How to reduce canker sore swelling

It could be argued that the biggest problem with RAS is the canker sore swelling and inflammation.

“The swelling,” you may be asking?  “What about the horrific pain?”


Exactly.  The pain is a symptom.  The swelling is the cause.  Control the canker sore swelling, and you’ll experience less pain and faster healing.

Canker sores are created by what’s known as an “acute phase reaction.”  The acute phase reaction is generated by the immune system as a response to physical trauma or infection from an outside threat, such as bacteria or a virus.  It’s the same thing that makes your ankle swell when you sprain it, or your tonsils swell when you have a sore throat.  In the case of RAS, an overproduction of the cytokines TNF-a and interleukin beta (IL-1b) send an extraordinary amount of swelling to combat a minor trauma or threat, causing the local area to swell and eventually erupt. 

Long story short, beat the canker sore swelling, and you beat the canker sore.

So here are 4 ways to bring down the canker sore swelling.


Triamcinolone Acetonide1. Kenalog in Orabase

Kenalog, also known as triamcinolone actonide, is a corticosteroid paste that you apply to canker sores to bring down the swelling.  In fact, that’s the only thing TA does.  Unlike most ulcer medications that reduce the pain with a pain reliever like benzocaine, Kenalog provides long-term relief but does not numb the sore.

The best strategy is to put it on at night when you go to bed.  You’ll notice a huge difference in the morning, when swelling is usually at its worst.  It will generally keep the swelling down until the afternoon, when it’s a good idea to reapply.  If you can be careful to not let it rub off while it’s on there, it should help keep things under control throughout the evening.

Kenalog is only available by prescription, but most dentists will not hesitate to prescribe it for their patients.  Give your dentist a call, they may be able to do it over the phone.


Advil for canker sore swelling2. Advil

People often suggest taking a pain relieving drug when you have a canker sore for the obvious reasons, but what they’re really good for is reducing canker sore swelling.

Just make sure you look for the term NSAID – Non-Steroidal-Anti-Inflammatory-Drugs – on the box.  These are made to reduce inflammation when you have a cold or flu, and they work wonders for canker sores as well.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxin are the most common ingredients in NSAID drugs.  Take them every 3-4 hours during a breakout and they’ll greatly help keep down your canker sore swelling and make the pain easier to deal with.

Just keep in mind that NSAIDS do come with some side effects and it’s not recommended you take them for longer than 5 days, especially if you have stomach and upper gastrointestinal issues.  Check with your doctor if you are on any prescription medicines for adverse affects.

NOTE:  Some people swear that ibuprofen makes their ulcers worse.  This was never the case for me, but if it is for you, obviously don’t take it.  Switch to acetaminophen instead.


3. Benadrylbenadryl for canker sore swelling

Acute phase reactions are also a symptom of allergic reactions, and Benadryl is made to combat allergy inflammation.

Word has it that it works wonders for canker sore swelling as well.

Swish some Benadryl in your mouth a few times a day and it will help keep the swelling down.  Just make sure not to swallow.

PRO TIP: mix the Benadryl with Maalox and it will coat your mouth and hold the medicine on the surface longer.  This is an especially good trick if you have a mouthful of ulcers and can’t medicate all of them at once.


astaxanthin for canker sore swelling4. Astaxanthin

This super-powerful antioxidant derived from algae is known to perform all kinds of miracles.  Some even say that it will prevent you from getting sunburn.

I can’t speak to this myself because I’m pale enough to get a sunburn from a full moon, but I did test it for a while and I found that while it didn’t prevent my ulcers from forming, it definitely reduced their lifespan.  So I say load up on astaxanthin when you first sense a breakout occurring.  It should help keep the canker sore swelling down and make your life a bit more enjoyable.


Try all four of these the next time you get a breakout and beat the canker sores at their source.

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