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What are Canker Sores?
Painful is what they are! Canker sores are round or irregular breaks in the mucous membranes in the mouth, tongue, or throat. They typically vary in size from a couple millimeters in width to more than 10 millimeters in width. (For Americans, think 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch.) They tend to be very painful, especially when irritated through contact with a toothbrush and acidic foods. Often they take weeks to heal. Fortunately, they are not contagious.
For whatever reason, canker sores seem to be more common in women than men. About 10% or more of the population suffers from them on a regular basis. If your parents or siblings have them, you are more likely to have them, too. So there’s probably some genetic reason for susceptibility, but nobody knows what it is yet.
My Personal Misery and My “Secret Cure”
I used to get canker sores often, generally more than once per month. Often I had two or three of them at a time. Sometimes my mouth would be so painful that it was hard to eat. Even more embarrassing, sometimes the pain would be bad enough that I’d talk strangely and people would ask what was wrong with me. I can recall being like this for more than two decades from my childhood onward. My triggers for them were stress and lack of sleep. It was really obvious that if I got less than 6 hours sleep, I’d almost be sure to have one or more canker sores within a day or two.
Today, I don’t have those problems any more. That’s true even when I can’t sleep at all for a day, something that used to trigger multiple canker sores. What’s the secret to the improvement? My dentist suggested that I take lysine.