Imagine this scenario:
You wake to a tingling, burning sensation on your lower lip and then remember the upcoming (insert important event here) you have this week… Dread and disappoint follow. If you suffer from cold sores, this narrative is all too familiar.
But don’t fret. Our dentists in Salt Lake City have some news to share with you on how to treat and prevent cold sores.
In this blog, we will discuss:
- How to tell if you have a cold sore
- How to prevent cold sores
- How to treat cold sores (spoiler alert – lasers!)
How to know if you have a cold sore
A cold sore, also known as herpes labialis or a fever blister, is a harmless but irritating fluid-filled blister that goes away in about 10 days from the first symptom (tingling or burning sensation). They appear on the lips and sometimes the skin around the lips.
Herpes labialis, a cold sore virus, is contracted like any other virus. Usually, a person with an active fluid-filled blister exposes a person without the virus. An example of this would be a mother with an active cold sore kissing her child. When first infected, the symptoms mimic the common cold. The virus then can lay dormant in the body until it returns, presenting as sores on the lips.
Canker sore vs. cold sore
Often, cold sores are misidentified as canker sores. A canker sore is a white, yellow, or gray ulcer that occurs inside the mouth. Canker sores are usually caused by trauma (eg., chip to the roof of the mouth) or exposure to certain foods (e.g., citrus juices).
The best way to tell which one you have is, canker sores are inside the mouth, and cold sores are generally outside the mouth.
What can you do to prevent cold sores?
So, you’ve got the virus already. What can you do to prevent future cold sore outbreaks? Many stimuli can put you at risk for a cold sore outbreak.
Risk factors that can cause an outbreak of cold sores are:
- Wind exposure
- Sun exposure
- Change in weather
Many of these risk factors are difficult to control, particularly stress. For tips on reducing stress, check out our blog post on stress and oral health.
Sun exposure is a big cold sore trigger, so be sure to use protection (sunscreen, hats, etc.) when in the sun to avoid a cold sore outbreak.
Don’t cause a cold sore reinfection
If you already have an active cold sore blister, take care not to touch it. If you have touched the blister, wash your hands thoroughly. The fluid from the blister can spread and cause other blisters on noninfected areas of the lips, eyes, or fingers.
How can you treat a cold sore?
For many, the option of waiting 10 days for a cold sore to heal is daunting or simply not possible. Although nothing will take away the cold sore instantly, many remedies help the blister go through the healing process faster.
The most common method to treat cold-sores has been ointments and oral medications, which are antivirals. A newer therapy is treating the sore with a laser.
At Legacy Dental, we provide laser therapy on active cold sores. This is best done in the tingling, burning stage of a cold sore. By catching it early, it will help the blister move through the healing phases faster and possibly make it not as big.
Laser therapy is a great cold sore treatment without side effects.
What to expect with laser therapy
Getting a cold sore lasered is a quick, painless appointment. Our Salt Lake City dentists do not require an appointment for laser treatment of cold sores, and all of our doctors and hygienists are trained in treating cold sores.
After consultation between you and the dentist, you will be given safety glasses to wear. The laser will be used to treat the affected area. It is painless, and most people describe the sensation as feeling nothing or warmth. That’s it!
If cold sores are a recurring ailment for you or your case is extreme, our dentists may suggest medications.
Now you know: How to avoid and treat cold sores with laser therapy
You can also refer back to this quick infographic outlining what you need to do to prevent and treat cold sores.
The next time you feel that telltale sign of a cold sore, don’t wait! Call us to treat your cold sore with laser therapy.
If you’re not currently experiencing a cold sore flareup, save our phone number, just in case!