Home > Bitching, Disgusting, Illness, Things I Actually Like > The Time I Cured My Canker Sores

The Time I Cured My Canker Sores

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments


All right, it’s Public Service Announcement time here on Angry Penguins. Be warned, I’m about to give some medical advice without having any medical training whatsoever. If you end up maiming yourself using the method described below, I cannot be held responsible.

Anyway, I’ve suffered from canker sores all my life. When I was younger, I used to get monster ones on my gums that would persist for weeks and even months. The pain was so intense that I’d go to a dentist to have a laser beam pointed at my mouth for $50 a pop. The laser would burn right through the canker sore, and that spot on my gum would turn a smudgy black. But eventually I’d heal up, and in the meantime my mouth would be sore free.

But that kind of procedure is not something that can be done on a regular basis, and I still get tons of canker sores. I have a terrible habit of chewing on my lips and cheeks, which means the inside of my mouth is often a ragged mess. I chew gum obsessively to try and keep myself from gnawing at my own body, but it’s not always successful. Canker sores frolic and multiply like bugs in a spring meadow.

I’ve tried a lot of different things, but nothing was ideal. I used Kanka, which is a goopy brown medicine that numbs your sore, sure, but also your tongue, lips, and everything else within moments. The effects are short-lived, the taste is awful, and it stings like a motherfucker.

I tried dental waxes to cover the area, but I’d usually just end up eating the wax. I tried Canker Covers, which I’m convinced are the way canker sores are treated in the 7th circle of Hell. The cover latched itself onto my sore and simply would NOT let go. I couldn’t talk or eat with a massive cover flapping on my lip, but it was impossible to remove the damn thing, even after I waited several hours. I finally just ripped it off, which tore off a bunch of skin and only made my canker sore worse.

But I have finally figured out how to beat canker sores once and for all! Some may think it an extreme method, but when you’ve had a sore the size of a Skittle for two weeks, I find you’ll do just about anything to reduce the pain. Even chemically burning the thing off. Yup, that’s right.

First, you need to get yourself some silver nitrate sticks. I bought mine off Amazon, though the shipping took about five days. You might be able to find these in your local pharmacy, but the laws regarding distribution vary by state. You’ll get a black tube filled with 100 applicators, which seems like a lot, but they last a long time and can be stored for future canker sore emergencies. You just have to keep them in the tube since exposure to light will reduce the efficacy of these little buggers.

Next, rinse out your mouth well, and swirl some hydrogen peroxide on the sore for good measure. You want the wound to be as clean as possible.

Now, dip the grey end of one of the sticks into some distilled water, if you have it. I used tap because I’m a Philistine, but I hear that you should really use distilled if possible. Don’t just run the stick under the tap, or you’ll activate an awful lot of the product. A quick dip is all you need.

Then you just brace yourself and briefly touch the wet tip to your canker sore. Yes, this will hurt! But the sting is honestly not even as bad as Kanka, so don’t worry, you’ll survive. Touch the sore once or twice more if you didn’t cover it all the first time. Try and keep the area dry for maybe a minute or so, then rinse your mouth with salt water. The salt should help stop the compound from working.

Congratulations! Your sore now resembles the surface of the moon! Seriously, the skin will turn gray and cratered, but it’s only temporary! What you’ve just done is cauterize the sore. Silver nitrate sticks are often used in hospitals and veterinary clinics to stop acute bleeding, much like a Styptic pen. But while a Styptic pen acts as an astringent to contract tissue and seal the wound, silver nitrate is a true cauterizing agent. So yes, you are burning yourself with this technique, but in a controlled manner! Well, unless you go nuts with the stick and get it all over the damn place.

If you end up applying the silver nitrate to healthy skin, it’ll also turn gray, but in my case, that damaged top layer sloughed off the following day. My skin was normal underneath, but it’s still wise to avoid the healthy skin in your mouth. Some people use Vaseline or other substances to protect the healthy skin surrounding the canker sore BEFORE applying the silver nitrate.

After a day or two, the gray color will fade from your sore, and it will be covered by a new layer of tissue as it heals completely. The pain stops as soon as you apply the silver nitrate, so this is an instant fix. But I urge you to BE CAREFUL with this stuff. Silver nitrate is usually applied by a medical professional such as a doctor, nurse, or dentist, so you could be playing with fire if you mess around with it.

Each stick can probably be used up to five times or so, so wrap up the end in tin foil and store it for your next sore. This means that a single tube of 100 sticks could treat up to 500 canker sores! But try not to get the stuff on your hands. Though the caustic properties of the medicine only work on mucosa, it will still stain the skin on your hands a deep black color.

  1. Alice
    August 13, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I am going to try this. Thank you.

  2. Chad
    August 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I am going to try this, too. The sores in your photo are what my mouth always looks like,

  3. Robin
    October 18, 2013 at 9:17 am

    I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve been getting them on my tongue now have you ever used this on your tongue?

    • October 18, 2013 at 9:55 am

      No, I’ve never used it on my tongue, but let me know if you do and if it works! I got a terrible sore on my tonsil recently, and it was awful. I was too afraid to try and burn it in such a sensitive area, though, so I just gargled with salt water and used throat drops until it finally went away.

  4. Andrea
    March 7, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’m going to order ASAP. Canker sores are the devil…

  5. sheuliu
    August 28, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! The first time I tried it, my canker sores healed quickly. However, this time, the canker sores continue to hurt after applying the silver nitrate, and the white-colored “seals” kind of fall off by the next morning (I apply the silver nitrate at night). Do you have any idea what I might be doing wrong? I use bottled water instead of distiller water, and I don’t use peroxide to first clean the sores—I just brush my teeth and rinse with salt water. I’ve also been using a hair dryer to dry the sores before and after applying the silver nitrate.

    • August 29, 2014 at 9:08 am

      Hm, I’m not sure. The silver nitrate has worked pretty consistently for me, but I’m not an expert. The white “seals” fall off by morning for me as well, but usually the canker sore is much less painful. I actually just use tap water, so I doubt your water is the problem. I don’t use a hair dryer or fan to dry things out – maybe things are getting too dry? If the sores continue to hurt, you could always reapply the silver nitrate, but you want to be careful not to burn yourself and make a wound even worse than the original sore.

      • August 29, 2014 at 9:17 am

        Wow, I didn’t expect you to reply to a post that is over two years old. I really appreciate it! You are right that, the next morning, the sores are much less painful.

      • August 29, 2014 at 9:21 am

        Haha, I don’t really post much to this anymore, but I get an email whenever someone comments, so I thought I’d reply 🙂

  6. Cynthia Dalessio
    November 22, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Will this work for tounge ulcers? I am fighting cancer right now and the chemo gives me tounge ulcers. The pain and stinging are driving me crazy!

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Yes! Though the location of the ulcer may make a difference. For ones on the top or side of the tongue, the silver nitrate may be more effective since it is easier to keep those areas dry during and after application. For sores under the tongue, the sticks likely won’t be as effective because of the presence of saliva. I am sorry you are having to go through cancer treatment, but I hope you have found a treatment or cure for your canker sores.

  7. jb071
    January 20, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    How long do you leave the sticks on your canker for? 2 seconds? Longer?

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:34 am

      It depends on how large the ulcer is, how deep, etc. Start conservatively (just tapping the stick onto the ulcer) at first, and you can keep it on for slightly longer periods of time if that isn’t doing the trick. While you can always apply more of a chemical, removing it once applied is much more difficult. However, if you think you’ve applied too much, quickly swish salt water around the area to help halt the chemical reaction.

  8. Snooks130
    May 3, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Just used silver nitrate for the first time (am 37 yo, been SUFFERING with horrible canker sores since 3 yo) That being said, Alum (it’s a pickling spice, you get in the grocery store) has worked WONDERS for me in the past. Some warnings…
    A – it burns (nothing more than anything else we’ve all used)
    B – DO NOT allow it to touch your taste buds, this stuff is horrible… I let it sit on the sore with my head tilted awkwardly in whatever position allows the saliva to run out of my mouth without touching my tongue, then i take the hose to my sink and run water into my mouth. I don’t swish it around, cause even the watered down stuff is bad.
    C – i’ve found it’s better to use before bed
    D – for some reason it swells horribly overnight while sleeping, but once you start moving your mouth it goes down.
    E – It decreases healing time DRAMATICALLY, but it seems like you really need to wait til it’s a full fledged ulcer, not just the beginning of one. But I try anyway. Keep hope alive

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:32 am

      I have heard of using alum for canker sores, but never tried it myself. But from researching online, it works in a similar way to silver nitrate. It is a powerful astringent, and so can work to debride and cauterize the wound chemically. It’s also much easier to obtain and cheaper than silver nitrate sticks, so if this solution works for you, great! However, it seems like you have to apply the alum for a longer period of time than the silver nitrate sticks (minutes vs. seconds), and the taste is very bitter. But users have also reported temporary numbing effects after using alum, which might be good for someone treating a very painful sore.

  9. Snooks130
    May 3, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    I should add that after being seen by every doctor/dentist known to man for these, it was a Dermatologist who advised this treatment! And I only tried the Silver Nitrate cause my husband, the physician, thinks it will work better. We’ll see….

  10. Gabriela
    May 21, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Omg I had a sore on my tounge and was going thur hell with the pain. I read your post so I tried it best thing I’ve even done ! Thanks !!!!

  11. dt
    June 24, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I have horrible canker sores like this photo! I used Debacterol – have you used that? If so, which is better, nitrate sticks or Debacterol?

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:26 am

      I’ve never used Debacterol. But from looking it up online, it seems to work in a fairly similar way to the silver nitrate, in that it debrides the wound by removing necrotic tissue chemically. However, Debacterol is only available with a prescription (at least in the US), so you would need to see a doctor or dentist to get treatment. But since the treatment would then be given by an actual medical professional, I’m sure it’s safer than using silver nitrate sticks on yourself. I turned to self-applied silver nitrate simply because my canker sores are SO prevalent and SO severe that regularly seeing a medical provider for treatment every time would be cost-prohibitive for me.

  12. difaiojfioa
    August 25, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    hard to find these nowadays but i found some. cant wait to burn these *$&%(#%$*#($@#@#(* things

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:21 am

      If you have access to Amazon, they sell them there. I bought this tube of applicators back in 2012, and still have plenty left in 2017. https://www.amazon.com/Silver-Nitrate-Applicators-Tube-100/dp/B0008G1Y92 However, the price when I bought it was definitely lower than this (now it’s $60 plus shipping, and it was $30 with free shipping when I purchased). So you might be able to find these for cheaper elsewhere.

  13. Kurtap Brenner
    September 17, 2015 at 2:28 am

    I just heated the handle of a steel spoon on my gas stove to cauterize mine… Viking style. I’ll let you know how it pans out. Surprisingly only hurt about as much as putting salt on it. Lol *crossin g fingers it works as good as your silver nitrate method*

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Whoa! How did it go? I would be concerned using that method since heat damage might travel much more deeply into the skin than the silver nitrate, and for most canker sores, you don’t need to cauterize very deeply. Also, the silver nitrate chemical reaction can be halted with salt water, if needed. Once you burn something with hot metal, there’s no going back, so I would not recommend this method.

  14. Robin Smith
    December 11, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    I got the stick wet like you recommended and that was a terrible idea. The silver nitrate ran and so it cauterized about a 1 inch section of my lip as well. Next time I will use the stick dry and I’m sure it will work better. I agree with you about the canker covers. I enjoyed reading your post, very funny.

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:15 am

      If you get the stick too wet, that can happen. It’s happened to me, too. If using it dry works better, go for that! However, I found that even if I did get some runoff from the stick, it usually only cauterized a very superficial layer if I didn’t actually touch the stick to the area. So it turned grey, but the dead skin “seal” fell off very quickly in those areas, with no apparent damage to the skin underneath.

  15. Paul Clary
    December 31, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    My dad was a veterinarian, and he taught me to cauterize my canker sores… The procedure he taught me was pretty much the same, but he never pre-wetted the silver nitrate stick: (1) numb the sore with anesthetic, (2) touch the sore repeatedly with the silver nitrate stick until the entire surface of the sore has been cauterized, and (3) rinse with salt water. I still have a pack of silver nitrate sticks that he gave me back in the 1970’s. Works every time.

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:14 am

      This would also work! I pre-wetted mine because I had dried the area thoroughly before starting, in the hopes that I could better limit the application of the silver nitrate that way. It didn’t really work all that well, though, to be honest. So if your sore is a little wet, just touching it with the applicator should transfer enough product to start cauterization. Wetting it just transfers more product at once, though that’s not always a good thing unless you are being VERY careful.

  16. Jerah
    March 14, 2016 at 12:15 am

    I just got this done on a sore the size of a dime that sits low on the pallet that covers the tonsils…. It was done around 11pm and several hours later at 10pm I noticed the bright white color it was is suddenly gone…. The Lil bit of nitrate that got on my tongue is still there but not on the sore…. Did something go wrong? It doesn’t hurt like it did before the process…. I just don’t know if its normal for it to suddenly lose that color and look like a normal sore again

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Yes! What happened it that the “seal” (the white/gray skin on top of the sore that was burned by the silver nitrate) fell off. It usually takes a few hours for mine to fall off, usually overnight. The one on your tongue probably fell off a bit later than the one at the back of your throat. But as long as it doesn’t hurt like it did before, losing the seal should be okay. Using the silver nitrate (as long as you didn’t burn it too severely) can help jump-start the healing process on the ulcer.

  17. September 8, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Just wanted to thank you for this tip as canker sores are a nightmare. I ordered the sticks immediately after reading this as at the time I had 2 very painful cankers and vowed never to go through that hell again. It definitely works, although I applied the silver nitrate two days in a row just to be sure and the sores were much less painful and then gone in two days. Yes and do be careful regarding the black staining, the first time I used the sticks I accidentally got it on my fingers, took about a week to rub off but no big deal. I have also found alum helps too but the sticks are by far the best solution. Whenever I go away I will take them with me just incase. Thanks again.

  18. Meagan
    December 21, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    These silver nitrate sticks help my sores a lot BUT the thing that helped the most was cutting out any toothpaste that has SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). Almost all toothpaste has it, even all natural brands like Toms etc. I used to get tons of sores but ever since I switched toothpaste I get sooooo many less- usually only if I have a bad bite from accidentally biting inside my mouth or chewing it will turn into a cold sore. Sometimes if I stay at a friend’s house and use their normal toothpaste I will get a sore too. CUT OUT SLS! I use Sensodyne pronamel which for whatever reason has no SLS (other sensodyne toothpaste does).
    Anyways thought I’d pass on the info in case anyone else sees this post!

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

      I’m actually using the same Sensodyne Pronamel toothpaste right now! So far, no improvement in my canker sores, though. I’m using the Sensodyne for tooth sensitivity, but I also prefer not to have SLS if possible just because I don’t like a huge amount of foam when I brush my teeth. Especially since I use a Sonicare, which makes regular toothpaste foam like crazy.

  19. Karen Rader
    February 1, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I love these posts. So informative! A dentist once told me also to stop using toothpaste, period. I did and my canker sores stopped. Now, I use only toothpaste without SLS and get a canker sore on rare occasions.. But I will definitely be buying silver nitrate sticks! Thank you, thank you for the info!

    • February 1, 2017 at 9:07 am

      I actually tried the toothpaste without SLS thing, too, in the hopes it would help with my canker sores. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to make a difference for me. Though that’s probably because my canker sores are mostly caused by damage (I have a bad lip/cheek chewing problem) instead of appearing randomly (though I sometimes get those, too).

  20. Anju S
    February 10, 2017 at 1:51 am

    i’ve suffered from canker sores my whole life too until i read about and started taking lysine. a 500 mg pill a day preventively is all i need. if i get lazy and stop taking lysine or i bite or injure the inside of mouth and know a canker can’t be stopped, i up it to 1000 or 1500mg and the canker heals up in about half the time it used to. it’s been truly life changing and has been effective for my brother as well. wanted to share – hope it helps others!

    • Anju
      February 10, 2017 at 11:51 am

      iotene is another toothpaste brand that is SLS free – that’s the one that i’ve been using for years. sorry if someone already mentioned. didn’t have time to read all the comments. def been helpful but for me effect of lysine had been much greater.

      one last thing, if you get cankers from eating very specific fruits/veggies/nuts or eating them in certain seasons, it could be oral allergy syndrome (oas). google it for more info. it sounds like most people get typical allergic reaction of itchy or swollen mouth (or worse – anaphylaxis in severe cases) but for those prone to cankers it can also/instead cause those. for me, luckily taking lysine has allowed me to go back to eating most (though not all) of the foods i previously had to avoid for fear of crazy canker breakouts.

      • Anju
        February 10, 2017 at 11:51 am


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