Canker Sore or Cold Sore

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

If you are like most people, you may believe that the irritating, painful and unsightly sores that appear on your lips, nose, cheeks, or inside your mouth are all the same. But cold sores actually have nothing to do with the common cold, and canker sores are a completely different lesion.

A canker sore is an ulcer that can appear on the inside of your mouth, on the tongue, soft palate (the back portion of the roof of your mouth) or inside your cheeks. It looks like a round yellowish or white spot with a red border and while fairly harmless , it can be very painful.

The exact cause of a canker sore is unknown. A minor injury like biting the inside of your mouth or the sharp edge of a fractured tooth may prompt canker sores. Certain foods that are acidic or citrus (like lemons, oranges ,pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, and strawberries) can trigger a canker sore or make the problem worse. Stress or underlying health conditions, such as an impaired immune system, nutritional problems, such as deficiencies of B-12 , zinc, folic acid or iron and gastrointestinal tract disease, such as Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease are also causes of these ulcers.

The burning sensation that comes with these lesions often lessens after a few days and the ulcers will usually heal on their own without treatment in a week or two. For relief, avoid irritating liquids and use an anesthetic ointment from your drugstore such as Orabase or Zilactin.

A cold sore, also known as fever blisters, is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus I and are very contagious. Cold sores can be transmitted from one person to another from eating utensils, razors, and towels. Symptoms include small, fluid filled blisters developed on a raised, red painful area of the skin. Fever, menstruation, stress and excessive exposure to the sun may trigger cold sores. Most cold sores subside within eight to twelve days. An antiviral drug can be prescribed to help reduce the severity and duration of outbreaks.

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