Cold Sores, Canker Sores and Oral Cancer

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Do you ever wonder what causes some of the lesions in your mouth? Are you often affected by sores that arise unexpectedly and cause discomfort? You are definitely not alone when it comes to the phenomenon of oral lesions. Common causes are infection, inflammation, and sometimes cancer. The most common causes, however, are viral and fungal infections. Today we will cover a few of the most common causes of sores in the mouth, and how to treat them.

Cold Sores are also known as fever blisters. Even though you can’t really get cold sores from fevers or colds, they can trigger them. Because cold sores are contagious are viral, you want to avoid close contact with someone who has them (or vice versa) which means not sharing utensils or toothbrushes–which is not recommended anyway–or kissing. Don’t worry, it’s only temporary!

Treatment: The good news is, cold sores are treated relatively easily by using over-the-counter creams or ointments to relieve pain and speed healing. If you get cold sores frequently, you can enlist a doctor’s help by getting a prescription.

Canker Sores are a little more unpredictable. No one can really tell you why you get these lesions. These small, painful blisters are triggered by infection, hormones, hypersensitivity, stress or vitamin deficiency. You might get canker sores on your tongue, inside your cheek, or on the gums.

Treatment: Fortunately, canker sores don’t usually last more than a couple of weeks, but if they do linger past that, you can use medications, numbing creams, or have dental laser treatment to remove them.

Black Hairy Tongue While black hairy tongue looks scary, it is actually harmless, painless, and temporary. What causes this strange-looking effect on your tongue? It happens when the little bumps on the tongue (papillae) grow and lengthen and trap oral bacteria, dyeing the tongue. It can be caused by lack of saliva production, antibiotic use and poor oral hygiene to tobacco use, or drinking lots of coffee and tea.

Treatment: How do you get rid of it? Gently brush your tongue twice a day, using a toothbrush or tongue scraper, drink plenty of water, and if that doesn’t help, you can use medication to help.

Oral Cancer Oral cancer is the most serious of all the mouth sores. If you have a sore that never goes away, and is accompanied by 1) numbness in the face, mouth, or neck and 2) having trouble chewing, speaking or swallowing. A family history of cancer, long-term tobacco use, heavy drinking, overexposure to the sun, and even exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) can all bring on oral cancer.

Treatment: The good news is, oral cancer is a highly treatable and curable type of cancer when detected early. See our dentist, Dr. Rachel Meyer, if you have any concerns.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please call Dr. Meyer’s dental team at 505-662-3163 today!