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Intentionally Popping a Canker Sore Is Not Recommended

It's possible to pop a canker sore but it's not recommended because it's unnecessary and may cause scar tissue formation. Despite the pain/discomfort, these sores are self-healing and will go away on their own. Nonetheless, we'll review all of the dos and don'ts for this pesky oral condition.


Canker sore on the lower lip
Sore on the lower lip

Table of contents:



Can you pop a canker sore?

Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are poppable but it's difficult to actually pop them because it's not "raised" like a ripe pimple on the face. The reason is because these type of sores are completely flat and flush with the adjacent soft tissue.


Below is another photo of what they look like.


aphthous ulcer on cheek
aphthous ulcer on cheek

What a canker sore looks like:

  • Flat and not raised.

  • Middle is white.

  • Outer perimeter is red.


Where it can be located:

  • Lips

  • Tongue

  • Cheeks


The best analogy that I can give you is that an aphthous ulcer is like an unripe pimple on the face. Have you tried to pop a pimple that wasn't ready? It doesn't pop.


However, once the pimple has swelled up enough, then it becomes poppable. The same situation applies to canker sores. The only thing to keep in mind is that the sores will never swell up which means you won't ever be able to pop them.


Although if you really wanted to pop it, you can bite it or pierce it with a scalpel but I do not recommend doing so.


Is it bad to pop a canker sore?

It's not recommended to pop canker sores due to adverse effects afterwards such as excruciating pain, delayed healing, and potential scarring. Yes, all of this may happen if you try to drain it or bite the aphthous ulcer.


What happens when you pop a canker sore:

  • Excruciating pain. Underneath of the canker sore is a wound and if you pop it, you'll have an open wound. That means it'll be exposed to everything that you eat and that'll only make it more painful and more sensitive.

  • Delayed healing. Popping it will make it heal slower because then your body has to repair the hole that you just created. You can think of an intact sore similar to a stitched up tooth socket vs a popped sore that is an unstitched socket.

  • Scar tissue. Any time you pop a skin lesion, you will increase the risk of scar tissue formation. Do you have scars on your face from popping pimples? Well, you can form scars where the canker sore is as well!


Due to what can happen from intentionally popping the sores, you really shouldn't do it.


Best way to get rid of a canker sore

The best and fastest way to get rid of a canker sore is to let it heal on its own while minimizing all of the triggers that make it worse. It usually takes about 2 weeks for it to go away. Nonetheless, we'll review all of the dos and don'ts while you have this in your mouth.


canker sore on upper lip
canker sore on upper lip

Dos:

  • Avoid triggers. Spicy, sour, and acidic foods will often irritate it. Minimizing consumption of these foods and anything that makes it hurt will help it heal faster.

  • Gentle mouth rinses. You can rinse with warm salt water or baking soda. These are two of the most gentle mouthwashes that you can use. An acidic alcohol based one will only make it hurt more.

  • Milk of magnesia. This can potentially help heal it but since it is a laxative, it may unintentionally send you to the toilet.


Don'ts:

  • Avoid SLS toothpaste. Toothpastes with sodium lauryl sulfate may potentially worsen canker sores. It would be best to use a SLS-free dentifrice.

  • Don't touch it. Leave the area alone this means you shouldn't prod it, play with it, or touch it in any way whatsoever.

  • Popping it. As discussed, do not try to pop it, drain it, or bite it.

  • Orajel/Anbesol. While using a topical anesthetic can help alleviate the discomfort, it's unnecessary. These medications will only last about 10-15 minutes at most which makes it ineffective/inefficient.


Overall, this painful oral condition is self-healing and will go away on its own within 14 days. That is how long it takes for it to heal. There really isn't much you can do to expedite the healing process.


Canker sore prevention

It's possible for canker sores to recur but you can reduce their frequency with good practices:

  • Avoid triggering foods. Over time you'll notice that eating certain foods may make it come back. For that you should do your best to not eat these foods. These may include certain spices, acidic foods, and etc.

  • Healthy diet. Sometimes certain vitamin deficiencies may contribute to its reoccurrence.

  • SLS-free toothpaste. There have been reports about sodium lauryl sulfate making canker sores worse. It wouldn't hurt to switch to one without it.

  • Protect your mouth. Braces or other sharp dental prosthesis in the mouth can cause ulcers. An adjustment visit with your dentist can help reduce this.

  • Reduce your stress. Sometimes these sores are triggered by increased stress levels such as a stressful visit to the dentist. Try your best to relax and de-stress.


When to seek help

When in doubt the best thing to do is to get a consultation with your dentist. While canker sores are self-healing, are you sure that what you have is one? Sometimes patient mistake cold sores (herpes) for it or some other type of oral condition. It is best to get a proper diagnosis.


As a general rule of thumb, if the canker sore does not resolve within 14 days, you should see a dentist. There is a good chance that it may be a different oral condition. Our dentists in Long Island City are available for consultations if you're in the area!



David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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