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Canker Sore vs. Cold Sore: What’s the Difference?

April 30, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — covinafamilydental @ 5:29 pm
Woman pointing to mouth sore on her upper lip

OUCH! You wake up to a burning sensation as you take your first sip of coffee. One glance in the mirror shows the culprit: a white lesion on the inside of your lip. As you inspect the area, a million questions flood your mind. Is it a cold sore? How can I help it heal? Should I go to the doctor? If this sounds all too familiar, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about handling mouth sores!

Canker Sore vs. Cold Sore: What’s the Difference?

One of the best ways to tell the difference between canker sores and cold sores is by the location. While canker sores occur inside the mouth (i.e., on your gums, below your tongue, etc.), cold sores make an appearance most often around your lips. Another differentiator between these two common ailments is the cause. Researchers believe that canker sores are the result of nutrient deficiencies, stress, certain foods, and fluctuations in hormones. On the other hand, cold sores are linked to specific strains of HSV. This is a contagious condition that can spread through actions like sharing utensils and kissing.

When to Seek Treatment

Cold sores and canker sores are extremely common, but you should seek treatment right away if the wound:

  • Is abnormally large.
  • Doesn’t heal after two weeks.
  • Occurs several times a year.
  • Makes it difficult to eat or drink.
  • Is present with a high fever.

6 Essential Prevention Tactics

If you have had a mouth sore before, then you know firsthand how uncomfortable and inconvenient they can be. While canker sores and cold sores aren’t entirely preventable, there are some steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk of getting one:

Preventing Cold Sores:

  • Use over-the-counter ointments and creams.
  • Wear SPF 15 lip balm daily.
  • Eat a balanced diet.

Preventing Canker Sores:

  • Avoid spicy, salty, or acidic foods.
  • Practice relaxation techniques to manage stress.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene (i.e., brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, etc.).

Mouth sores can be quite a nuisance, making speaking and chewing a chore. Fortunately, the above prevention tactics can help lessen your chances of experiencing one in the future! Just make sure to seek treatment if your canker sore or cold sore grows, doesn’t heal, or is abnormal in any way. That way, your doctor can take a closer look and put together a treatment plan to restore your oral health.

About the Author

Dr. Danny Tran graduated with honors from the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry with his Doctor of Dental Surgery. Nearly a decade later, he has helped countless patients achieve happy, healthy, confident smiles. If you are struggling with a mouth sore or would simply like to schedule an appointment, don’t hesitate to visit his website or give him a call at 626-331-0688.

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