Canker Sores and Cold Sores

When you think of a dentist’s speciality, what first comes to mind? More often than not, the answer is “teeth”; dent is the French word for tooth, after all! In truth, dentists are more than just tooth specialists; they’re well versed in identifying a wide assortment of oral health problems, including diseases like oral cancer. Today, we want to give you a window into two of the more common oral health conditions that aren’t found on teeth – canker sores and cold sores. You generally won’t need to go to the dentist for either, but identifying which is which will help you pursue the right treatments.

Canker Sores

Canker sores are round (or oval) shaped sores; they tend to have whitish or yellowish centres, with red borders. They tend to be small, but major canker sores can be larger and more painful. There are a variety of different potential causes for canker sores; you might be more prone to them if you eat a lot of salty or acidic foods, for example. Minor injuries from biting your own cheek or brushing too hard can also create canker sores. It gets weirder – stress can make you more prone to canker sores, so you might find you get more of them when you’re going through emotional hardship. There are a variety of treatments for canker sores; ask your pharmacist for over-the-counter medications, which come in both topical and mouth-rinse form.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are quite different from canker sores. First, we know exactly what causes them: the herpes simplex virus. That seems pretty scary, but it’s not really much to worry about; an estimated 90% of human adults have the virus, though many won’t experience any outbreaks at all. Cold sores can form in and around the mouth, unlike canker sores which never form around the lips. There’s usually itching and tingling, followed by blisters which are filled with fluid; those blisters then merge, creating a crusty, oozy mass. Some folks will also experience fever and swollen lymph nodes during their first outbreak. Those with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience an outbreak. There are antiviral drugs that can help reduce the longevity of cold sores; they’re sold in pill or cream form, with the pills generally acting more effectively.

When To See A Medical Professional

When it comes to cold sores, you should see a doctor when they’re especially big, and especially painful. When you get symptoms that coincide, like a high fever, it’s another good reason to see a doctor. In either case, if the sores are so painful that you’re having a hard time eating, a doctor is a good idea. Similarly, in either case, if the sores last a long time (more than two weeks), you should see a doctor. Minor transient symptoms are usually okay; severe and prolonged symptoms can mean deeper problems. Your Winnipeg dental clinic can help you identify what kinds of sores you have, and what you can do to prevent them from coming back.