Cold Sore & Canker Sore Treatment

Cold Sore Treatment

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We provide a full suite of dental procedures in Salt Lake City from regular cleanings and check-ups, to fillings, crowns, implants, root canals, cosmetic dentistry, and more. Natural Smiles Dentistry can and will help you with any and all issues with your teeth, gums, and mouth.

What are cold sores and fever blisters?

Cold sores and fever blisters are two names for the same thing—a painful infection caused by the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), which is so common that most of us are exposed to it during childhood. While the virus can be spread without by people who have never had a cold sore, about 90% of the population gets at least one cold sore during their lifetime. After their initial infection, most people develop an antibody that prevents cold sores or fever blisters from reoccurring ever again. About 40% of American adults will have a reoccurrence.

Cold sores usually erupt on the outside of the mouth and lips, but may also appear on the nose, cheeks, or fingers. Blisters form, which then break, ooze, and scab over. Cold sores or fever blisters usually last anywhere from 7 to 10 days but may linger for weeks if left untreated. Cold sores can also lead to fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

Cold sores or fever blisters are generally more of a nuisance than a serious health concern. If you are prone to cold sores, any circumstance that compromises your immune system can result in an outbreak, including lack of sleep, drinking too much alcohol, getting a cold, or even getting too much sun. There is no cure for the HSV-1 virus once you have it, but precautions like thorough hand washing and not sharing cutlery can help stop the spread of infection.

It is important to note that children can become seriously ill from the infection, which is also potentially life-threatening for immunocompromised individuals. The infection can also cause blindness if it spreads to the eyes and meningitis or encephalitis if allowed to spread to the brain.

Don’t worry about catching cold sores from us! All rooms and equipment are thoroughly sanitized between appointments.

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How do you tell the difference between cold sores and canker sores?

Cold sores and canker sores are often confused, but they are not the same thing.  Easy ways to differentiate between the two are location and appearance. Cold sores are usually a group of red, painful fluid-filled blisters outside the mouth, while canker sores are round, open sores with a yellow or gray center, caused by stress or injury, and are found inside the mouth.

What are canker sores?

Canker sores are small, shallow sores or ulcers that can occur anywhere in or around the mouth. They are often painful and can make eating and talking difficult. The exact cause of most canker sores is still unknown, but triggers like stress, tissue injury, and acidic foods have been linked to their appearance. There are two types of canker sores – simple and complex.

Simple canker sores may appear three or four times per year and last up to a week, usually occurring in people between the ages of 10 and 20 years old. Complex canker sores can be caused by an underlying health condition, including a weak immune system, nutritional deficiencies, and gastrointestinal tract diseases like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. They occur more often in people who have had them in the past.

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Diode Laser Treatment

There’s no need to suffer from cold sore, fever blister, or canker sore pain! Our laser diode treatment only takes 5-10 minutes to stop a sore in its tracks, providing relief from discomfort and halting the spread of infection. The healing process begins immediately and is drastically reduced once laser treatment has been administered. Many patients report their sores have disappeared within days. Our diode laser can also be used to treat bite trauma on the tongue and cheek, and painful burns of the mouth/lips.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the laser treatment hurt?
During treatment some people feel nothing.  Others may experience a warm sensation.

Does the laser treatment have any side effects?
No–it is even safe for use on pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.

Will the sore look different after?
It will take about 16-24 hours to see a visible difference.

What do I do after the treatment?
The best thing is to build up your immune system so your body can fight the virus. Take vitamins, drink lots of fluids, and rest!

Do cold sores mean you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. There are two types of the herpes simplex virus: type 1 virus (HSV-1), which causes cold sores, and the type 2 (HSV-2), which usually causes genital herpes.

The sores themselves appear similar both forms of the virus. It’s also possible for HSV-1 to cause sores on the genitals and for HSV-2 to cause sores on the mouth.

Visible cold sores are contagious, but they may be spread even when they can’t be seen. You can get the herpes simplex virus by coming in contact with infected individuals. This may happen through kissing, sharing cosmetics, or sharing food. Oral sex may spread both cold sores and genital herpes.

How long do cold sores last?
Without laser treatment, the first outbreak can last up to 2 weeks. With laser therapy, your cold sores should be healed in 2-5 days.

How does the laser treatment work?
Laser treatment seals the nerve endings, giving immediate relief from itching, burning, tingling or pain and encouraging quicker healing. When treating a cold sore lesion, the laser destroys the viral particles, which transforms the lesion from the active to the healing phase. If cold sore lesions can be treated during its first signs of development, those specific lesions can be prevented from recurring.

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How do I protect my family when I have a cold sore?
To prevent transmission and avoid spreading the virus, the following can be practiced:

  • Avoid touching, scratching, or picking at cold sores. Doing so transfers the virus to the hands and allows it to spread to the fingers, eyes, and to other people.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid sharing drinks, utensils, lip products, toothpaste, towels, or any items that might touch the mouth, especially when a visible sore is present.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with others when cold sores can be seen. This includes kissing, sexual contact, and contact sports.


What are the stages of a cold sore?
A cold sore goes through five stages:

  • Stage 1: Tingling and itching occurs about 24 hours before blisters erupt.
  • Stage 2: Fluid-filled blisters appear.
  • Stage 3: The blisters burst, ooze, and form painful sores.
  • Stage 4: The sores dry out and scab over, causing itching and cracking.
  • Stage 5: The scab falls off and the cold sore heals.


Why am I getting a cold sore?
According to the Mayo Clinic, 90 percent of adults worldwide test positive for the herpes simplex type 1 virus. Once you have the virus, certain risk factors may reactivate it such as:

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If you’re looking for a quality general, restorative, or cosmetic dentist for the whole family, you’ve come to the right place! If you have any questions about any of our services, or would like to schedule an appointment with your Salt Lake City dentist – Dr. Brickey at Natural Smiles Dentistry – give us a call today at (801) 997-6655.

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