There’s no shortage of products out there to help out the canker sore sufferer (even if there is a dearth of canker sore blogs). But some work better than others, and some are right for different kinds of breakouts. Here are my top 5:
Orabase, a 20% benzocaine paste from Colgate, is my go-to pain reliever. It doesn’t sting at all when you apply it and the paste helps it stick to the surface of the mouth for up to hours at a time, depending on where the ulcer is. It doesn’t have a taste or affect your taste, so it’s a good, quick application if you need to eat something. It works best on areas around the gumline or on your cheeks as there is less movement and it can stay in one place for longer. Painless, effective, and without a nasty taste, I carry Orabase in my pocket at all times when I have a breakout.
Mostly known as a pain reliever for toothaches, Anbesol works wonders on ulcers as well. Anbesol is also 20% benzocaine, but in an oily liquid form. It kills the pain immediately on contact with a little bit of stinging, but with nothing to adhere it to the skin like the paste in Orabase, it doesn’t last for very long. The good thing about Anbesol is that it’s invisible, so if you get the unfortunate crack in your lip or the even more unfortunate ulcer on or just inside your lip, Anbesol is a great choice. It kills the pain without pasting up your lips like Orabase and other products would. A little discretion is a good thing.
You could say that Zilactin is somewhere between Anbesol and Orabase. It’s a clear liquid that adheres to the skin by forming a film over the ulcer, which protects it from further damage. It does, however, feel like someone’s piercing your skin with an ice pick made from barbed wire when you apply it. And with 10% Benzocaine, you’re not going to see quite as much residual pain decrease. But the film over the ulcer is especially useful on the tongue, where Orabase and Anbesol wear off very easily. Zilactin will hold tight, so it’s good to apply to the tongue before you eat.
Okay, everything I just said about Zilactin can also be said about Kanka, with a couple of differences. Kanka is another 20% benzocaine solution, so it’s going to offer more pain relief than Zilactin, though it will sting quite a bit at first. I’d have to research it further but my guess is these two sting more because of ingredients in the solution that cause it to form the film and grip the skin around the ulcer. Kanka does protect well though and is good for your tongue, but it also has a nice little applicator – a plastic stick that extends from the cap into the bottle to make it easy to apply. For once you don’t have to nasty up your finger and stick it in your mouth. This is a very good thing. Be aware, though, both Zilactin and Kanka turn white when they dry, so especially if it’s on your tongue, know that it’s shining out from the inside of your mouth like a beacon. Also, I’ve had the cap leak before and stain the pants I was wearing. Just so you know.
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta chuck some pills. When you have an especially bad outbreak of ulcers, all the spot treatment in the world isn’t going to get you all the way to not-wanting-to-die. Take 400mg of an ibuprofen pill (Advil, Motrin, Aleve) every four hours. Not only will the pain go down to halfway tolerable levels, the ibuprofen will help reduce inflammation, which is everything when it comes to canker sores. Lower inflammation equals lower pain and if you can keep the inflammation low, the sore will go away quicker. So while you’re dabbing medication in your mouth, don’t forget the pill option as well.
What’s your go-to canker sore remedy? Let me know in the comments!
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