Canker Sores vs. Cold Sores

canker soresMouth sores in general can be irritating and sometimes painful. The most common mouth sores are canker sores and cold sores. But how can you tell the difference?

Canker Sores
When you have a canker sore, it’s difficult to chew or smile without discomfort. Canker sores are small, painful ulcers that carry the following traits:

  • Open sores that can be single or in a group with a white, yellow or gray center surrounded by a bright red border.
  • May be caused by stress, fatigue, hormones or tissue damage
  • Reside inside the mouth, usually on the cheeks or tongue
  • Reappear periodically
  • Can be difficult to prevent
  • Are not contagious

To prevent to recurrence of canker sores, avoid acidic foods that can cause mouth irritation. And refrain from chewing on the inside of your mouth, which may lead to tissue damage that triggers canker sores.

Cold Sores
A cold sore is a blister filled with fluid that usually develops outside the mouth around the lips. The characteristics of a cold sore are:

  • Brought on by a virus- herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Can be triggered by stress, fatigue, exposure to extreme conditions or injury
  • Appear as red, fluid-filled blisters and usually in a group
  • Are highly contagious

If you feel a cold sore beginning to surface, there is a brief window of time for you to intervene before it gets worse. Begin by keeping the cold sore area clean and avoid touching it. There are over-the-counter medications you can use to shorten the duration of a cold sore. These include Docosanol (Abreva) and Benzyl alcohol. Many people also suggest Carmex as an effective cold sore treatment. When you get a cold sore, be sure to abstain from sharing food, drink or utensils with anyone else. And never share hand or bath towels, which can spread the virus.

For more information about the difference between canker sores and cold sores, and how to treat them, or to schedule an appointment, please complete our convenient online contact form. For locations, click here to find a center near you.

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