Cold sores and canker sores-  What are the differences and treatments?

Over the Holidays stress reveals itself in people in many different ways.  I observe it first hand recently in patients mouths and thought it would be helpful to post some observations and treatment options.

Canker sores also known as aphthous ulcers are small painful ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. Unlike cold sores, canker sores appear inside the mouth and are not contagious. There may be only one canker sore or several and they often return. Their exact cause is uncertain but some experts believe that immune system problems, bacteria or viruses may be involved.  Fatigue, stress or allergies can increase the likelihood of a canker sore. A cut caused by biting the cheek or tongue, or reactions from hot, spicy  foods may contribute to canker sore development. Intestinal problems, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease, also seem to make some people more susceptible.

Treating Canker Sores: They usually heal on their own after a week or two.. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics and antimicrobial mouth rinses may provide temporary relief. Stay away from hot, spicy or acidic foods that can irritate the sore.  I have instantly treated these sores locally with a medication called debactrol that actually  the sore.  The pain is resolved immediately and healing is instituted on the spot.  Over the holidays I treated my brother-in-law who is working out of the country.  He has been stressed and made sure we could take care of the pain.  He was suffering for weeks and in an instant his pain was taken care of.

Cold sores, fever blisters or Herpes simplex type 1 are different in that they are very infective fluid filled blisters that erupt from a viral infection.  They are annoying and painful and erupt on the outside of the mouth usually on the lips or on the face.  Once a person is infected with the virus there is an occasional outbreak because the virus stays in the nerve and is never  totally eliminated. They may follow a fever, sunburn stress and emotional upset.

Treating Cold sores-These infections will usually heal after a week on their own.  During the time they are erupted these sores are very infective so do not contact anyone with the lesion or they will contract the virus.  A tingling sensation will usually precede the outbreak of the virus.  Antiviral medications and topical agents can be prescribed to reduce the length of time and intensity of the infection.  I will also recommend that the patient keep 1 or 2 of the anti viral tablets readily available and when the tingling sensation starts to have them take the pills immediately.  They are to then refill the prescription.  This immediate treatment will reduce the level of outbreak or the outbreak may not even occur.

About the Author

Dr. Antolak treats his dental patients in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere where you are treated like a guest in the home.  His motto is to relax while we take care of your smile. He specializes in cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry and general dentistry using sedation dentistry if necessary for his high fear patients. He has been treating patients for the past 21 years and is located in Shelby Township, Macomb County, Michigan.