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Anyone who has experienced a cold sore or canker sore can attest to how much discomfort these sores can cause and how important it is to know what type of sore you have so that you can treat it accordingly. Canker sores are a common complaint as they are unpredictable and caused by a variety of things. This means they can be a persistent problem for some people and a rare occurrence for others. The good news is that canker sores are not contagious, but how do you know if your have a canker or cold sore?
Canker sores only appear on the inside of the mouth – on soft oral tissue like gums, cheeks, tongue, and inner lips. Cold sores, on the other hand, tend to show on outer lips, around the nose, and on the chin, and they usually present as a cluster of fluid filled blisters. Though cold sores more often than not are seen outside the mouth, the initial occurrence can present on the roof of the mouth or on gum tissue, and these sores often requires medical attention. Canker sores usually strike as lone ulcers compared to the cluster of blisters seen with cold sores, and they are more opaque in appearance with a whitish grey tone.
Your dentist and hygienist are two professionals who work on your body. This means it’s very important that you share with your dental team, prior to your appointment, if you have a cold sore. Fluid inside blisters contains the virus, so it’s possible for it to spread from you to us. By informing your dentist before an appointment of a cold sore outbreak, your dental team can evaluate whether it’s in everyone’s interest — yours and the professionals included — to go ahead with treatment or to reschedule until the cold sore has healed. An emergency appointment for pain control or for treatment of the cold sore may be advised, but elective treatment may be postponed until tissue around the mouth is healed and all discomfort subsided.
Just like there’s no real understanding of what causes canker sores as many internal and external factors can cause them, the same applies to treating canker sores. There just isn’t a definitive treatment that makes them disappear overnight, so a treatment to control any pain while letting the sore run its course seems to be the best practice. Cold sores can respond favorably to anti-viral medication taken orally or applied topically. Old wives tales of putting various ointments and lotions on a cold sore may help ease discomfort, but they fail to shorten the sore’s duration compared to prescription medication.