Treating Canker and Cold Sores – Reducing Pain and Healing Time

  • Posted on: Feb 21 2015

Mouth sores. If you have had one before – either a canker sore or cold sore – it’s likely that just hearing those words makes you cringe. Mouth sores are painful. Very painful. And for most people, treatment involves little more than managing the pain and waiting for the sore to heal.

We can help change that! You don’t have to simply wait for your sore to heal anymore. Recent advancements in dental technology have changed the way canker sores are treated, and new prescription strength antiviral medications can drastically reduce the outbreak of cold sores. With a quick visit to our office, Dr. Mulder can offer immediate pain relief and speed up the healing process.

What are mouth sores?

Canker sores are small ulcers that appear inside the mouth. They are usually white or gray, with a red border and can appear on the inner surface of the lips, cheeks, or gums. Canker sores are very common but they are not contagious. They can last anywhere from 1-3 weeks.

Cold sores are groups of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt on the outside of the mouth – around the lips and chin. The skin around the blisters is often red and sore and they may break open and leak clear fluid. Cold sores—also called fever blisters—last anywhere from a few days to two weeks. (They can also spread, so it is best to let them be and try not to pick or touch them.)

What causes the sores?

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown but appearance could be related to bacteria, viruses, or immune system issues. Fatigue or stress can increase the outbreak of a canker sore. So can a cut to the mouth or an allergic reaction to certain foods. Canker sores tend to occur more in women than in men and seem to be somewhat hereditary. Acidic foods, such as oranges, grapefruit, and tomatoes have also been known to bring canker (and cold) sores on.

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“Cold sores,” according to the American Dental Association, “are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 and are very contagious. The initial infection (primary herpes), which often occurs before adulthood, can cause painful lesions to erupt throughout the mouth. Once a person is infected with herpes, the virus stays in the body and causes occasional attacks. For some people, the virus remains inactive or dormant. For others, cold sores can follow a fever, sunburn, stress, emotional upsets or a break in the skin.”

How do you treat mouth sores?

That’s where we come in. Both canker sores and cold sores will heal on their own but there are ways to reduce healing time. While you can use at home remedies (such as gargling with warm salt water for canker sores) or over the counter topical anesthetic treatments (such as Abrevia), one of the best ways to treat mouth sores is to come see us.

(Plus, it’s a good idea to come into our office, regardless, if you have a sore that lasts more than two weeks, the pain is unbearable, or the sore prevents you from eating or drinking.)

Laser treatments are the most effective treatment for canker sores, giving immediate pain relief and causing the ulcer to heal in 24-72 hours. With our minimally invasive laser treatment, and a quick 15-minute appointment, we can zap a canker sore and help it from getting larger. Our in-office treatment will also help to speed the healing process, and in many cases, the sore will vanish 10 days faster than it normally would have without the laser.

For cold sores, we can prescribe an anti-viral medication—such as Valtrex—to help reduce pain and treat recurrent severe cases. Valtrex is most effective when taken as soon as you feel the warning signs of a cold sore (a spot on your lip that tingles, itches or burns. If the cold sore has already broken the skin surface, Valtrex is less effective so it’s best to give us a call right away.

Also, the body can sometimes build up immunities to one form of medication and stop working after time. Our office can help evaluate your treatment and prescribe differing anti-viral meds as needed.

Contact our office at any time if you feel a cold sore or canker sore coming on or talk with Dr. Mulder at your next visit if you find yourself experiencing mouth sores on a regular basis.

Published by: Grand Rapids Dentistry Blog – A Life of Smiles
A Grand Rapids, Michigan based cosmetic, general & sedation dentistry

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