Can You Get Canker Sores From Braces?

teenage boy with tooth or mouth pain

You kicked off your orthodontic treatment and a few days or weeks later, you realize you have canker sores. Well, the good news is, though sometimes painful, the sores aren’t usually serious. But you might be wondering if you can get canker sores from braces. And, if so, will they come back throughout your treatment? 

The team at Houston Orthodontic Specialists is here to help! We’ll be going over everything you need to know about canker sores and, more specifically, canker sores and braces. 

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What are canker sores?
  • How long do canker sores last and will they come back?
  • Can braces cause canker sores?
  • What are the common canker sore triggers?
  • How to prevent canker sores from braces
  • How to treat mouth sores from braces

What Are Canker Sores?

Before we talk about canker sores with braces, let’s discuss what canker sores are. Canker sores, technically known as aphthous ulcers, are small, shallow lesions, or sores, that appear inside of the mouth (i.e., inside of the lips or cheeks, on the tongue, along the gum line, on the roof of the mouth, etc.).  A canker sore is typically flat and white or yellowish in color with a red border. 

Most commonly, when someone has canker sores, there will be a cluster of ulcers. However, it is also possible to have one, single canker sore. Canker sores can be painful and cause difficulty with eating or talking. Fortunately, canker sores are not contagious and don’t usually cause a fever. 

Canker Sores Vs. Cold Sores and Dental Abscesses

While there are other types of sores that can occur in the mouth area, including cold sores and dental abcesses, it’s fairly easy to distinguish between them. Canker sores are flat and inside of the mouth, while cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that tend to show up on the outside of the mouth. 

An abscess on the gums will also be found inside of the mouth, but it looks like a pimple, contains pus and is often accompanied by swollen gums, a fever and/or swollen lymph nodes and severe tooth pain. If you suspect you have a dental abscess, visit your dentist as soon as you can to have it evaluated and treated. 

How Long Do Canker Sores Last and Will They Come Back?

Canker sores generally last between 7 to 14 days. The mouth ulcers often heal on their own and don’t require medical treatment, unless they’re extremely severe, very large or recur frequently. 

As for whether canker sores will come back, yes, they can. According to Stanford Children’s Health, it’s common for canker sores to first appear between the ages of 10 and 19 and, for 3 in 10 children affected, they will come back for years after the first outbreak. 

Can Braces Cause Canker Sores?

Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what causes canker sores in kids, teens or adults. It’s unlikely that dental braces can cause canker sores, but they can certainly trigger them. Canker sores are more commonly seen in braces patients who are already prone to the mouth ulcers and have had them in the past. 

Usually, when you have canker sores with braces, it’s at the start of your treatment. For the first several weeks, your mouth isn’t used to sharing space with your brackets and wires. Eventually, the tissues in your mouth will “toughen” up, but during this adjustment period, your braces may irritate the inside of your lips and cheeks, as well as your tongue. When this happens, you’re more vulnerable to canker sores. 

The positive takeaway from this is that, once you get used to your braces and they stop causing irritation, you shouldn’t have canker sores from braces anymore. While other triggers might cause an episode, your braces themselves probably won’t play much of a factor. 

What Are the Common Canker Sore Triggers?

While the underlying cause of canker sores isn’t known, there are a number of triggers that can lead result in the mouth ulcers popping up, including:

  • Stress
  • A minor injury to the soft tissues of the mouth, whether from brushing too hard, braces irritation or getting hit in the mouth while playing sports
  • Viruses and bacteria (you are more prone to canker sores when you have an acute infection)
  • A weakened immune system from certain chronic conditions, including celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Using toothpastes or mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Vitamin deficiencies, particularly being low in B-12, folate, iron or zinc
  • Eating foods that are acidic or spicy like lemons, pineapples and tomato sauce, or eating foods you have an allergy or sensitivity to, such as eggs, shellfish or nuts

How to Prevent Canker Sores From Braces

As you can see, there are a variety of things that can trigger canker sores. When it comes to how to prevent canker sores with braces, it’s about reducing these triggers. To keep mouth ulcers at bay during your treatment (or any time):

  • Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and use toothpaste that doesn’t have sodium lauryl sulfate in it, so you don’t inadvertently irritate your oral tissues.
  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater (½ teaspoon of table salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water) as often as needed. This is especially important when you first start braces treatment as it can help heal the soft tissues of your mouth. You might also want to begin using a saltwater rinse whenever you feel a cold or illness coming on. 
  • Embrace your braces wax! Here’s how to put wax on braces: First, use a clean tissue or cotton swab to dry the areas of your braces that are irritating you. Then, break off a small piece of orthodontic relief wax and roll it in between your fingers to warm it up. Place the wax on the offending parts of your braces to act as a barrier between your mouth and your appliance. If you do this at the first sign of irritation, you may be able to prevent a mouth ulcer from braces from occurring at all. 
  • Manage your stress as best as you can, whether that means taking some time for yourself, exercising, practicing yoga, doing deep breathing or just delegating a few of the items on your to-do list to someone else.
  • Avoid acidic and really spicy foods, foods you’re allergic or sensitive to, and foods that could irritate your mouth like popcorn, chips and pretzels.
  • Eat a healthy, well-rounded diet so that you’re getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals.
  • Wear a mouthguard when playing sports to avoid irritation and injuries to your mouth. 

How to Treat Mouth Sores From Braces

Though following our tips to prevent mouth sores from braces will be helpful, if you still end up getting them, know that they’ll resolve in a week or two on their own. In order to achieve canker sore relief in the meantime, try these steps:

  • Swish with that saltwater rinse we talked about. Again, dissolve ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, swish it around your mouth, letting it sit on the area where you have canker sores, and then spit it out. Repeat as often as necessary.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever (whatever you’d take for a headache).
  • Stick with bland, soft foods while the sores heal. Cold foods and drinks will numb your mouth, offering some temporary pain relief, so incorporate those into your diet, too. 
  • Use orthodontic wax on the areas of your braces that are irritating you or that come into contact with your mouth sores. 
  • Continue practicing good oral hygiene to avoid infection. However, be very gentle and careful when brushing and flossing so you don’t hit the sores. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste with a mild flavor. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated helps with healing!
  • Get enough sleep. 
  • Use a mouthwash, such as Colgate Peroxyl Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse, once or twice a day. This type of mouthwash is alcohol-free and won’t cause further irritation. It also provides canker sore relief, reduces bacteria in the mouth and keeps the ulcers clean. 

Key Takeaways

  • Canker sores are small, flat, white or yellowish ulcers with a red border that develop inside of the mouth. 
  • Canker sores can be painful and annoying, but they’re not contagious and typically aren’t serious. 
  • Canker sores from braces usually occur in patients who are already prone to the ulcers. The underlying cause of canker sores is unknown, and though it’s unlikely braces can cause canker sores, irritation from your appliance may trigger them. 
  • Avoiding the common triggers, using orthodontic wax on your braces to reduce mouth irritation and practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent the ulcers. 

The Team at Houston Orthodontic Specialists is Here to Help!

If you’ve been suffering from canker sores from braces, bring it up at your check-up. If the canker sores are extremely painful or come back frequently, schedule a free consultation with your Houston or Bellaire orthodontist right away. We take your comfort seriously and we’ll do whatever we can to help you get out of pain and prevent sores from interfering with your treatment.