Canker Sores: Enlightening New Research

New research has shed some light on recurrent aphthous stomatitis, or canker sores. For those who suffer from them, the treatment options aren’t always effective and the pain, substantial. The new research, out of Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden, has discovered new reasons behind the condition, hopefully leading to easier prevention and more effective treatments.

“There are many misconceptions regarding the reasons for the ulcers and the care of this patient category is hugely neglected despite the fact that many suffer a great deal from their symptoms. Patients may experience a general feeling of illness, and they have difficulties in eating and speaking and may not be able to go to school or work for several days due to the lesions,” said Maria Bankvall, dentist and postdoctoral researcher in Odontology.

Cold sores, mouth blisters or aphthae are all words that are used to describe this type of lesion, which in medical terms is referred to as recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS). It is one of the most common oral mucosa lesion found today. They typically appear with a red halo surrounding a whitish area, and they can appear anywhere on the inside of the cheeks and lips, at the floor of the mouth, on the sides of the tongue and in the throat. Currently, there is no cure, with treatment strategies aimed at relieving symptoms with either non- or prescription drugs.

“For a long time, it was believed that this condition was due to a virus, in the same way as mouth herpes, and many physicians and dentists treat aphthous stomatitis and herpes in the same way, also because it can be difficult to clinically distinguish the two conditions. The patient is often given anti-viral medication, which is a suitable treatment for herpes, but does not relieve aphthous stomatitis,” Bankvall added.

“RAS should probably not be regarded as a specific disease but as a general symptom of the body due to an imbalance similar to a headache or a fever,” Bankvall stated. Her research suggests that there is a great complexity and multiple interacting factors behind the lesions, including bacterial flora in the mouth, heredity, immune system strength and environmental factors.

According to a recent Science Daily article, there are a number of different genes that have been identified as being of importance. The research also shows that the bacterial flora in a healthy mouth seems different in people with RAS compared to their healthy counterparts. Some patients may also suffer from a food allergy that causes their lesions, but not enough is known about this connection. The immune system is also thought to be important in the oral cavity, but more research is necessary.

“Today there is a great deal of knowledge regarding the two major conditions in the oral cavity, i.e., caries and periodontitis. However, there are still large information gaps when it comes to different types of oral mucosal lesions. Hopefully, our conclusions can contribute to increasing the knowledge regarding the most common lesions that affect this part of the mouth,” Bankvall said.

For more on canker sores, check out this article, “Could Your Canker Sore Be a Sign of a Larger Health Issue?,” written by Dr. Sanchez.

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