Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are those annoying little white spots on your cheeks and gums that hurt a whole lot compared to their size. A canker sore is usually formed when a part of one’s oral mucosa gets traumatized. Other factors include stress and hormone changes. They are characterized by a small, white, exquisitely tender area surrounded by a red “halo”. The underlying cause of canker sores is unknown, although they can tend to run in families which means that there could be a hereditary component. Although a canker sore is a totally benign condition, it does need to be distinguished from more serious afflictions such as cancer or diseases of the immune system. If the ulcer disappears in a week to ten days, then it’s probably nothing to worry about. As far as treating the ulcer, usually symptomatic relief such as numbing ointment is usually sufficient. I have prescribed a mild steroid preparation that works well if applied to the sore on its first day, however after that, it merely lessens the severity.