What is a cold sore?
Cold sores are tiny clustered painful blisters that form on or along the lip line, around the nostrils, on the cheeks and chin. They are otherwise termed fever blisters and are caused by the herpes simplex virus or HSV.
Cold Sores are a common viral problem that typically happens when a person is under the weather and is exposed to direct sunlight or ultraviolet rays. In some cases, it occurs during the menstrual cycle in women.
In extreme instances, cold sores may form inside the mouth. When this happens, the first thing that may come to mind is whether or not it can affect the teeth.
Can cold sores harm my teeth?
Essentially, cold sores do not have a direct effect on the teeth. So, NO, they cannot harm your teeth but they can lead to gingivostomatitis which can greatly impact your oral health. When this happens, your teeth may get affected.
What is gingivostomatitis?
Similar to cold sores, gingivostomatitis is an HSV-related infection that develops inside the mouth and on the gums. This is sometimes referred to as oral herpes which is common in children infected with HSV-1.
The following are the common symptoms of gingivostomatitis:
- Sore and swollen gums;
- Swollen lymph nodes;
- Drooling or increased flow of saliva;
- Cold sore blisters inside the mouth;
- Pain when the blisters break open;
- Bad breath;
- Ulcers that form on the gums; and
- Sore throat.
When any of these symptoms are present, it may be best to contact your trusted dentists. While teeth cleaning may not be advisable at this time, they may check the condition of the blisters. In some cases, they may take a small tissue sample and submit it for a test and biopsy. This can help ensure that they are not cancerous or infected with severe herpes-related diseases.
Things You Should Know About Cold Sores
What is HSV?
HSV or herpes simplex virus is a highly infectious and transmissible virus that causes cold sore outbreaks. It can be easily passed from one person to another through direct contact.
Should you stop breastfeeding your baby if you have cold sores?
No, as it cannot be transmitted through your milk but it is highly recommended that you refrain from kissing your baby, particularly on the mouth, nose and eyes.
In most cases, once you’ve recovered from cold sores, the HSV remains dormant in the body. However, there are some instances when the virus is triggered, especially when the body has a weak immune system.
What triggers cold sores?
The most common trigger for cold sores is the “common colds” which primarily explains why it is called such. HSV infection typically erupts following an ongoing viral infection. It is not considered a new infection but an outcome of an existing condition.
Below are some of the triggers that commonly lead to cold sores:
- Influenza, chest-related infections and other feverish illnesses;
- Exposure to direct sunlight or windy weather;
- Hormonal imbalances like pregnancy and menstrual periods;
- Emotional and physical stress; and
- Persons with immune-compromised conditions like diabetes and HIV infections.
Are cold sores contagious?
Yes, cold sores are highly contagious and infectious. If you have a cold sore or if you know someone with a cold sore, it may be best to avoid any form of direct contact.
Cold sores are mostly infections during the development of blisters. It is highly recommended that you avoid touching them as they may spread to other parts of your body. You should also avoid squeezing or picking on them as it may also cause their spread or may result in complications.
What are the cold sore complications?
Complications rarely result from cold sores but they happen when the virus spread to others parts of your body.
Here are some notable complications of cold sores:
- Herpes whitlow: when they spread on your fingers.
- HSV keratitis: when they spread to your eyes which may also lead to damaged cornea or blindness.
- Genital herpes: when they spread on your genitals.
- Eczema herpeticum: when they spread on the skin with eczema.
- Meningitis or encephalitis: When they infect the brain or spinal cord.
How long do cold sores last?
Generally, they last for one to two weeks. It starts with an itching and burning sensation around the mouth or other parts of the body. This is followed by the formation of fluid-filled blisters, then after 2 to 4 days, the blisters will break and the fluid will flow freely.
After a day or 2, a yellow crust or scab will form on the sore and in 3 to 5 days, the scab will fall off on its own which will reveal a pink clear skin. In most cases, they will completely heal within 1 week with no scar.
Although cold sores on and around the mouth cannot affect your teeth it is best to prevent them from spreading. Remember to always observe proper oral and overall hygiene.
Learn more about oral cold sores with Smile Ville in South Morang.