You wake up one morning and you find that there is a sore inside your mouth, on your gum or inside your lip, that is making that first cup of coffee impossible to drink. Even swallowing or speaking cause you discomfort.

Chances are, you have a canker sore inside your mouth. But don’t worry – you can still kiss the kids before they go off to school or kiss your spouse before sending him/her off for the day, because unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious.

So, what are they, how did you get one, and what can you do to make your aching gum feel better?  A canker sore is actually a small, non-viral ulcer which appear to be dark red circles with a yellow or white center – kind of your very own personal mini-mouth-volcano.

Chances are, you either brushed your teeth too vigorously with a toothpaste containing the harsh detergent sodium lauryl sulfate, or you ate too many chips or pretzels. The munching of such hard foods can irritate the delicate tissue inside the mouth and cause canker sores. So can any other trauma to the mouth, and, believe it or not, stress can get them started too.

They are not to be confused with cold sores, also known as fever blisters, that are found outside the mouth, usually on or near the lip. These are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are very contagious.

Although they will dissipate on their own, some home-made remedies will help ease the discomfort of canker sores. First, you can try a salt and warm water rinse…not too salty and not too hot, but this is a tried and true recipe for comfort.

Also, you can try a 50-50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and milk of magnesia. This time, don’t rinse, but use a saturated cotton swab on the canker sore. The cleansing properties of the hydrogen peroxide together with the soothing and coating qualities of the milk of magnesia will provide some relief.

Finally, if you have several sores and are experiencing any itching along with the pain, you can use a 50-50 blend of liquid Benadryl and milk of magnesia to swish in your mouth – don’t swallow it, just give it a good swish and spit.

Before you know it, the discomfort will dissipate and the little ulcers will heal. But remember that one of the causes  of canker sores can be the toothpaste you use, so check to be sure that what you are using does not contain harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate and continue your good oral hygiene regime using TUNG Brush and Gel – a gentle way to keep your mouth healthy.