Home Mouth Sore Remedies–and When It’s Time to See a Dentist

Home Mouth Sore Remedies–and When It’s Time to See a Dentist

Whether a mouth sore pops up inside the cheek, under the tongue, or on the lip, it is never a pleasant experience. Luckily, there are multiple at home remedies for mouth sores that can reduce pain and speed the healing process – allowing you to get back to eating, drinking, and swallowing more comfortably. 

While many mouth sores are harmless, it can be concerning if home remedies do not help. A dentist will determine whether lesions are a short-term nuisance, or a symptom of a serious health condition that needs further treatment.  

Common Types of Mouth Sores and How to Treat Them at Home

In many cases, a home mouth sore remedy will work for these common conditions. If symptoms do not go away or get worse, make an appointment with the dentist.

Canker Sores 

One in four people have a canker sore at some point in their life. Canker sores show up on the soft tissue inside the mouth as red spots with white, yellow or gray in the middle. They are usually caused by trauma such as biting the cheek, eating acidic foods, or stress, and are not contagious. There are quite a few options to treat canker sores at home, and they usually go away within a week or two.

To ease discomfort at home:

  • Rinse with warm salt water for 30 seconds twice a day to dry out the sore and help speed the healing process.
  • Apply a thin paste of baking soda and water to soothe the pain.
  • If brushing teeth is painful, use a soft bristle toothbrush to ease irritation.
  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks such as tomatoes and orange juice.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco.

Cold Sores  

Also known as fever blisters, these sores show up on the lips of those who have the herpes simplex virus. Blisters usually don’t pop out until activated by triggers such as sunlight, hormones, fatigue, or injury. It is best for those who have them to avoid kissing or sharing beverages. Without any treatment, cold sores clear up between 7 and 10 days. 

To ease discomfort at home:

  • Ask a healthcare provider for an antiviral cream such as acyclovir or penciclovir to speed the healing process. Antiviral tablets are also available.
  • Apply non-medicated creams such as lidocaine or benzocaine to control pain. Be sure to follow all product recommendations.
  • Swish with antiseptic mouthwash if it hurts to brush your teeth.
  • Avoid acidic or salty foods.


Thrush is a yeast infection inside the mouth, also known as candidiasis. The condition is common in babies, but can happen to anyone. White, creamy lesions appear on the gums, cheeks, and tongue, and usually disappear within about 5 days. In most cases, at home remedies for mouth sores are aimed at easing the pain while healing, however, doctors often treat thrush in immunocompromised patients to prevent it from spreading to other organs. 

To ease discomfort at home:

  • Eat active-culture yogurt to clear yeast from the mouth.
  • Drink cold beverages such as smoothies to relieve itching and irritation.
  • Swish with warm saltwater to relieve a sore throat.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol, since it can burn sores.
dental patient treating a cold sore at home
Image by Canva.com


A common condition in people who smoke and chew tobacco, leukoplakia shows up as thick, white patches on soft tissue. The sores are most likely caused by chronic inflammation from nicotine products, but can also be from alcohol use or even from jagged teeth running along the tongue’s surface. Symptoms often disappear on their own, but need to be addressed by a doctor if they don’t go away within two weeks since leukoplakia could indicate oral cancer.

To ease discomfort at home:

  • Stop smoking, chewing tobacco, and drinking alcohol to prevent irritation and cancer risk.
  • Take Vitamin A and beta-carotene supplements to clear white patches (note: spots might reappear after supplements stop). 
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. 

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Because this illness spreads quickly in daycares, it’s known as a childhood disease. However, anyone can get it. Symptoms include fever, a rash on the palm of the hands and soles of the feet, and small red blisters inside the mouth. Spots should disappear within 10 days.  

To ease discomfort at home: 

  • Eat soft, non-acidic foods.
  • Sip on cold beverages such as milk shakes, or warm drinks such as tea to soothe pain.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Rinse with warm salt water.

When a Home Mouth Sore Remedy Doesn’t Work

If sores do not go away within two or three weeks or are accompanied by the following symptoms, it is best to see a dentist to rule out a serious condition. After a thorough examination, the dentist will offer treatment options or recommend seeing a doctor. 

  • Fever, along with pus, drainage or swelling could mean you have an abscessed tooth. The only tooth abscess remedy is to see a dentist to remove the infection.
  • Joint pain may indicate an autoimmune disorder. 
  • Unexplained red or white patches along the lips, cheeks, gums, or roof of the mouth could be early signs of oral cancer.  

If detected early, patients with oral cancer have a survival rate between 80 and 90 percent.This is why it’s extremely important to see a dentist if any signs of the following cancer signs are present:

  • Irritation, thickness, or a lump near the sore
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain in the ear, jaw, tongue, or neck
  • A sore throat or feeling like something is stuck in the throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Denture discomfort, especially if coupled with jaw swelling
  • Unexplainable weight loss 

Treatment options will depend on a patient’s overall health, where the cancer began, and whether it has spread.  

Regular Dental Checkups Are a Great Time to Ask About Mouth Sores

The Dental Health Society encourages regular dental checkups every six months as part of a healthy oral care plan. During these visits, a dentist will check for any sores that cause concern. It is also a good idea to point out any sores you have noticed between checkups. Addressing symptoms early can make a huge difference in your oral health. 

To schedule a dental checkup or an oral cancer screening, use our online search tool to find a dentist near you.