THURSDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Although vitamin
deficiencies have been linked to canker sores, taking a daily
multivitamin won't prevent this common mouth ailment, a new study
The study found that people with recurrent aphthous stomatitis
(RAS), the medical name for canker sores, received no benefit from
taking a daily multivitamin as a preventive measure.
Previous research on canker sores had shown a benefit to
patients with vitamin deficiencies when they took large doses of
Participants in the new study did not have significant vitamin
deficiencies, and the vitamin dose was much smaller -- although
still equivalent to the recommended daily dose. Patients taking a
placebo treatment had no more episodes of the oral lesions than
those taking a vitamin regimen.
"Giving patients prone to RAS multivitamins did not reduce the duration or frequency of canker sores, so in clinical practice we should not be saying 'why don't you take a multivitamin?' " said Dr. Rajesh Lalla, lead author of the study, which was conducted at the University of Connecticut.
Lalla, a specialist in oral medicine at the university, said
that because some patients' vitamin deficiencies may contribute to
canker sores, those with severe cases should be screened,
especially for low levels of vitamin B12 or folic acid.
The study, published in the April issue of the
Journal of the American Dental Association, included only people with minor RAS, which makes up more than 80 percent of all cases, Lalla said.
About 40 percent of the U.S. population gets the sores -- which
appear as pale-yellow ulcerations with a red ring and can range
from minor to more serious manifestations -- at some point, mostly
before age 50, according to other research.
The problem is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults,
who often get them during exams or other stressful times, Lalla
The condition, the cause of which is not well understood, is not
contagious. Genetics, allergies and the autoimmune system also have
been connected to the disease, according to the researchers.
"Although not life-threatening, canker sores can be very painful," Lalla said, resulting in other problems such as difficulty eating, speaking or brushing teeth.
For typical canker sores, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help
reduce pain. Avoiding hot drinks, sucking on popsicles and gargling
with salt water also can help, according to the U.S. National
Institutes of Health.
Participants in the new study, conducted between 2005 and 2009,
had suffered at least three episodes of RAS in the previous year.
Researchers randomly assigned 83 adults to a study group and 77
adults to a control group. The two groups had slightly more women
For a year, the study group took a daily multivitamin consisting
of 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of essential
vitamins; the control group took a placebo. The participants kept a
diary noting each time they took a pill, their episodes of RAS and
their pain level, and whether their dietary intake was affected by
Members of both groups had about four episodes of RAS during the
study, each lasting about eight days. No difference in pain levels
or the ability to eat certain foods existed between the two groups,
nor was any difference found in compliance with the medication
regimen, the study noted.
Of 14 participants who had low vitamin B12 levels, five were
placed in the study group and nine in the control group. There was
no difference in the number of new RAS episodes between the groups.
Only two participants had low folic-acid levels, and no analysis
was performed due to the small representation.
Dr. Leslie Seldin, a spokesman for the American Dental
Association, said steroids can be prescribed when the sores are
severe. But over-the-counter medications and "a little tender,
loving care" usually are the recommended treatment, he said.
"Often patients come in and are quite concerned because they don't understand," said Seldin. "We try to give them assurance, after making sure it's nothing more serious."
Most patients have mild cases that heal in seven to 10 days with
no treatment, Seldin said. People suffering from canker sores
"shouldn't worry, because you are not alone," he said, noting the
prevalence of the condition.
To learn more about canker sores, visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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