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What To do About The Canker Sore on The Tonsil?

Canker sores, in general, can be tough to overcome, but they’re especially hard on the tonsils. Learn how to treat them and prevent them.

Last updated on

December 26, 2023

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What To do About The Canker Sore on The Tonsil?

Your tonsils are one of those parts of the body that always seems to be causing some trouble. Whether it be a sore throat, strep throat, or general irritation, there’s a reason why so many people turn to tonsil removal in order to feel relief.

While the causes of pain in your throat can vary, one of the less common causes can be the most uncomfortable. Canker sores can grow inside of your cheek, tongue, or lips — but they can even pop up on your tonsils.

Here is everything you need to know about canker sores on your tonsils, including causes, how to find relief, and how to prevent them from popping up again.

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are small lesions that can grow in the soft tissues of your mouth. That’s places like your gums, inside of your cheeks, or under your tongue.

Canker sores are different from cold sores in that they don’t occur on the surface of the lips and aren’t contagious. However, they can feel super uncomfortable and make it tough to eat or talk.

What Are the Different Types of Canker Sores?

There are a few types of canker sores, each with its own characteristics. These include:

Minor Canker Sores

The most common type of canker sores are minor, which are usually small and oval-shaped with a reddened edge. These can usually heal without scarring in just one or two weeks despite the discomfort that they can still cause.

Major Canker Sores

Major sores are less common and are larger and deeper than minor sores. They often have defined borders with irregular edges and can feel extremely painful. These can last up to six weeks and may leave scarring.

Herpetiform Canker Sores

Herpetiform canker sores are uncommon and usually don’t form until later in life. These are super rare on the tonsils, but they could still happen. Unlike other sores, these aren’t caused by the herpes virus infection.

These are extremely small, about the size of a pinpoint, that occur in clusters of about 10 to 100. They heal without scarring within a short period of time.

Symptoms of a Canker Sore on the Tonsil

Canker sores on the tonsil can feel very uncomfortable and painful. The most notable symptom is a sore throat on just one side, which some people can mistake for strep throat or tonsillitis. Depending on where exactly the sore is, you might be able to see it in the back of your throat. It usually looks like a small, single sore.

Some people might also feel tingling or burning in the area for a day or two before the sore physically develops. You might often feel a stinging sensation when eating or drinking something carbonated or acidic.

What Causes Canker Sores on Tonsils?

It’s not entirely known what causes canker sores in the first place. It is not caused by the herpes simplex virus, unlike cold sores.

However, there are a few different theories that might be able to explain canker sores. Researchers think it could be a combination of factors, including:

  • Minor injuries to the mouth from dental work, accidental cheek bites, sports injuries, or brushing too hard.
  • Types of toothpastes or mouthwashes that contain certain ingredients, like sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • A diet low in B12, folic acid (folate), iron, or zinc.
  • Stress and hormonal changes.
  • Food sensitivities to spicy or acidic foods, like coffee, eggs, strawberries, cheese, and nuts.
  • Viral infections.
  • Bacteria in the mouth, especially the helicobacter pylori, which is the same one that causes stomach ulcers.

Canker sores can also be caused by underlying health conditions and diseases, including:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn’s disease.
  • Celiac disease: a sensitivity to gluten (a protein found in most grains).
  • HIV/AIDS, which can suppress the immune system.
  • Behcet’s disease: a rare condition causing inflammation throughout the body.
  • A faulty immune system that attacks healthy cells instead of bacteria or viruses.

Risk Factors for Canker Sores

There are also certain lifestyle habits that can increase your risk of developing canker sores. This includes:

  • Diet: Certain foods like pineapple, nuts, chips, spices, salty foods, and acidic drinks can irritate your mouth and make it more likely to develop canker sores. Additionally, being deficient in certain foods like vegetables and fruits can increase the risk of canker sores.
  • Oral hygiene: Not brushing your teeth or visiting your dentist for regular check-ups can increase your risk of canker sores throughout the mouth and the tonsils.
  • Stress: High levels of stress can cause canker sores. 
  • Dental mishaps: Braces and other dental appliances can injure parts of your mouth and increase the risk of canker sore development.

How To Treat Tonsil Canker Sores

Most canker sores are able to heal completely on their own in just about a week or so, but major sores can take a tad longer and can feel a lot more painful. Neither requires treatment, but you can do a few things to at least increase your comfort and reduce pain.

You can take over-the-counter pain medications to speed up the healing process and reduce discomfort. There are also mouth rinses, including those which contain menthol and hydrogen peroxide.

Topical sprays that contain benzocaine or phenol, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, are common solutions to relieve discomfort during the healing process, too.

Rinses are usually the best option since reaching your tonsils in the first place can be challenging. While you have them, you’ll probably want to limit your intake of spicy food or acidic drinks, as these can irritate the sores even more.

Seek help from a healthcare provider if you have a very large sore that is causing extreme discomfort. They might prescribe medication like a steroid mouthwash to speed up the healing process.

Home Remedies

There are a few other ways to alleviate canker sores without needing to use medicine or visit a doctor. Like with all healthcare matters, before adding anything drastically new to your care plan, check in with your healthcare team first. 

For one, you might make a baking soda rinse with about ½ cup of warm water and one teaspoon of salt or baking soda. Gargle for about one minute at a time and repeat throughout the day. The salt and baking soda can make the canker sore smaller while neutralizing bacteria.

Another secret weapon for bringing canker sores to a close is applying milk of magnesia several times a day with a cotton swab. This eliminates acid in the mouth, which can help speed up the healing process while decreasing pain.

Finally, gargling with cold water could be enough to relieve pain and inflammation with ease.

Routine Dental Visits for Tonsil Health

You can help monitor your tonsils and your entire oral health by making sure you’re visiting your dentist for routine visits once every six months. However, this can be a costly endeavor, especially for the large portion of the country that doesn’t have dental insurance in the first place.

Even if you don’t have insurance, you can still access proper dental care. Flossy is made for people without insurance, and it can help you get routine dental care for up to 50% off the national average. There are no monthly fees, no annual premiums, and there’s no waiting period to get the care you want or need.

From root canals to routine visits, from help with your tonsils to help with your gums, we’ve got you covered even when insurance doesn’t. Simply choose a doctor in a location near you, and it’s easy to get started!

Does Tonsil Removal Help With Canker Sores on the Tonsils?

Naturally, if you get your tonsils removed, you can’t get canker sores on your tonsils. However, tonsillectomies are not a treatment used to help with canker sores because these heal on their own.

With that said, tonsil removal might be recommended to you if you’re prone to getting things like strep throat or other tonsil irritations. Your dentist can recommend a tonsillectomy based on your symptoms and underlying health conditions, so visit a dental professional if you feel it might be right for you.

What To Expect From a Tonsillectomy

If you do decide to get a tonsillectomy to prevent future canker sores on the tonsils or to fix things like tonsillitis or sleep problems, here is a general outline of what you can expect.

First, your surgeon will likely ask you a handful of questions about underlying health conditions and the reasoning for getting the surgery done. Then, you’ll be put under general anesthesia to help with the pain and discomfort you’d feel otherwise.

To remove the tonsils, your surgeon can use a number of methods, including removal with a blade or a specialized surgical tool that uses high heat or even sound waves to destroy the tissue. These can also be used to help control bleeding.

After the procedure, you can expect to be in some moderate to severe pain for one to two weeks. This can be alleviated with over-the-counter as well as prescribed medications from your doctor. You might also have a mild fever as well as pain in the ears, neck, or jaw. We’ll be honest — the recovery is the hardest part.

You should start to feel better within two weeks, and the good news is that you can have an excuse to eat some ice cream for a while while you heal up. During this time, rest and drink a lot of fluids to speed up the recovery process.

In Conclusion

Canker sores on your tonsils are a rare condition that can cause a lot of discomfort and pain, especially on one side of the throat. While it’s not known exactly what causes them, things like a poor diet and consuming a lot of acidic foods can increase your risk of developing one.

Most canker sores go away on their own, but you can prevent them by keeping up with your routine dental care and visits. Even if you don’t have insurance, Flossy can give you access at up to 50% off the out-of-pocket cost. Download the Flossy App and discover the world of difference dental care can make. 

Sources:

Canker sore - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Peptic Ulcer Disease (Stomach Ulcers) | Symptoms and Causes | Penn Medicine

Dental coverage, access & outcomes | ADA

Tonsillectomy: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia | MedlinePlus

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Mouth Infection | Cedars-Sinai

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