Works For Me: Canker Remedy

Wfmwbanner Two weeks ago I developed a canker sore.  Those are always painful, but this one earned a spot in the Canker Hall of Fame.  It was excruciating, made worse by its location just under my bottom lower lip.  Plus, it was a huge one.  ("No it wasn't," says Hubs.  "Yes, it was," says I.  "No, it wasn't," he says again.  He's just fussy because for seven days, anytime he even walked in my general direction I held up my hands and shouted "DON'T KISS ME!  DON'T KISS ME!") 

Cankers are, according to Dr. Google, only supposed to last a few days.  When mine kept going for a full week, I started to get desperate.  I talked to friends, both the real-life and the Twitter variety.  I browsed the pharmacy.  I tried all the faithful stand-by remedies, including all the over-the-counter options I could find.  Hubs, who, it turns out, seems to have a background in medieval torture, insisted I should just cover my finger with salt and pinch the fire out of the sore.  My middle son offered his best advice:  "Mom, you just have to be tough.  Don't think about it. Play with pain."  (Really?  Interesting advice from someone for whom I endured childbirth, but I digress.)

Just before having my lower lip removed altogether, I stumbled on a remedy.  Well, two remedies, actually–I started them on the same day, so I can't be positive which one worked.  One friend recommend L-lysine tablets, a supplement said to promote both skin and immune-system health.  Within only a few hours of my first dose I noticed a difference.  Additionally, I swished my mouth several times a day with liquid Maalox.  It tasted horrible, but it immediately offered some relief from that intense, burning pain that comes with cankers.  Finally, after two full weeks, Friday morning (mercy!), just in time for my BlissDom panel, it went away.  (And hey, my BlissDom friends, if I smelled like chalky mint, now you know why.)

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95 thoughts on “Works For Me: Canker Remedy

  1. Julia @ Hooked on Houses says:

    A dental hygienist once told me that dentists recommend taking L-Lysine to prevent cankers, but I had never heard of the Maalox thing! That’s interesting!
    Sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you at BlissDom. Wasn’t it a wonderful weekend?
    I always enjoy WFMW’s, so I thought I’d play along this week. Thanks for hosting! πŸ™‚

  2. Nicole @ Here's The Diehl says:

    isn’t lysine great? helps with fever blisters, too, which i get (and have one now…and i can’t say enough about how zovirax, combined with lysine, has helped shorten fever blister outbreaks for me!).
    glad you found something that helped!

  3. Julie From Inmates says:

    I’ve heard about the lysine. I purchased it and am just waiting on one of the dreaded things to make their appearance. I was confused if I could take it precautionary through the winter or if I was supposed to wait until one showed up. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Sarah says:

    My mom’s cure was always swishing warm/hot salt water around your mouth.
    Unlike the straight salt cure, this actually helps kill the pain.
    Take a glass of warm to hot tap water.
    Dissolve a bunch of salt in it … maybe 1 tsp? … as much as will dissolve easily.
    Take a mouthful at a time and swish and spit. Repeat until the glass is empty (4-5 times at least)
    Resist the urge to rinse your mouth with fresh water after, the residual salt kills the pain for a while.
    Repeat several times a day (whenever you think of it)
    Good luck.

  5. emily says:

    I’m glad to have another cure to try — before I get sick, I usually get mouthful, 4 or 5 of them. So not fun! I had heard the Maalox before, but forgot about it. πŸ™‚

  6. Tammy W. says:

    If you mix just enough baking soda and water to make a little paste, and use a Qtip to apply, it lessens the pain and helps the sore heal. But I’m buying some of the L-lysine for my DH who has problems with cold sores. Anything is worth a try.

  7. Stretch Mark Mama says:

    I used to get canker sores as part of the PMS Shuffle. It doesn’t help that I am 17x more clumsy at that time too, which meant I rammed my toothbrush against my cheek too hard–thus bringing on the sore.
    I might have issues with aggression. MIGHT.
    And btw, because YOU’VE BEEN WAITING ALL DAY, I got my geography link posted. The game you’ll like is the last one on the list.

  8. Reading Rosie says:

    I get them often and am told an upset tummy will produce them. Although, I find eating too much pineapple brings them on too. Maybe the pineapple upsets my stomach which causes the canker sores. Either way – they are PAINFUL. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Jamie says:

    I get those babies pretty often too and they hurt like a momma. Sometimes I bite mine so they can become more tender and last longer (kidding, I bite them on accident and die in pain).
    I have used the maalox method, dabbing the enemy with maalox liquid several times a day. I’ve also taken the lysine tablets. Another goodie is swishing a mouth rinse called peroxyl and it is a magical cure. Burns a tad bit (maybe a little like gasoline), but it sure makes them go away quicker.
    Good luck with your canks!
    Your family sounds hilarious!
    Jamie @ Dear Diary

  10. Rachel says:

    I am shocked – SHOCKED I tell you – that no one has mentioned Zilactin. It’s the greatest little drug on planet earth. It comes in liquid, gel, and paste, and I think the gel works best. It has a medicine that numbs the sore, and it also has a bioadhesive that protects it for about six hours.
    Warning – it burns like the dickens when you apply it – but that only lasts a few seconds, and the relief it gives is SO worth that temporary pain.

  11. Rebekka says:

    I’ve never heard of the Maalox thing but rinsing your mouth with red wine helps too. Probably tastes better. Besides, you don’t have to spit it out afterwards!

  12. Leanne says:

    I never get Canker sores, but the husband does. He always seems to have one. I’ll have to make a point of tryiing to get som Lysine. Thanks for this.
    Oh and your son’s comment made me laugh so hard my daughter asked if I was ok.

  13. Amanda says:

    My son recently got a canker sores… on the inside of his upper lip and on the inside of his jaw. At the same time! OUCH!
    I called the nurse at our pediatrician office… and she told me to take his toothbrush and rinse it clean with alcohol. She told me to then (without rinsing it) to add toothpaste and brush lightly OVER the sores. I did that. My son said it stopped the pain for a while. Every time it began to hurt he’d go into the bathroom and pour on the alcohol and then the toothpaste and use it over the sores. It took about 24 hours for them to completely disappear… I believe the alcohol dried them up or something. He didn’t swallow it. He rinsed his mouth out as usual.
    Well because I didn’t believe that worked I recently tried that on a cold sore I had developed on my tongue. It worked. It didn’t take as long either.. by night fall the sore was gone.
    Alcohol is good… weird to use for this, but good.

  14. Mary Ann says:

    I used to get bad canker sores all the time as a kid. My mom had us eat lots of yogurt and drink buttermilk. As an adult, when I’ve had a sore, I just use acidophillus pills since the acidophillus is why we were eating yogurt anyways. πŸ™‚
    There’s also over-the-counter salves/canker lip balms(whatever you call them) that do provide temporary relief from the excruciating pain.

  15. The (Almost) Amazing Mammarino says:

    I get LOTS and LOTS of canker sores. (Once I had 8 clustered inside one cheek!) I swear by Zilactin. It works best if you catch the canker sore at the very first tingle. (I put it on anytime I THINK I’m getting one. Because of this, I haven’t had a full blown canker sore in years!)
    Dry the sore with a cotton swab (painful, I know, but it will be worth it!). Dab on Zilactin and hold your lip/cheek/whatever open until it dries. It not only numbs the sore, it puts a protective coating on it. I had one on my lower lip like you did, and after applying Zilactin I was able to eat (and kiss!) as normal. I can’t recommend it more highly!

  16. Melizzard says:

    The husband prescribes “Magic Mouthwash” all the time, in fact I just heard him give the orders to a nurse last night so the recipe is fresh in my mind.
    1 part Malox,
    1 part Benadryl,
    1 part litocain
    Get your doctor to call you in a bottle and keep it handy. Knocks the suckers out in no time.

  17. Lauren says:

    I use alum (the spice) on my sores (the stuff they use to pickle with). Just put a tiny bit on the spot and let it soak in and it shrivels it up and takes the sting away immediately. Those are so painful.

  18. The Happy Housewife says:

    Why oh why couldn’t you have posted this last week. My 6yo had two nasty ones but they eventually went away… I guess the storms bypassed you last night… fell asleep before I heard anything else about them on twitter.

  19. suzanne says:

    Several readers mentioned several things I had not heard of, but (learned this for my son!), if someone is prone to getting them regualarly, choosing toothpaste that does NOT have SLS in it may be helpful. It is an additive that makes toothpaste foamy, and is really not needed, but so many toothpastes contain it. And the ones withOUT it cost a lot more, but may be worth it. The Rembrandt toothpaste is one, and other “natural” toothpastes don’t have it either. Any toothpaste that says “for dry mouth” shouldn’t contain SLS either. It sure helps my son to avoid them, as does Lysine!

  20. Amy says:

    I get these all the time, and although it does sound like medieval torture, salt really will do the trick. In a moment of sheer desperation a few years ago, I basically just poured salt directly onto the spot, and magically, it was GONE the next day. It hurt like a banshee, but it was worth it.

  21. Kori says:

    Ok… my best friend in high school got them all the time and she used…. DEODORANT… yep and it worked all the time. I am pretty sure she had a NEW tube she kept for that, not the one she swabbed her pits with but something in it dries them out and heals them up.

  22. Rachel Larkin says:

    I’m actually a dental hygienist, and the truth is both of those remedies work. We always tell our patients to rinse with liquid Maalox and l-lysine works wonders to help those suckers! Another thing out there is “kank-a” it’s like a liquid bandaid for the mouth. It doesn’t heal it but it keeps it covered and less irritating for you! Have a great day

  23. Lazy Mom Leslie says:

    Thanks for the tip. I had a fever blister pop up yesterday. Stress anyone? Thankfully I had a perscription that my dentist gave me that should lessen the severity. It’s working so far by the lysine tablets sound like a good investment!

  24. samvach says:

    This is my first time participating in WFMW. Both of my links are the same but I neglected to add a description to the first link! Ooops! Live and learn! Thank you for hosting this fun and informative WFMW!

  25. Nancy says:

    I always get these pesky cankers, something that runs in the family I’m told and have taken L-lysine for a long time and can atest to the fact that it works wonders!!!

  26. Kim says:

    I take a handful of lysine as soon as I get that “tingly” feeling that comes just before a sore erupts. Sometimes that heads it off completely. At the very least, it minimizes the size and speeds in recovery.

  27. Runningamuck says:

    I didn’t get to read everyone else’s comments so if this a repeat, I apologize. The canker remedy that my mom always used when we were growing up and what I continue to use to this day, is apple-cider vinegar. It’s easy because it’s something I always have on hand anyway. The trick that I’ve come up with, is to soak the tip of a q-tip in the vinegar and then apply it directly to the canker sore. It takes bad enough as is but having to swish your mouth out with it is faarrrr worse. This way you only get a little taste of the nasty. I hold the soaked q-tip to the sore for a couple minutes and just imagine it killing it right down to it’s core. Love it. Takes the pain away quickly and usually only one application is necessary to heal it up by the next day. But if it’s a particularly bad one, I apply the vinegar a couple times a day and it heals just as quick.

  28. Shannon says:

    I also take L-lysine, but for a really bad canker sore make a thick paste with Alum and water and pack on the sore. Alum can be found in the spice section of your grocery store. It tastes terrible, but it dries the canker sore up in a day or two.

  29. Jaz says:

    I have a friend who caught genital herpes from her (now ex!) husband, and she takes l-lysine to keep from breaking out as often, and she says it does actually help a LOT.

  30. Rachel says:

    Oo, I hate canker sores. I get them when I’m stressed. And they’re easily the size of a dime and usually in a place that rubs against my teeth when I talk. My chiropractor saw me once when I had one and noticed I wasn’t saying much and when I did talk I winced. He gave me the best no meds cure I’ve come across. At the base of your middle finger in a pressure point. Just apply pressure in a circular motion and it shortens the time of the canker.

  31. Erica says:

    I used to get canker sores all the time until I started brushing my teeth with Arm and Hammer toothpaste. I hardly ever get them anymore. I figure the daily dose of baking soda helps restore the pH balance in my mouth or some other such scientific stuff. I’ve been using it for almost 10 years now.

  32. Teri says:

    Thank you for those tips! I get them often enough to also be in excruciating pain when I get them…and it frustrated me that neither my doctors nor my dentist could provide any treatment suggestions…My FIL has used silver nitrate (or something like that) swabs on them, but I don’t even think those are legal anymore – LOL

  33. Chrsity says:

    I have struggled with Canker Sores (also called Aphthous Ulers) for as long as I can remember. They start small, usually 2-3 in a cluster. Then they mutate into one MASSIVE area of white hot searing pain.
    Try this next time: Malox mixed with liquid Benadryl. The Malox Coats, and the Benadryl numbs.
    Kanka is also a very quick pain reliever that is great for daytime use. They make it now with a brush applicator that is quite a bit less messy.
    Whatever you do, don’t let your doc/dentist talk you into a nitro-stick treatment. It does not work, and it hurts worse than anything I experienced with my C-Section!
    I have also heard that you can get a doctor to prescribe Valtrex to be taken the day you notice one coming on. I haven’t tried it, but I have heard good things about it.
    Good luck. Sorry I wrote a book!

  34. Kim says:

    My husband believes in the salt torture as well. “Just stick your finger in salt and let it sit on there for a few minutes,the sore not your finger LOL.” ” I don’t think so!!!”
    I’m glad you found a cure!

  35. Mary Kay says:

    Unfortunately, I am VERY experienced with canker sores. My dad and I both are. He still reminds me that my wedding caused him to suffer through 3 at one time!! (the stress, I guess.)
    I have tried Zilactin, but my absolute favorite remedy is actually a prescription little tube of magic. It is called Kenalog in Orabase. I can call my doctor, and he will prescribe this over the phone. (I bet yours will too!) It is a paste in a tiny tube that I apply with a Q-tip. It doesn’t hurt one bit when I apply. It forms a seal over the sore, so I can eat and talk much easier. It usually heals the sore within a couple of days. –Especially if I start the medicine as soon as I notice the sore.
    Good luck! Hope your husband gets to kiss you again very soon. πŸ™‚

  36. April says:

    I just posted my first Works for Me Wednesday post! Go MEEE! I’m new to the blogging world, but got involved from my friend Julie at She often links to your Works for Me Wednesdays.
    I just figured out that I need to put more info by my name in the Mr. Linky. I’ll know next time!
    Anyway, feel free to visit me at and leave some comments.
    Be kind… I’m still new! πŸ™‚

  37. Sam says:

    L-Lysine is amazing! It works really really well on cold sores as well. If I start taking it when I feel the tingling often times it won’t even develop!

  38. Ccoco says:

    Oh, I wish I have known this remedy last week. I had a canker sore right on the entry of my throat. I will definitely try L-lysine and Maalox. Thank you for your tip!!

  39. Angela Reinhart says:

    If my mouth didn’t hurt SO bad, I would kiss you! I ate mashed potatoes for dinner last night because it was the only thing that didn’t hurt my mouth. I have three canker sores in my mouth and I haven’t been able to get any relief…..and it’s like the sea parted and directed me here today! ha! ha! Thank you so much!

  40. Kristi @ RunWatchPlayWait says:

    Wow – thanks for the tips! When I get canker sores they are like that- I feel like they will actually eat my lip right off! Lovely, huh? I’m sure you’re glad I shared. Next time I will be trying your remedies! (and my husband will thank you, as well).

  41. Carey says:

    To Rachel above who mentioned Zilactin – you are absolutely right! That is the greatest canker sore medicine on earth, but boy – when you apply it you can almost hear the crackling and smell the fire. OUCH. But if you hold your breath and bear it for a second, you’ll forget you ever had a canker sore.
    To those of you who suffer from canker sores regularly, consider switching to a toothpaste that doesn’t contain Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS). It’s extremely abrasive to the skin in your mouth and is a possible cause of canker sores. I used to get canker sores ALL the time. Once I switched I very rarely ever get them anymore.

  42. Amy says:

    Actually, there’s a better one than Maalox to get rid of canker sores when they’ve developed. It’s called Canker Cover; I’ve had pretty darn good luck with them. They’re little patches you stick on the sore, they turn into gel that sticks to the sore. It’s a little uncomfortable, but so are cankers (cankers are WORSE)! They’re medicated, so the pain goes away very quickly… and by the time the patch dissolves (within 10 hours, usually… unless you sleep with it on. Then it takes like, 24 hours. Learned THAT one the hard way), the sore is gone.
    I’ve had a LOT of trouble with cankers… I swear by these babies. You can get them online or in places like Riteaid. Yay!

  43. patois says:

    I’ve always been plagued by canker sores, especially when I quit smoking years ago. I have done the L-Lysine for more than four years, religiously, and I’ve used mouthwash twice a day. Not one canker sore since. Not one.

  44. Crystal says:

    Thanks so much for the tip! I get very painful canker sores that last up to 2 weeks. Actually i get them any time I eat citrus like oranges, lemons or grapefruit. Maybe taking lysine will enable me to drink oj again! Thanks!!

  45. Kritter Krit says:

    Oh my gosh, ROLLED at your husband’s “rub your finger in salt and pinch the fire out of it” suggestion. Hooted. Actually, what I did, if you really want to know, was hork a tic-tac onto my keyboard.
    Glad you got rid of the little…er, sorry, HUGE CAVERNOUS buggar. Victory! I’m filing away L-lysine and liquid Maalox for future reference (even though I haven’t the foggiest what L-lysine IS). Thanks!

  46. Jen says:

    I second the alum! It hurts and tastes weird but my canker was gone in less than a day.
    Here is a trick I learned from a trapper’s wife – if you are unable to use any of these methods for whatever reason – camping, stores are closed, whatever – touch the canker with the striking end of a match. It works pretty well.
    Zilactin is helpful as well but I think it mostly just helps managing the pain of the canker.

  47. Nell @ Casual Friday Everyday says:

    I used to get them all of the time. As a child, teen and adult.
    I learned, a couple of years ago, that I have an overgrowth of Candida. That wrecks havoc on your immune system and, among a ton other problems, can bring about cankers.
    So building up the immune system *should* work to keep those nasty things away!

  48. Amy says:

    I get them too, all the time and they hurt, esp when you have MULTIPLE at the same time. Yuck. I’m going to start taking Lysine but yes, Maalox (or Mylanta) works too. Swish with Listerine or try hydrogen peroxide (yup, it does work!). I hope you don’t have a next time!

  49. KimN says:

    I am another who USED to get canker cores frequently…I was reading about the wonders of hydrogen peroxide and mouth sores and I tried it. Rinsing my lip with the peroxide several times a day and then for a couple weeks after once or twice a day adding some to my mouthwash (it tastes terrible and shouldn’t be swallowed). I have been canker sore free for at least two years now!!

  50. Joanne says:

    Girl, I get them ALL THE TIME.
    You didn’t have a normal cankor sore, you had a mouth ulcer. Seriously. Whenver I get stressed or around the time of my period…well, I guess that would be the same time, wouldn’t it? I can feel one starting.
    IMMEDIATELY start popping L-Lysine as fast as you can.
    It will make all the difference. Really.

  51. KatieRae says:

    We use the Maalox/Benydryl mixture- we just make it ourselves half and half. The Benedryl does most of the work- the Maalox allows it to “stick”- it coats and soothes. DO NOT drink it! just swish and spit- duh, but had to say it.

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