By Kelvin Tan

The trouble I never listened to my mother- since young she’s been always nagging for me not to talk with my mouth full, but I’m quite a gabber during meal times. You can imagine how often biting on my tongue or cheek can happen, especially when chomping down hard on a chewy steak, which has led to regular mouth ulcers. My pain is your gain though, as in the duration of three months I tried out four common cures for mouth ulcers to see which would work the best.

Table Salt

Many friends have recommended this as a cure, and on some level, it makes perfect sense, given that salt is supposed to be anti-bacterial, and helps drain bacteria and moisture from the ulcer. The only problem- it hurts like hell. I was told to either carefully rub some salt into the open sore, or gargle heavily salted water around the area.

Did it work?

Not really. After a night of stinging pain and discomfort, I peered at the ulcer, and it looked exactly the same. In fact, despite trying this out twice a day, for two whole days, it still took my usual four days before the mouth ulcer moved past it’s painful stage.

Result: FAIL

Oracort – E

I was looking all grumpy at a friend’s potluck dinner, because a slight crash on a bicycle had left me with a bit of a split lip and mouth ulcers- and this meant I had to miss out on my mate’s delicious curry chicken. Taking pity on me, a fellow guest told me of a wonder paste that had great efficacy for mouth ulcers that I could get from a pharmacy with a prescription. What did I have to lose?

Did it work?

I had my doubts when I got a hold of Oracort E later that evening, especially when I saw it came in a strange yam flavor. The packaging just looked so benign that I didn’t think it’d be very effective. I’ll put my hands up and admit- I was so wrong. I applied a smidgen to the open ulcer and mouth wounds, and hoped for the best. Within five minutes the pain had been numbed to the point I even managed a small bowl of takeaway curry from my mate’s place! On top of that the wound began closing after a night’s sleep.

The reason- Oracote-E belongs to a class of medications called corticosteroids, which decreases inflammation and reduces the activity of the immune system. However, this isn’t something to over-use- stick to doctor’s advice on how often to apply it- according to the Cleveland Clinic possible side effects of steroids include weight gain, acne, or even worse, high blood pressure and a lower resistance to infection.

Result: PASS


Many people I know swear by this gel when mouth ulcers strike. It seemed quite a prestigious brand when I googled it- Bonjela’s website boasts that “with over 40 years of experience, you can trust Bonjela for effective mouth ulcer treatments.” So I gave it a shot.

Did it work?

The cool gel (you’ve got to store it in the fridge) did provide some solace from the pain of the ulcer when applied, but came off quite easily because of the normal salivation that goes Result: FAIL

Watermelon Powder

Head to any traditional Chinese medicine store and this is what they’d advise to sort out mouth ulcers. They call it “Xi Gua Shuang”, which translates to “Watermelon Frost”- which I suppose was meant to denote the cooling effect it’d have to douse the fiery pain of the wound? Speaking to the wizened store owner, apparently it had to do with the “cooling” effects of watermelon.

Did it work?

Applying it required that I spray on a liberal dose of the powder onto the wound. The powder needed to cake down on it before it’d stay- which took quite a few sprays- that would have been fine if the powder tasted pleasant, but it didn’t. However, the dryness of the caked powder did help in protecting the wound somewhat, which led to a decrease in pain, momentarily at least. But the acid test- did my ulcer heal faster? Not really- it took three days of spraying  before the wound finally started to heal.

Result: FAIL