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Canker sores;

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You notice that a spot in your mouth tingles and feels sore, especially when you drink orange juice--a telltale symptom of a canker sore. These mouth sores, which about 20% of people have at some time in their life, aren't harmful and don't last long, but they do hurt.

What is a canker sore?

It is a small white or yellow spot surrounded by a bright red area that appears on the inner surface of the cheeks, tongue, lips, or gums. Canker sores, which can't be spread from person to person, usually begin with a red bump that opens and then slowly goes away over a few days or weeks. People in their teens and 20s get them most often. Women seem more likely to have them than men, and they tend to run in families.

What causes canker sores?

Experts aren't certain of the cause, although it's likely that they are the result of your body's defense system against germs and foreign objects. A canker sore can appear after an accidental bite on the inside of the mouth, after a visit to the dentist, or after emotional stress, a viral infection, an allergic reaction to food, or a menstrual period.

How are canker sores treated?

Most of the time, a canker sore goes away on its own without any treatment. While you are waiting for it to heal, avoid spicy or hot foods and take care not to further injure the area of the sore when brushing and flossing. Some people find that gargling with salt water or an antibacterial mouthwash (for example, Listerine) or applying an over-the-counter oral numbing ointment (for example, Anbesol) to the sore is soothing. Ibuprofen, such as Advil, or acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, also may reduce the pain. Call your doctor if your canker...