Are Mouth Sores Getting You Down?
You may have cold sores only occasionally or perhaps frequently. But did you know that
they are contagious? Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus and are spread from person to person in saliva. Canker sores, which are inside the mouth, are not contagious, and often run in families. The good news is that a person doesn’t have to suffer with either one; both types of sores are treatable.
Herpes Simplex 1 is spread through contact with an infected person’s saliva. Usually this
is from parent to child by way of an active fever blister (also called cold sore). A fever blister is usually on the outside of the mouth, usually on the lip or lower face. It is contagious when it has blistering or oozing present, usually for several days. Once it has crusted over completely it is no longer contagious. If a parent with an active lesion kisses or shares food or drink with a young child, the child could contact the virus. The initial reaction is usually multiple sores in the mouth and a fever. The virus then lies dormant in the child until something sets it off. Such triggers can be stress, trauma, illness, hormonal changes, and even lots of sunshine. The secondary infection then appears as a fever blister. If a young child makes it to school age without a primary infection, he or she can sometimes catch it at school when children share cups, drinking bottles, and cans of soda. And a few children seem to be not susceptible at all.
To treat a fever blister it is very important to catch it in the earliest stages. Usually a
person can tell a fever blister is coming on when there is a slight tingling and redness present. It is at this stage that treatment is effective. There are prescription antiviral creams such as Zovirax that a dentist usually prescribes, and there are also oral Zovirax capsules. This treatment is much more effective than any over-the-counter creams or gel. It is very important to apply any cream with a cotton swab, not a finger. Because of its contagious nature, the virus can spread to the finger as well if there is an open cut or abrasion.
Sores on the inside of the mouth, however, are usually called canker sores or apthous
ulcers. These are common on the very softest areas of the mouth such as the underside of the tongue, the soft palate, and the vestibule where the lip meets the gums. They are brought on by stress, trauma (for example biting the area or brushing aggressively), acidic foods like tomatoes, hormonal changes and illness. These sores are not thought to be spread from person to person, but may have a genetic component. They are treatable with a prescription steroid gel that is very effective.
If you are a chronic sufferer of mouth sores, don’t be! There is treatment for these
troublesome little visitors, and one tube of cream or gel lasts one to two years. If you have medication on hand, you can catch the sore in the early stages so it is most responsive and treatable. In some cases treatment may even prevent it from coming at all if caught in the pre-sore stage. But a word of caution: make sure you know what type you are dealing with! If you put canker sore treatment on a cold sore you could be in for some trouble. You may actually make the sore worse! Therefore it is important to talk to your dentist about your mouth sores and he or she can give you a definitive plan of action. And any sore that is present for more than two weeks needs to be examined by your dentist, as both types we have discussed are usually gone in one week to ten days. A persistent lesion may be an indication of a more serious problem.
Mt. Orab Family Dentistry
470 West Main St., Mt. Orab, OH 45154 • Phone: 937-444-3311 • Fax: 937-444-1720
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