on the other hand, is a fungal infection that causes white patches on the tongue and the inside of the cheeks. A healthcare professional can help differentiate canker sores from these conditions.

Other Diagnostic Measures

In some cases, additional diagnostic measures may be required to determine the cause of canker sores. These may include blood tests to check for nutritional deficiencies or oral swabs to test for infections. These tests can help guide treatment decisions and prevent future recurrences.

Home Remedies for Canker Sores

While canker sores often heal on their own within one to two weeks, home remedies can help alleviate pain and speed up the healing process. Here are some effective home remedies for treating canker sores in children.

Rinsing with Saltwater

Saltwater rinses are a popular home remedy for canker sores. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water and have your child swish the solution around their mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. Saltwater helps reduce inflammation and promotes healing.

Applying a Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda can help soothe canker sores by neutralizing acidity and reducing pain. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with enough water to form a paste, then apply it gently to the sore using a cotton swab. Leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing with water.

Ice Therapy

Applying ice to the canker sore can provide temporary relief from pain and reduce swelling. Wrap a small ice cube in a clean cloth and hold it against the sore for a few minutes at a time. Do not apply ice directly to the sore, as this may cause further irritation.

Honey Application

Honey has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in the healing process of canker sores. Apply a small amount of honey directly onto the sore a few times a day. Make sure to use raw, organic honey for maximum benefits.

Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera gel is known for its soothing properties and can help reduce pain and inflammation caused by canker sores. Apply a small amount of pure aloe vera gel directly to the sore several times a day. Avoid swallowing the gel to prevent any potential gastrointestinal discomfort.

Chamomile Tea Rinse

Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help soothe canker sores. Brew a cup of chamomile tea, allow it to cool, and have your child use it as a mouth rinse a few times a day. This can provide relief and promote faster healing.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties and can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with canker sores. Apply a small amount of coconut oil to the sore using a cotton swab several times a day. It can also serve as a natural lubricant, preventing further irritation.

Oral Probiotics

Probiotics, especially those containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, can help balance the oral microbiome and promote healing of canker sores. Look for probiotic supplements or yogurts that specifically mention oral health benefits. Consult a healthcare professional for appropriate dosage and usage instructions.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Over-the-counter medications, such as topical gels or mouthwashes containing benzocaine or lidocaine, can help numb the pain caused by canker sores. Follow the instructions provided on the packaging and ensure these medications are safe for children.

Avoiding Certain Foods and Irritants

Certain foods, such as citrus fruits, spicy foods, and crunchy or hard foods, can irritate canker sores and prolong the healing process. Encourage your child to avoid such foods until the sores have healed. Additionally, discourage them from chewing gum or using oral care products containing sodium lauryl sulfate, as it can irritate the sores further.

Preventing Recurrence of Canker Sores

Preventing the recurrence of canker sores in children involves various strategies, including maintaining good oral hygiene, managing stress, making dietary adjustments, taking vitamin and mineral supplements, and avoiding trigger factors.

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene

Encourage your child to follow a regular oral hygiene routine, including brushing their teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and using a fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily can also help prevent canker sores by reducing the buildup of plaque and bacteria in the mouth.

Stress Management

Stress can weaken the immune system and trigger canker sores. Help your child manage stress through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or engaging in activities they enjoy. Encourage open communication and provide emotional support during stressful times.

Dietary Adjustments

Identify and avoid any food triggers that may contribute to the development of canker sores in your child. Common triggers include acidic or spicy foods, chocolate, nuts, and certain fruits. Encourage a balanced and nutritious diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Ensure your child’s diet provides an adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B-12, iron, and folate. If necessary, consult a healthcare professional about the possibility of incorporating dietary supplements to meet these requirements.

Avoiding Trigger Factors

Identify any other trigger factors that may be specific to your child. These can include toothpaste or mouthwash ingredients, certain medications, or even hormonal fluctuations. Avoiding or minimizing exposure to these triggers can help prevent recurrence of canker sores.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While most canker sores heal within a week or two without complications, there are situations where medical attention should be sought for a child with canker sores.

Persistent or Severe Symptoms

If the canker sores do not improve or worsen after two weeks, or if they are accompanied by severe pain, bleeding, or difficulty eating or drinking, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. Persistent or severe symptoms may require further evaluation and treatment.


Complications associated with canker sores are rare but can occur, particularly if they become infected. Signs of infection include increased pain, redness, swelling, or the presence of pus. In such cases, medical attention should be sought to prevent the infection from spreading.

Underlying Medical Conditions

If your child has recurrent or unusually frequent canker sores, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as an autoimmune disorder or nutritional deficiency. A healthcare professional can perform additional tests to determine the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

Recurrent Canker Sores

If your child experiences regular recurrences of canker sores, it is advisable to seek medical attention. Recurrent canker sores can be indicative of an immune system dysfunction or underlying health issue that requires further investigation and management.

Medical Treatments for Canker Sores

In some cases, medical treatments may be necessary to alleviate pain, promote healing, and prevent recurrence of canker sores in children.

Topical Medications

Topical medications, such as antimicrobial rinses or corticosteroid ointments, can be prescribed to reduce pain, inflammation, and aid the healing process. Application methods and dosage instructions should be followed as advised by the healthcare professional.

Oral Medications

In severe cases or when canker sores are recurrent, oral medications may be prescribed. These can include antibiotics to treat any underlying infection, immunosuppressive drugs to reduce the frequency of outbreaks, or vitamin and mineral supplements to address any deficiencies.


Cauterization is a medical procedure where the canker sore is burned or chemically cauterized to remove it. This treatment is typically reserved for large, painful, or persistent sores that do not respond to other treatments. Cauterization should only be performed by a healthcare professional.

Corticosteroid Injections

For severe or recurrent canker sores, corticosteroid injections may be administered directly into the sores. This treatment aims to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and speed up the healing process. Corticosteroid injections should only be given by a qualified healthcare professional.

Special Considerations for Children

When dealing with canker sores in children, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Consulting a Pediatrician

If your child is experiencing canker sores, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician or a healthcare professional with experience in treating children. They can provide appropriate guidance and treatment options specific to your child’s age and needs.

Appropriate Dosage and Usage of Medications

When using medications to treat canker sores in children, it is essential to follow the appropriate dosage and usage instructions provided by the healthcare professional. Medications labeled for adult use may not be suitable for children, so it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for pediatric-specific recommendations.

Child-friendly Home Remedies

Some home remedies, such as ice therapy or rinsing with saltwater, may be more challenging for young children to tolerate. Consider using child-friendly alternatives, such as applying a chamomile tea bag to the sore instead of rinsing with chamomile tea. Adapt the remedies to suit your child’s age and comfort level.

Encouraging Good Oral Habits

Teach your child the importance of good oral hygiene practices from a young age. Demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques, and ensure they have age-appropriate toothbrushes and toothpaste. Encourage them to maintain these habits even when they are not experiencing canker sores.

Creating a Comforting Environment

Canker sores can be painful and uncomfortable for children, potentially causing distress or anxiety. Create a comforting environment for your child by providing reassurance, distraction, and extra care. By offering understanding and support, you can help them cope with the discomfort and emotional impact of canker sores.

Supporting Emotional Well-being

Canker sores can affect a child’s self-esteem, particularly if they are experiencing recurrent outbreaks. Offer encouragement and support to boost their confidence and help them understand that canker sores are common and temporary. Engage in activities that help them relax and remain positive throughout the healing process.

Canker Sore Complications

Although canker sores are generally harmless and resolve on their own, they can lead to complications in some cases.

Secondary Infections

If canker sores become infected, it can result in more severe symptoms and delayed healing. Prompt medical attention should be sought if signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, or swelling, are present.

Difficulty Eating and Drinking

Large or painful canker sores can make it difficult for children to eat and drink properly, leading to poor nutritional intake and potential dehydration. Encourage your child to consume soft and easy-to-eat foods, and provide plenty of fluids to ensure hydration.

Disrupted Sleep

Canker sores can cause discomfort and pain, which may disrupt a child’s sleep. This can result in fatigue and affect their overall well-being. Implement strategies to minimize discomfort, such as using pain relief measures before bedtime or adjusting the sleeping position for optimal comfort.

Psychological Impact

Children with canker sores may experience emotional distress due to pain, difficulty eating, or feeling self-conscious about their appearance. It is important to address any concerns they may have and provide emotional support to help them cope with these challenges.

Coping Strategies for Children with Canker Sores

Helping children cope with canker sores involves implementing strategies to manage pain, minimize discomfort, and promote healing.

Pain Management Techniques

Encourage your child to use pain management techniques such as applying ice packs to the affected area, taking over-the-counter pain relievers suitable for their age, or using topical numbing gels. Consult a healthcare professional for appropriate pain management options for your child.

Relaxation and Distraction Techniques

Engage your child in relaxation and distraction techniques to take their focus away from the discomfort of canker sores. This can include activities such as coloring, listening to calming music, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Find activities that your child enjoys and help them incorporate these into their daily routine.

Maintaining a Balanced Diet

Ensure your child’s diet includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods that are easy to eat and do not irritate the canker sores. Soft fruits, cooked vegetables, yogurt, and soups are good options. Consult a healthcare professional or a nutritionist for guidance on age-appropriate dietary recommendations.

Ensuring Adequate Hydration

Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, especially when experiencing pain or difficulty eating. Offer water, diluted fruit juices, or herbal teas throughout the day to keep them hydrated. Avoid acidic or carbonated drinks that may irritate the canker sores.

Proper Oral Hygiene Practices

Even with canker sores, it is important to maintain proper oral hygiene. Teach your child to gently brush their teeth, avoiding the affected areas, and rinse their mouth with a mild, alcohol-free mouthwash. Discourage them from using abrasive mouthwashes or oral care products that may worsen the sores.


Canker sores can be a temporary but uncomfortable condition for children. By understanding their causes, symptoms, and available treatment options, you can provide the necessary care and support to help your child cope with canker sores. Whether through home remedies, medical treatments, or preventive measures, addressing canker sores promptly and effectively can minimize their impact on your child’s daily life and promote a speedy recovery. Remember to consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or questions regarding your child’s canker sores.

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Jakob Larson

Greetings and welcome! I'm delighted you've taken the time to explore what fuels my drive in this awe-inspiring journey we call life. I am Jakob Larson, a Norwegian native enchanted by the scenic beauty of my homeland. Today, I've rooted myself in the equally stunning but sun-drenched surroundings of Florida. As I've navigated through the corridors of different cultures and landscapes, my deepest passion—dentistry—has remained steadfast. It is my core belief that an exceptional smile is a gateway to a healthier, happier you, both mentally and physically. Sharing this transformative ethos is not just what I do, it's who I am.

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