Canker sores, cold sores, fever blisters, and apthous ulcers - how to identify and treat common mouth sores.

What are canker sores?

Mouth ulcers, also known as canker sores or apthous ulcers, can form anywhere in your mouth or on your gums. They are often small, round in shape, and very painful to the touch. These sores can make eating, or even talking and smiling, very uncomfortable, especially when something comes in contact with them. For most people, canker sores usually resolve on their own within two weeks time.
picture of canker sore or apthous ulcer

What causes canker sores?

The cause of canker sores is not fully understood, but it seems that things like stress, hormonal changes, spicy foods, vitamin deficiencies, or food allergies can bring them on.

How do I cure canker sores with home remedies?

Warm salt water rinses are an effective natural remedy, but most drug stores stock gels and ointments that can be applied to these painful sores, coat them with a protective covering, and provide hours of needed relief. If you have a sore that returns often, or does not go away, it is always best to consult with your dentist or physician becauses mouth sores can sometimes indicate much more serious problems.

What are cold sores or "fever blisters"?

Cold sores or “fever blisters” are different from canker sores or mouth ulcers, are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). They can occur as a single blister, or clusters of blisters, anywhere inside or outside the mouth. They are often found in the throat, tongue, gums, or on the lips and, unfortunately, are highly contagious until the lesions scab over and disappear.
picture of cold sore fever blister oral herpes lesion
Antiviral medications may help reduce the severity or length of an outbreak, and in some cases can be given to prevent outbreaks from occurring in the first place.

What caues cold sores or oral herpes outbreaks?

Cold sores usually represent an re-activation of latent (or sleeping) virus and can be triggered by stress, a cold or flu, trauma to the lips, mouth, or face, hormonal changes, or overexposure to the sun.

What are some home remedies for treating cold sores or fever blisters?

First off, treatment of cold sores with home remedies alone is difficult. Prevention is best, and cold sores can sometimes be prevented by lip balm and sunscreen, and pain can be managed by over the counter pain relievers. But for painful outbreaks, prescription antiviral medications may be your best bet to speed healing and provide relief. In other words, instead of suffering, see your medical doctor for help.

When should I see a dentist or doctor for mouth lesions?

If any mouth, lip, skin, or throat sore persists for more than two weeks, or you have any other symptoms or concerns, it is imperative that you see your dentist or medical doctor immediately to rule out more serious problems, or to provide additional care for the sores. Mouth sores or lesions, bumps, discolorations, or irregularities in the mouth, especially ones that are not painful, may be linked to oral cancer and other diseases and should be evaluated by a dentist, physician, or other qualified health care professional.

What other types of gum problems or mouth issues should I look for?

Patients with gum disease often have bleeding gums, bad breath, receding gums, or loose teeth - most of the time however, patients are not even aware that they have gum disease. Seeing a gum specialist (periodontist) for a complete dental examination is the best way to determine if gum recession correction procedures or even laser gum treatment for gum disease and dental bone loss is appropriate to help you save your teeth.


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