It’s the morning of a job interview or a big date, and all of a sudden you’ve got a huge blemish right on the corner of your lip — how embarrassing! You’re pretty sure it’s not a pimple or zit, but what could it be — a canker sore or a cold sore? How do you tell the difference? Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve got an irritated ulcer on the inside of your mouth driving you nuts. Blemishes, ulcers and sores are, unfortunately, part of the human condition. Although it’s tempting to ignore them because they’re unsightly and uncomfortable, when it comes to your oral health, it pays to pay attention to them.
If you’ve got a sore on the inside of your mouth, say at the base of your gums, in your cheek or on the inside of your lip, there’s a good chance it’s a canker sore. Also called aphthous ulcers, these lesions are of unknown origin. Some people notice them after an injury or illness, while others find they pop up because of stress, hormonal shifts or a dietary imbalance.
Most canker sores are small and heal on their own in a week or two without treatment, but you may want to see your doctor or dentist if any of the following occur:
- The sore is particularly large or deep
- They’re extremely painful or interfering with your ability to eat, drink and clean your teeth and gums
- You develop a fever
- New sores pop up before old ones heal
- The lesion extends to or past the border of your lips
Cold sores, also called fever blisters, show up on your lips and the skin of your face surrounding them. Caused by a viral infection with the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (HSV-1), it’s possible to spread this infection by close contact such as kissing, sharing hygiene or makeup products or cuddling. This virus is contagious even when sores aren’t present. Although this sounds scary, cold sores usually aren’t a cause for concern — nearly 90 percent of adults worldwide carry this virus, even if they’ve never had an outbreak.
Cold sores can crop up when you’re sick or experiencing a hormonal flux, during times of stress or exhaustion or even after environmental irritation like spending a lot of time in the sun or cold wind.
Care usually means avoiding known triggers. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral to shorten the length of an outbreak or prevent it from occurring, especially if you’re immune-compromised. In order to lessen the likelihood of spreading the virus, you should:
- Avoid close skin-to-skin contact during an outbreak of blisters. When the blisters appear and when they pop, the virus spreads more easily.
- Avoid sharing personal items like utensils, washcloths, makeup and lip balm.
- Wash your hands. This simple step can help prevent the spread of the virus that causes cold sores. Wash your hands often, especially after touching the blisters.
When to See Your Doctor
If you aren’t sure what type of blemish is on, in or near your mouth, book a visit with your dentist or primary care physician. They can help you figure out what’s going on and give you some peace of mind, as well as prevent complications like secondary bacterial infections. Blemishes and ulcers can sometimes be symptoms of a more serious problem, such as oral cancer. Your doctor or dentist is the best person to determine whether an oral lesion needs further screening depending on your risk factors and the appearance of the spot.
How We Can Help
While we can’t help you with an ill-timed pimple, the office of Drs. Krieger and Hur can help you cut down on problematic sores and ulcers by helping you take the best possible care of your mouth. Regular cleanings will cut down on the amount of bad bacteria in your mouth, meaning that if a sore or ulcer does pop up, there’s less of a chance of a secondary infection afterward. Regular cleanings also give us a chance to keep an eye on any lesions present and spot major problems before they become dangerous.
To book your appointment today, give us a call at (201) 560-0606 or click here to book your appointment via email. Although you may feel self-conscious, there’s no reason to be embarrassed around our staff — we strive to make your appointment as painless, welcoming and productive as possible.