COLD SORES AND APHTHOUS ULCERS barbagdental.com
By Dr. Harvey Barbag and Dr. Adam Barbag
There are two frequently experienced sores of the mouth and lips and confusion of what they represent.
Aphthous ulcers, also known as canker sores, usually occur in the mouth: the inner parts of the cheeks, lips, soft palate, beneath the tongue. They can be painful and unsightly, but are not usually serious problems. (For those whose immunity is compromised, these sores can have a greater significance).
They appear as round or oblong whitish areas with a red border. About two thirds of the population is affected by them. Fortunately, these ulcers are not contagious.
Often the cause is unknown. It is thought that physical and mental stresses are the reasons for the appearances of these ulcers. Ill-fitting dentures that rub on the soft tissues, as well as smoking, have been associated. A decrease in progesterone during the menstrual cycle may be an endocrine cause.
Treatment is focused on relieving the discomfort of these sores. Topical anesthetics are available over the counter in most pharmacies. Steroids may be used to reduce the pain as well. The use of low level laser treatment has been reported to decrease the symptoms.
Cold sores are very different from aphthous ulcers. They are caused by a herpes virus (Herpes Simplex Virus-1), which is activated by a number of stimulating factors, including: stress, hormonal changes (menstruation), exposure to sunlight, physical and emotional stress.
About 90% of the population has this virus. These cold sores are found usually on the border of the lips or on the aspect of the lip that is outside of the mouth. Often, there is an itching or tingling sensation before the sore develops, which is a good time to apply treatment. A blister follows that will ooze at first and develop a scab or crust some days later. These cold sores are contagious throughout the process. The person must be careful not to touch these sores and touch other parts of their body, as this can spread the virus. This can spread the disease to the eyes and fingers, most notably.
Treatment should avoid steroids. Cold compresses may relieve the pain. There are prescriptions and over the counter medications for cold sores. Low level laser treatment may reduce the progression if applied when the initial itching is felt.
Those who suffer from these cold sore ulcers may consider conferring with their dentist and /or physician.