Canker or Cold Sore: Different Problem. Same Solution.

Canker or Cold Sore: Different Problem. Same Solution.

Oral health has a direct influence on the quality of life, but until a problem occurs, it often goes unnoticed. From basic daily tasks like chewing and speaking to more intimate moments sealed with a kiss, we use our mouths constantly to express ourselves and to interact with others. The appearance of an unsightly canker sore can cause pain, embarrassment, and discomfort when eating.

Canker sores start to show up as early as 10 years of age and can develop any time in life. The lesions occur inside the mouth and are quite common, about 1 in 5 people get them regularly.

Canker or Cold Sores

Canker sores are often confused with cold sores, but they are not one in the same. It is all about the location. Canker sores develop inside the oral cavity. Cold sores occur outside the mouth on and around the lips, chin, and nostrils. What’s more, canker sores are white or yellow open sores; cold sores are fluid-filled red blisters that generally appear in clusters. Unlike canker sores, a cold sore infection is contagious.

Signs of a Canker Sore

If you experience any of the following signs, you may have a canker sore:

  • A lesion up to a ½ inch long
  • A tingling sensation
  • Fever or swollen lymph nodes accompanying the breakout
  • Red bumps develop into white or yellow open lesions
  • Tiny red bumps

Canker Sore Risk Factors

Certain health conditions can boost your risk of developing canker sores. While it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what led to the infection, common causes include:

  • Compromised immune system
  • Food allergies
  • Hormonal fluctuations (ex. menstruation, pregnancy, menopause)
  • Mouth injury
  • Stress
  • Viral infection
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

The good news about canker sores is that you can’t pass the condition on to someone else by kissing or sharing food or drinks. There is some evidence that there may be a genetic link, but canker sores are not contagious.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A visual exam is performed to diagnose canker sores. With a severe case, or if your doctor suspects you may have an immune deficiency disorder or a hormone imbalance, you may be encouraged to undergo some blood tests or a biopsy.

Once you have been diagnosed with a canker sore, the next step is usually to simply let nature take its course. Over the counter pain, relievers may be recommended to alleviate any pain while the sores are allowed to heal on their own. Topical medications can be applied to protect sores that take longer to recover. While the canker sores are active healing, stay away from spicy or hot foods that irritate the soft tissues.

Laser Therapy for Cold and Canker Sores

An advanced treatment method for cold and canker sores is laser therapy. The active virus that causes oral lesions is attacked and destroyed with energy from a photonic laser. This is a quick and painless process that is done without anesthesia. For patients experiencing the first signs of a developing lesion, laser therapy can halt the development of the sore. If the lesions have already appeared, laser therapy can stop the progression of the virus and decrease discomfort. Relief is felt immediately and if the sore is on the outer skin, the area will be visibly restored in days, instead of weeks without treatment.

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