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What is the white stuff in a canker sore?

Mar 13, 2023Oral health

What is the white stuff in a canker sore?

Dead tissue and bacterial residue can often be seen around canker sores or mouth ulcers in the form of a white substance known as ‘slough‘ among medical professionals. Slough adheres to the wound bed and is composed of dead cells that have been shed from the wound itself.

During the inflammatory stage of canker sore healing, neutrophils rapidly migrate to the wound site to remove cellular debris and necrotic tissue. However, due to the rapidity of the tissue death rate, it is often cleared out before an individual notices the resulting white slough.


What are canker sores?

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are painful sores found inside the mouth. Women experience twice the prevalence of canker sores compared to men, and they typically manifest between the ages of 10-20; some cases have been reported in children as young as two years old.

Typically, canker sores are oval or round lesions characterized by a grayish-white outer layer with a surrounding red inflamed area. They may appear in groups and range in size.

Canker sores may cause discomfort and pain for up to three or four days, but they typically require up to ten to fifteen days of healing. Recurrence of canker sores several times a year is not uncommon.


What To Do About The White Patch

Research has demonstrated that the presence of white material in canker sores often prolongs healing time, making the sores more susceptible to further infection. In some cases, however, this residue will dissolve on its own and not impede the recovery process.

Utilizing debridement agents, such as Canker Shield, is an effective method for treating canker sores and accelerating the healing process. Canker Shield has been proven to be one of the top therapies available and utilizes ingredients like alum, lysine, and others to cauterize the sore and hasten recovery.


What causes Cankers sores?

It is possible for a variety of conditions to result in the appearance of white spots on the gums.

Canker sores

Canker sores are a common cause of white spots appearing on the gums. Initially presenting as red bumps, these lesions typically feature a white or yellow spot at the center, surrounded by a red border. Canker sores can cause a stinging pain, which may be exacerbated when consuming food or beverages, particularly acidic foods.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush, a common condition, is associated with an accumulation of Candida fungus in certain areas of the mouth. Symptoms may appear as creamy white or yellow lesions on the gums, tongue, roof of mouth, and inner cheeks, which may be slightly raised and cause soreness or minor bleeding.

Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is believed to originate from a chronic inflammatory condition that manifests as white, lacy patches on the gums and other mucous membranes within the oral cavity. The white, lacey patches may not initially cause any discomfort, however they can potentially evolve into red, raised patches or open sores which may lead to uncomfortable sensations or other symptoms.


Leukoplakia are white patches that may appear on the gums, insides of cheeks, bottom of the mouth and tongue. Over time, these lesions may thicken or harden and cannot be scraped off. While many cases of leukoplakia are benign, there is a potential for them to be precancerous. Speckled leukoplakia, characterized by the presence of white patches speckled with redder areas, may be associated with a greater risk of precancerous conditions.


Are canker sores contagious?

Canker sores are not contagious like other types of sores that may develop in the mouth. We are unable to contract a canker sore by sharing a kiss with someone who has it, for example. Treating a canker sore is beneficial in eradicating the sore, however, it is important to note that canker sores are not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

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