Silver nitrate cautery in aphthous stomatitis
A randomized controlled trial
Abstract from the British Journal of Dermatology

Volume 153 Issue 3 Page 521 – September 2005 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2005.06490.x

M.R. Alidaee, A. Taheri, P. Mansoori and S.Z. Ghodsi



Aphthous stomatitis is a painful, recurrent disease of the oral mucous membrane. Silver
nitrate sticks have been used for a long time to provide pain relief for the duration of an
aphthous ulceration, with only one application.

Silver nitrate causes chemical cauterization and increases the depth of injury.


To study the effect of chemical cautery with silver nitrate in reducing pain of aphthous ulceration and to determine if this treatment shortens or prolongs healing.


In a randomized, patient-blinded, placebocontrolled study, 97 patients with painful minor oral aphthous ulceration were randomized to receive silver nitrate cautery or placebo. The severity of pain was rated on a three-category
scale (severe, mild, none) and was recorded each day until the seventh day after the procedure.

The lesion size was recorded at the time of the procedure and on the seventh day afterwards. In the treatment group, the ulcer was gently painted with a silver nitrate stick until it turned white. In the placebo group, the ulcer was gently painted with a placebo stick.


In the treatment group, 33 of 47 patients (70%) evaluated and in the placebo group, four of 38 patients (11%) evaluated had reduction in severity of pain 1 day after the procedure.

The difference was statistically significant (P <0�001). On the seventh day after the procedure, the ulcers were completely re-epithelialized in 39 patients (83%) in the treatment group and in 34 patients (89%) in the placebo group. The difference was not statistically significant (P = 0�39).


The results of our study showed that one application of silver nitrate can decrease the severity of pain in aphthous ulceration without significantly shortening or prolonging healing time. We did not observe any side-effects in our study. The effect is rapid and lasts for the duration of the lesion. The treatment is simple and cost-effective in patients with infrequent recurrences.

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