Cold Sores or Canker Sores
Thursday May 7, 1998
Dear Dr. Mady: I am a 21-year-old University of Windsor student who keeps getting sores in and around my mouth. Are these cold sores or canker sores and what can I do about them? - Diane in West Windsor
You are not the only one who confuses cold and canker sores. The easiest way to tell the two apart is to remember that cold sores usually occur outside and canker sores usually occur inside the mouth.
Cold sores also are called fever blisters or herpes simplex and are made up of congregations of fluid-filled blisters that usually erupt around the lips or under your chin or nose. These are extremely contagious and are a result of herpes virus type I. They usually last for about one week and temporary relief can be obtained from over-the-counter topical anesthetics (numbing agents). Your dentist or dermatologist may also prescribe antiviral drugs (oral medication or ointment) to prevent cold sores or at least reduce their progression or duration.
Canker sores also are known as apthous ulcers. They are small ulcer-type lesions with usually a white base (sometimes grey) and a red surrounding area. These are as common as cold sores but tend to be much more painful, especially when eating or drinking. Canker sores usually heal in one to two weeks on their own. If you are having extreme pain while eating during this time, ask your pharmacist for an analgesic mouth rinse or see your dentist for some information and advice.
The last important thing that I want to mention is for you not to be surprised if these lesions tend to recur (happen again) in the same spot as before at times of stress in your life. This is not uncommon and is usually what happens, so watch out during exam time Diane. Good luck.
________________________________________________________________________This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5