One of the most common diseases of the mouth and lips is the simple cold sore. It is caused by the herpes virus, and many more of us carry the virus than show symptoms through cold sores.
25 per cent of us suffer from recurring cold sores, and well over half of us carry the virus, hidden in our nervous systems.
Cold sores are characterised by small lip-blisters that are frequently confused with canker sores, which present similar symptoms but call for different responses from a dental office.
If you are suffering from an outbreak of cold sores and you’re not sure if they will affect a scheduled dental appointment, we ask that you give us a call. Normally, we recommend you let your cold sore heal before a dental appointment. This decreases the chance the sore on your lips will move to other parts of the body.
If you do have a cold sore, don’t be too concerned. Most cold sores fade away in less than ten days, and then you’re ready to come into Main Beach Dental and get that checkup or treatment! We’re happy to reschedule your appointment.
What causes cold sores?
The herpes simplex virus type 1, which typically causes cold sores, is spread through contact including kissing or sharing utensils with an infected person.
Once you have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus, it lies dormant until it is triggered. The virus can be triggered in various ways.
Cold sore causes include:
- Certain foods
- Cold weather or excessive sunlight
- Stress and fatigue
- A weakened immune system
The trick is to learn your personal triggers and avoid them!
Treating a cold sore
Prescription medication. Antiviral drugs can be used to speed healing. These drugs include famciclovir, acyclovir, and valacyclovir, and they are available by prescription.
These medications are most effective when they’re taken when symptoms first appear, even before blisters are evident. If you feel a cold sore coming on, these medications can help heal cold sores or even stop them from breaking out at all. For regular sufferers, it may make sense to have a prescription in hand at all times so that the medications can be picked up at first symptoms.
Cold compress. To help your cold sores heal quickly, try holding a cool, damp cloth against the sores. This can reduce redness and crusting and help it to heal more rapidly than if you let it alone, according to the Mayo Clinic. The Harvard Medical School also suggests applying ice.
This may keep a full-blown cold sore from developing, and if the sore does appear, it may go away more quickly. The Journal of Professional Nursing Today suggests that keeping a sore hydrated by sucking on ice prevents drying, cracking, and developing secondary infections.
Cold sore ointment. Cold sore ointment is available over-the-counter, and with frequent application can shorten a cold sore outbreak. The Mayo Clinic reports that creams can shorten an outbreak by as little as a few hours or as long as a day.
Analgesics/pain relievers. These drugs treat the pain associated with cold sores and not the virus. You can get most of these over the counter at a store or pharmacy.
Oral pain-relief drugs include:
- Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen)
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
There are also ointments and gels that can help relieve pain.
Ointments or gels containing the following active ingredients can help reduce cold sore pain:
- Benzyl alcohol
Stopping the spread of cold sores
Concerning prevention, the most important thing is to avoid spreading the virus. When HSV-1 is dormant, the risk of transmission is low. However, when the virus is active during outbreaks, extra caution is necessary. Here are a few simple precautions.
- When blisters are active, don’t kiss or have mouth-to-skin contact with anyone else.
- Keep your hands off sores as much as possible. Wash your hands regularly, so they stay germ-free and don’t spread the virus to others or around your body.
- Don’t share utensils, cups, makeup, food, razors or any other items that come in contact with your mouth (or other infection sites).
- Once the infection is gone, clean or throw out any intimate objects that have been in touch with your mouth (e.g. toothbrush, pillowcase, etc.).
And then, once your cold sore is gone, give us a call at Main Beach Dental to schedule that appointment!
Dental Care at Main Beach Dental
At Main Beach Dental your dental health is our number one priority. We are composed of highly trained registered dentists with impressive clinical skills who work together to provide you comprehensive dental services.
We provide gentle, skilled care for all dental conditions and work with you to prevent disease, decay, and too many dental appointments in the future. Our commitment to our patients is dental health for a lifetime!
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