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Mouth Sores: The Difference Between Canker Sores and Cold Sores

December 7, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — drflenniken @ 11:27 am
Woman with a red spot on her lip and her finger is touching it.

Having a sore on or inside of your mouth can take over your thoughts throughout the day. There are many causes of oral irritations, but two of the most common are canker sores and cold sores. They often seem to show up out of nowhere, and they can be painful and embarrassing. Keep reading to learn the difference between these mouth sores, what causes them and how you can help minimize the pain. 

Canker Sores vs. Cold Sores

Canker Sores: Also known as an aphthous ulcer, a canker sore is a small painful sore that is white or yellow in color and can appear on the inside of the mouth on the gums, the roof of the mouth, the cheeks, the tongue and on the inside of the lip. These sores are not contagious and cannot be spread through saliva.

Cold Sores: A cold sore is a cluster of liquid-filled blisters that typically occurs on the outside of the lip, but it can also appear under the nose and around the chin. These painful sores, also known as fever blisters, are very contagious and can be spread through physical touch and the exchange of bodily fluids.

The Causes of Canker Sores and Cold Sores

Canker sores may appear for many different reasons. They can be the result of poor dental hygiene, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal shifts or sensitivity to acidic or spicy foods. Proper oral care and a nightly dose of vitamin B12 can help prevent them from reoccurring.

Cold sores, however, are direct results of the herpes virus. Infection can be passed through kissing or sharing eating utensils and there is no known cure. An outbreak can be triggered by stress, fatigue, illness, sunlight exposure or hormonal changes.

How to Reduce Pain

For canker sores, mix one teaspoon with a half cup of warm water and swish it around in your mouth for 15 to 30 seconds a few times a day to clean it and help it heal faster. Studies show that when applied to a canker sore, the antibacterial properties in manuka honey can help reduce pain and help it heal faster. Oral numbing gels can also provide temporary pain relief. 

The best way to deal with cold sores or fever blisters is to take a preventive approach. Your doctor may prescribe medication that can be taken at the first signs of an outbreak, which may include tingling, burning or itching. Applying ice or a cold compress to the site along with the use of cold sore cream can help minimize pain. 

If you’ve ever suffered from one of these mouth sores, you aren’t alone. They can be very frustrating and agonizing. If pain persists for longer than one week, you should schedule a visit with your dentist right away.

About the Author

The doctors at Flenniken Family Dentistry are committed to providing each patient with personalized, comprehensive dental care. Drs. Neil Flenniken and Suzan Rismani-Flenniken and their team of dentists offer a wide range of treatments like general cleanings and exams, cosmetic treatments, oral surgery and more. If you’re having trouble with mouth sores, contact the office at (717) 249-7777 or visit the website to schedule your visit today.

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