Tracking is a must

There’s a certain type of person who tracks and records everything they eat and every pill they take, every workout they perform, etc.  Some would call them meticulous.  Some “anal”.  Others just roll their eyes or scoff.  Between those three, that makes up maybe 90% of the population.

There is another term to use to describe these people, though.  Effective.

If you’re working toward a goal of any kind, you have to keep track of what you’re doing to know what’s working and what’s not working so you can adapt, modify, tweak, and eventually get somewhere.  Any personal trainer will tell you that if you come to the gym and push some weights around with no plan, you’ll see no real results.  Any advertiser who doesn’t track the effectiveness of their marketing campaign will quickly fall behind their competitors who do.

So why should treating your canker sores be any different?

That is, unless you want to keep floundering around and putting goop in your mouth and wincing in pain for the rest of your life, the only way to work toward the goal of not having any canker sores is to try new things and track your results.

And that’s what I’m doing.  But it’s not the first time.

I first tracked my canker sores sometime around the year 2000.  For 6 months, I kept a spreadsheet of my mouth maladies and wrote down each and every one meticulously.  The information that I gleaned from that experience was not only invaluable, but surprising (I’ll reveal some of this later).  Now, I’m doing it again, and here’s the method I use:

Naming Convention

Yes, I name my canker sores.  No, I don’t give them nice names with personalities – they aren’t hurricanes – I give them a name that tells me plenty of information about them at first glance.  It’s a simple formula.  Date:Location

For instance, I have one right now named 072111TT – which means it first popped up on July 21st and it’s on the tip of my tongue (TT).  Other codes for areas in my mouth are BT (Below Tongue), BL (Bottom Lip), TL (Top Lip) RC (Right Cheek), LC (Left Cheek), as well as Right and Left Gum (RG; LG).

If I have two ulcers in one spot, I’ll add a lowercase a or b, or sometimes a l or r, to indicate on the left or right.

Obviously, I could get more detailed, but it’s just for a name.  I can document their exact locations in the journal.  But it’s an interesting exercise to see where these things are popping up.  I tend to use TT a lot, as I get them on the end of my tongue quite often.  I am also an obsessive nosher of sunflower seeds.  Those two things are obviously very related.


I measure three main variables.  Size, pain, and inflammation.

I originally just rated them on something akin to a Fujita scale for tornadoes.  An F1 for a little, annoying nub, an F5 for a massive monster of an ulcer that wipes out whole cities.

But I steered clear of that because it’s not always that simple.  Sometimes you’ll get a small, tiny ulcer that will absolutely kill.  I’ve had ulcers so small I couldn’t even see them but felt like I was constantly getting a mouth piercing.  And vice versa, I’ve had giants that really didn’t bother me that much.  So size and pain do not always go together.

But inflammation and pain almost always go together.  The longer I’ve had ulcers, the more I see how much inflammation factors into the equation. If you can control the inflammation, you can reduce the pain of the ulcer.  So I began tracking that as well.

Back in the day, I had to create a table in Microsoft Word (I hated Excel – and still do) and manually tracked the data.  Today, the options have exploded.  My favorite is Evernote, an app that lives on my phone and laptop and automatically syncs in the cloud, so I have the same information with me wherever I go.  It’s easy and always available.  A highly recommended app.  In time, I’ll track them out in graphs and charts and fully metamorphose from a larval nerdling into full adult phase nerd.

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